Monday, October 29, 2018

In Defense of Truth

Does it seem to you like all we're doing any more is yelling at one another? Do you get that when we have a disagreement, we tend to try to solve it by volume, rather than discourse? Are you weary of all of the shouting that doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere?

What if I told you that we don't have a choice?

Well, that's not technically true; we do actually have a choice, but the choice doesn't really begin with shouting or not shouting. It begins with accepting that there is such a thing as truth or not accepting it. In a world in which we don't accept such a thing as truth, we've no option but to shout at one another. 

Follow me here:

We are living in a world that says the truth doesn't exist; all that exists is each individual's perception of the truth. Whatever is true to you is true to you and whatever is true to me is true to me. It doesn't matter if it's objectively factual or real or if it can be proven. If it "feels" real to you, then it's real for you, and we all must act according to that truth when we interact with you. 

We are then told that we must acknowledge and respect each individual's perception of the truth, even affirming and confirming it on the basis of his or her unique perspective. For what a man or woman perceives in the world is based on his or her experiences, his or her background, his or her own perception, and because of this, we can never say that something is not true for him or her because he or she may have data that we don't have. 

We are then told that it's our job to understand another person's truth, that we must work diligently to believe what he or she believes, to attempt to gain his or her perspective when it is presented to us. We cannot dismiss it; it is as real as the clouds in the sky or the grass on the ground or the sweet, sweet taste of bacon. It just has a different set of presuppositions than we do, and that doesn't make it illegitimate; it makes it just a little more difficult. 

We are then told that although we are required to understand truth from every individual perspective when we encounter it, we can never possibly even do this. We can never, even if they were to tell us about it, understand someone else's unique perspective because we simply don't have his or her experiences in the world.

Thus, we are being asked to do something we are being told we cannot possibly do (understand what you cannot possibly understand, see through eyes you cannot possibly possess). And then we are being condemned because we fail to do it. 

Which brings us back to all the shouting. 

If truth is relative and depends entirely upon my perspective of it, and if you are required to understand that perspective but are wholly incapable of actually understanding it, then the only way that I can get you to understand my truth is to tell you what it is. And when I tell you what it is and you don't get it, or you refute it in some way by your limited perspective, then I raise my voice and tell you again - the way we speak more loudly to persons whose first language is not English, as if our shouting will help them to understand better. 

And if you still don't understand the truth that I am trying to tell you, then I will shout even louder - not in an attempt any longer to make you understand, for it is clear to me that you never will, but in order to drown out your dissent and to create a scene, so that everyone else can look at you with disgust. Clearly, you aren't getting it. Don't you hear the truth being shouted at you? 

If I shout loudly enough and declare that what I am saying is true, even if it cannot be objectively proven to be true, what I do is to draw attention to your limited perspective. The world is not judging me for this truth; after all, it is my truth. The world is judging you for your inability, or worse, to understand it. 

Which makes me right and makes you a bigot. For absolutely no other reason than all of the shouting. Because volume does not legitimize a subjective "truth;" it merely draws out the social pressure for conformity, for falling in line with the times and confessing that truth is whatever we make it to be for ourselves, for buying back into the myth we have that truth is truly subjective and none of us will ever, or can ever, understand it. 

So yes, we are shouting at each other. A lot. We have to. Without an objective, unchanging, external definition of truth to act as an arbiter between us, we don't have a choice. Trying to get one another to understand what we have already confessed no one can ever understand, all we have is volume. 

If we want to get our peace back, if we want to stop shouting, if we want to lower our voices and start having real conversations again, real discourse that enables us to truly live together in real community, it starts with truth. We don't have to agree on what that truth is (that's what discourse helps us to discover, together), but we do have to agree that truth exists at all.

Thankfully, of course, it does. 

Or maybe that's just my perspective. 

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