(My photo Caucusus Mountains, Georgia, 2015)
What use are truth tellers?
In a culture that says life is without meaning?
Where the ‘I’ is more important than the ‘we’?
Where we distract ourselves, chasing possessions, fun and excitement while our lives ebb away?
Where the unborn have value only if they are convenient?
Where we tell the old and those with chronic pain they are a burden?
Where politicians are led by opinion polls and the media?
Where 51% of us reshape laws to confirm our truth at the expense of the rest?
Where church leaders destroy their credibility, choosing reputation over morality?
Where violence is an acceptable tool for those who think they own the truth?
Where its ok to deplatform those with unacceptable ideas?
Where we need safe places to protect us from such ideas?
(My photo taken in Armenia 2015)
First a little about truth.
People who speak the truth are generally nuisances. Their message is inconvenient, sometimes embarassing, always unwelcome. Our culture does not run on truth. The group we identify with determines our truth. What matters is whether we belong, or are an outsider. We are pushed to conform with the zeitgeist, by laws and through social pressure. Those who would control and manipulate us have learned this well. It is comfortable to fit in and be accepted; to have the right opinions. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a social media pile on will no doubt agree.
Could it be that our opinions are shaped by fear? Fear of not fitting in? Of not belonging?
I don’t agree that truth is whatever we want it to be. If you and I part company on that point, so be it. I understand that different people have sincerely held opinions different from mine on a range of topics. We could each be partly correct or we could all be wrong. What we cannot be, if we make incompatible truth claims, is all simultaneously correct.
Also I don’t believe I alone own the truth. There; I’ve said it. But I don’t fall in either with the view that one person’s truth is as valid as anyone else’s. Apart from giving us a warm inner glow, that just leads us nowhere, except in ever decreasing circles.
If there is such a thing as truth, and I believe there is, then even if unpopular or unfashionable, it is worth discovering. How sad it would be if we lived our whole lives in a comfortable delusion, and then we died.
What’s the use of truth tellers? Maybe because we all need to have our ideas challenged now and then. Whether or not they are telling the truth, or are just deluded, if truth tellers make us wrinkle our brows or prick our consciences, in a world where we are shaped by and conform to ideas outside ourselves, that’s not such a bad thing.
(One boundary I did not feel comfortable crossing across a deep gorge in Armenia 2015)
Our culture, and the whole world has a lot of boundaries. I don’t mean geographical borders. Boundaries separate people in more ways than that.
Religious believers/non believers
It seems to me that quite a few of these boundaries are calling out for people to reach across them. Maybe a qualification would be useful: Some boundaries are there for our protection, but others keep us from being fully human. National borders and refugee policies are there to keep us safe. I know some disagree and would have free, uninhibited movement of people across borders.
In general, I don’t think it does us good to put up walls to keep out those who are different. However, when a lack of border control places public order in jeopardy, we need to remember why all countries try to control their borders.
The boundaries that need to be crossed are those that exclude and alienate us from each other. I don’t think we will see the boundaries themselves disappear any time soon. What we are seeing is individuals, like you and I, choosing to cross some of them.
It can be risky for an insider to reach across to an outsider. It can be threatening to stop and really listen to someone with whom we disagree politically. It can seem like a waste of time to give an unlovable person the time of day.
Boundary crossing is certainly not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for those who are wrapped up in their own concerns. Our culture encourages us to erect boundaries rather than to reach across them. I believe our culture has it wrong. Crossing boundaries just may be the only way for us to become fully human.
Think about that.
Truth tellers and boundary crossers. There are not nearly enough of them. Could you be one?
(Below: Feeding the homeless at a Sikh temple in New Delhi 2016)