It’s election season. My email provides me regularly with requests for donation, with ads which promote one candidate or demean the same candidate, and with pronouncements that predict one doom or another if an authority either does or does not do something; these communications are usually couched in terms of dire emergency, and lately, in increasingly urgent dire emergency. One of my friends complained, “I can’t trust anyone anymore. I don’t know what the truth is.”
I am not sure anyone has ever been able to give an adequate definition of truth. It is like love in that way. We cannot define it, but most of us would say that we can recognize it, or that we could say what it is not. However, lately there has been a great proliferation of viewpoints, interpretations, philosophies and sales pitches, each claiming to be the truth and many being partly true. It is difficult to feel anything but confusion.
Like all of us, I see these big questions (truth, love, purpose, life) “through a glass, darkly.” I certainly do not have an exclusive handle on Truth. In simpler times, people tended to ascertain truth in much the same way as language developed – by the vast majority agreeing on what it is. Now, it seems to be discovered more indirectly, by reading (including religious or philosophical texts) or conversing with other fallible beings who are trying to discover it. However, one thing I think I understand is that truth is not the same as personal preference. Personal preference is wonderful, and certainly has its place. Yet, if everyone’s personal preference were truth, then we would have so many truths that the word itself would become meaningless. We would have his truth, her truth, your truth, my truth, their truths, but no underlying understanding of what is true.
Sometimes, like my friend, I feel frustrated by the confusion and competing claims around me. Because I am a human, I cannot speak with ultimate authority on what constitutes truth. I can know my perspective on truth, perhaps, but not Truth. I can muse on Truth, though, and can share my musings. One thing that strikes me is that we are all One, united in our diversity. What harms one of us harms all of us, including our planet and the beings with whom we share it. If this is so, then perhaps Truth and Love are as Siamese twins, inextricably linked. To love what is not specifically us (or I) is to also love ourselves, as tending to those who are not us, but with which we are one, is also nurturing ourselves, and vice-versa. The extension, then, is that loving ourselves and all creation (and behaving lovingly) is to also love the One. I think that is an aspect of Truth.
Another aspect, from which we are rapidly departing, is to honor what has gone before us, incorporating it in what we are creating, not rejecting it in favor of the new. To honor what has gone before us (elders, philosophies, ideas, ways of handling things, ways of relating, recounts from the past, and the like) is to bring forth that wisdom to apply to the issues of the present. To discount it in favor of “progress” and “new ways” is simply arrogance. Are we of the present so powerful that we can trash what has been given from others and from Nature/Creation and instead substitute our new ideas and technologies, which we assume will work better than what has been created or gone before? Where is humility in this process? We need instead to bring forth our inherited wisdom and incorporate it in the developments of the present.
And how about the wars and violence that fill the airwaves with their news? Is it Truth to harm and kill one another? It does not make sense for that to be Truth, given that we are all One, all linked and from a common origin. Truth is shown by not denigrating those who are different from us, or denying others a share in our own abundance, especially if they are different. Are they not people in our wondrous diversity, even if we disagree? Do they not also have as much right as we do to equal treatment under the law, including economic treatment? What does the “race to the top”, whereby a few have great wealth and others great difficulty, say about us as humans?
Just as there is unity in diversity, there is also diversity in unity. Why does the existence of those who are different and with whom we disagree seem to threaten us, as it seems to do when we try to make them subservient or wrong or even make them disappear? It is equally unlike Truth to deny our diversity by saying that those who are different are all the same. Brothers can differ and disagree. One does not have to be good and right and the other bad and wrong.
Then, there are the current issues surrounding the reproductive processes. I know I am being politically incorrect here, but it seems to me that we have both separated the aspects of male and female union – bonding and reproduction – and separated it as a whole from any kind of responsibility. We are now in an era where recreational sex includes any kind between any people, on demand. Society is expected to provide us the “right” to be free from disease (of course, there should be healing, but it is also responsibility to avoid behaving in ways that attract infection), as well as freedom from any inconvenience, to the extent that our convenience trumps the right of another to live. We tend to not think about that, just get on the current bandwagon. Is the current way Truth? Or do we even care, so long as personal preferences are catered to?
Finally, which is what began this discourse in the first place, there are so many lies told and perpetrated, especially via our technology, that it becomes difficult to ascertain the grains of truth amidst the noise. There are lies from government, from business and advertising, from health care disciplines which compete instead of cooperating, and falsehoods even in smaller businesses and interpersonal dealings. There are people who swear before God (or solemnly affirm) that they are telling the truth when they are not. We are accusing each other and squabbling instead of banding together to find real solutions to the issues of our times. Is the commonality of telling what is false now Truth? I sympathize with my friend who says she cannot trust anymore. It is no wonder.
We need to step back, take time away from the mad rush to no one knows exactly where, disconnect with devices, pause the accomplishing, and contemplate where we are going, and what is Truth. Perhaps if we commit to and protect those times, we will be able to relax and reach a space in which we can finally consider the larger questions, such as Truth. In doing that, we may be able to set ourselves again on a sane path forward. I wish for us all success in taking that time to contemplate.