What is Truth?


                                                      Blood Moon Rising


Wouldn’t it be great to understand who we are, and why we are? Wouldn’t it be just the best thing to get to the truth?

Well, good luck with that. There will always likely be more questions out there than there are answers. You may have an oracle in your pocket, but most of us don’t.

Could it be that reality and truth are more complex than we can grasp? Could it be that the universe was not designed to bend itself to our sensibilities, to ask our permission, or to make complete sense to us?

‘What is truth?’, a certain Roman governor once asked cynically. A good question that he didn’t answer at the time.

What I do know is that truth seems to enjoy eluding us. We chase after it, don’t we? The world is full of seekers. Some look for truth in self improvement books or meditation classes, or from a constellation of spiritual gurus. Increasing numbers seek truth in the religion of environmental causes. Others turn to traditional religion or mysticism. Still others put their faith in science and rationalism to come up with the answers. Sadly, some confuse the search for truth with escaping from it altogether by abusing alcohol or various other chemical substances.

Depending on how we approach it, and what we do with what we find, the search for truth can be a good thing or a bad thing. The truth can liberate us. It can make us whole. On the other hand, when we hold it close to our chest, as our exclusive possession, to be guarded or bartered for influence, it can become a divisive thing, preventing us from becoming whole.

The truth can also be used foolishly as a weapon to try to exclude others. When we confuse our incomplete half understood version of the truth with the real thing we can very easily get ourselves into trouble, and cause trouble for others. When we forget that none of us understands everything clearly enough to take on the responsibility of judging others, we quickly find things getting out of control. The blood moon rises and evil rides abroad when this happens. Can you think of examples of mayhem caused by people or groups, each believing that their’s is the exclusive complete truth? I can. It’s not as if history at all levels is not crowded with such bitter futile nastiness.

For me, truth is something I can rest comfortably in. It is not something I can grasp. Nor is it something to be wielded as a weapon. When I try to use truth to exclude others who see things differently I lose sight of it altogether. Does that make sense?

The truth is, none of us owns the truth. I have such a shaky grasp of truth that I judge others or exclude them at my peril, and so, I suspect, do you.

I should make it clear I am not suggesting that truth is a purely relative concept, meaning whatever we choose it to mean. Truth does not change to suit individuals. It is just that I don’t believe any one person owns it entirely. If I know I don’t have a mortgage on truth I can accept that someone who believes differently may see a part of the truth that I cannot. On the other hand they may be totally misguided, but I feel no urgent need to convert them or to attack them. The truth in which I rest is not a weapon. It sustains me and allows me to be there for others. It is not a device for excluding or belittling. This truth is a liberating force and a life-giving one.

I have put my trust in some things in my life only to find they were mirages, or at least empty vessels, not able to deliver what they promised. Others have proven themselves over time and through experience, to be true, or at least to point to the truth. Two of these are the gift of love and the power of forgiveness.

Beyond these certainties, at a certain level life can remain a puzzle. It seems to have occasional threads of sense but they usually unravel when teased out. They can look like a woven cloth on the surface; integrated artwork; but when touched we find the knots are tied loosely or not even tied at all. They are loose ends that fray with the slightest disturbance, leaving a disintegrating web; a tangle rather than a weave. The things we think are constant and given are not always what they appear to be.

A lifetime ago, I believed with a shining faith that the answers to the important questions of life could be uncovered by science. You might even say I worshiped at that shrine. I was fascinated by the mystery and splendour of the physical universe. I studied for and gained an undergraduate degree in Physics. I loved watching ‘Doctor Who’ episodes (still do), ‘Star Trek’ and even ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ – when I could get it out on DVD. It was good escapist stuff.

However, for all its excitement and promises, and the toys and gadgets it produced, Physics was ultimately a disappointment. As the years unfolded I began to suspect there might be limits to its ability to define and explain my life experience. These days I understand science holds truth, but it does not hold the whole truth and nor is it even capable of that. Living has taught me that life cannot always be reduced to propositions, models, or theories. Life is annoyingly and inconveniently fuzzy, untidy even. It stubbornly defies order, common sense, and often even our idea of justice.

In our lives we seek to find answers to questions like: Who am I? Why am I? What is good? What is evil? What and whom can I trust? Good questions. There are many different ways to answer each of them. I have answers I am content with and answers that give me peace, but life is not about having all the answers. That is a fool’s errand, I think. Truth and reality are far more subtle than that.

The real problem arises when we come to believe that we own the truth, or that it is ours to deal out. When this happens, and it does, frequently and everywhere, bad things go down. Evil has a field day. The blood moon rises and evil stalks hearts and minds. Neighbours are shunned. Inquisitions, religious and secular, sniff out heretics. People are labelled and vilified. Others are silenced, or worse. Thousands are massacred in ethnic or sectarian conflicts. All because someone thinks the truth is their exclusive property.

I don’t own the truth and nor do you. None of us do. In a very real way I believe it owns us! How different might our world be if we were able to live as if that were so.





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