Sep 29, 2009

What is the Truth?

September 29/2009

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Truth is, the truth is a bit of an enigma; a perception. Not all truths are the same. We all may say we saw that tall blond woman with the tight skirt walk down the steps into the law offices. However, Mrs. Brown said, “It was a thin hippy man with blond hair and tight jeans.” Joe Green over there said, “It was a woman with horn-rimmed glasses in a tight business suit and she went up the steps.” Yet, the truth may be that it’s just a male in drag waiting for a friend. So everyone has their own truth.

But what is the truth?

The truth is a consensus of opinions. Right? … Wrong.
The truth is the difference between right and wrong. Right? … Wrong.
The truth is written by the journalist who writes the best prose. Right? … Wrong.

Sometimes history has been subjugated by the ugly fact that the books that actually survived the burnings were the ones left to tell the story, whether they told the truth or not.

Film Maker Walt Disney always said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Yet, a lot of us learned some of our history from movies made by Disney. Then of course playwright David Mamet said, “It's only words ... unless they're true.”

Surprising as this may seem, there is no single definition of “truth” about which the majority of philosophers agree. Various theories of truth, commonly involving different definitions of "truth," continue to be debated.

But, what is the truth?

Personal honesty and a good moral compass summon us to rise far above the masses and live and practice with integrity and good ethics, as well as values, principles, morals and decency. We need to take the trouble to learn all the facts and evidence of an issue before we make up our minds on an emotional or an ego based level. In other words: Take the lead as the individual thinking people and rise above the corruption that surrounds us. We need to make sense of all sides of an issue rather than follow a doctrine or a dogma called for by politics, religion, society, culture or the gang mentality. And carefully make up our own reasoned minds and follow our own integrity, and our own soul.

There’s a wonderful quote from the 8th century Chinese Zen Master, Sent-ts'an, who said, "If you want truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease."

So what would he say about the political climate today? Today, normally rational people draw political lines in the sand and take tough stands on issues, either for or against, to prove that they don’t like what the other party is standing for; no matter if they are speaking for or against their own better interests. Is this really being honest with the truth?

As we all know, people are not sheep. Yet, many follow like sheep, not standing up for what is right in the world, but for how they can retain power, party loyalty, trustworthiness and commitment or even status within a certain group, camp or society. We see this when people can be rallied by the use of a simple word such as “patriotism” or because of “fear” or even because someone needs to “look good” in supporting a wrong call on a contentious subject. This is not truth, but deception.

But, what is the truth?

England’s great wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

Philosopher Gabriel Marcel once dug deep inside himself and told us, “I am obliged to bear witness, because I hold … as it were … a particle of light, and to keep it to myself would be the equivalent of extinguishing it.”

In recent history, US television satirist and comedian, Stephen Colbert, coined the word “Truthiness” to describe something that a person claims to know without regard for the truth, facts, evidence, logic or examination. They just "know", or say they know. It seems that some people can say anything. Unfortunately for most of us, some of them get away with it.

But again, what is the truth?

I asked at the beginning, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” Well, as we see, the real truth is but: a perception, an enigma, a mystery, a bit of a puzzle and sometimes a delusion.

It’s really up to our own integrity and self-respect, accountability and honesty as individuals to state and live by the facts. We must distinguish, in an honest way, the difference between right and wrong. In the end, all we can ask of others is to go beyond their own challenges to make a real difference in the world by doing the right thing; and to inspire others to also do the right thing. Only in this way can we change the world into a better place, one person at a time.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
- Oscar Wilde

“I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.”
- Pietro Aretino

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
- Albert Einstein