Saturday, September 09, 2006

Truthiness

“The truth shall set you free”, “the truth hurts”. These old sayings are two sides of the same coin of course, but few people I believe ever truly think about what they are saying. I always claim to desire the truth above all and desire to know it without delay in all its horrors. But when I have been put to the test (and thankfully there have been few horrible truths revealed to me in my life) I wince.

Nevertheless, as I gained acceptance of the truth I did indeed feel liberated by it. Liberated in the sense that I had learned something horrible, either about myself or someone I cared for and now, having learned it, need never learn it again. And though the truth uncovered was deeply painful, it did not kill me as I thought it might, and so a sense of victory.

One “horrible” truth I have had to accept, and one that should be dispensed with at maturity, is the need for certainty. Heraclitus teaches us that all things are in a state of flux, that the only certainty is change. And yet, like so many phantoms from childhood too many of us continue this search doomed never to end. Perhaps that is the point. Some Biologists believe evolution has fitted us to be self-deluded. If we lose the illusion that we are in control many might break down under the strain. Habit and the rituals of religion give us some sense of continuity, and thus their continued existence, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

God is just, “ asserted Rousseau in the midst of his paranoia, “he wills I should suffer, he knows I am innocent. That is what gives me confidence.” Yet even he had adopted the motto: 'devote your life to truth'. Had the Rousseau of the Reveries not the solace of his fine imagination, and knew what we know of the human mind, could he have hoped to claim such peace?

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