The truth shall set you free.
People use the phrase conversely, both to scold and to praise. What if we shift the words a bit?
My truth will set me free.
I confess, just typing that set my insides twisting into knots. Heck, typing this post sets my teeth a bit on edge. I’m afraid of the potential backlash. But I’m writing anyway.
The second group of words grates for me, because no one can own the truth. Not you, the one reading this on a shining screen, and not me. Google my truth or what started the phrase my truth before you go further. The search results baffle.
This is not to say we do not have different perceptions of reality. Take a look at the image above, though. In fact, a fellow blogger said it best. “Reality is an aspect of perception. It is distinguished from the truth.”
I’d take it one step further. Reality and truth intertwine, weaving in and out of each other like flowering vines on a trellis. Reality is the vine, shifting, changing with the winds, sprouting new tendrils with every new interpretation. Truth is the trellis. It stands, holding shape, regardless of our perceptions of reality. We certainly own our perceptions.
We do not own truth. We can’t.
Perhaps, though, this is a natural out-growth of how we speak. We use the terms subjective truth and objective truth to attempt to separate anecdote and experience from scientific methods and consensus. Is such a separation truly possible, though? And when did society find the need to exchange the words experience and fact for the euphemisms of subjective truth and objective truth?
Yes, these phrases are euphemisms. The rational, secular culture in which we live wields logic as a weapon, shaming those who see the possibility of a single, universal truth, applicable to everyone. Such a concept, the logic says, cannot exist when human experiences remain as diverse and infinite as they have through out history. So what’s left but to shame those who believe such an irrational concept?
Remember, if you’ve seen Now You See Me, these opening lines. “Come in close. Now closer. For the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.” For those who haven’t seen the movie, first go see it. Second, the movie follows a FBI agent and an Interpol detective in their attempts to take four stage magicians to justice for robbing banks during their shows and giving the proceeds to the audience. I won’t spoil the movie. Suffice it to say, the law agents never looked far enough away to catch the tricks.
I see similar patterns in our rational, scientific culture. Many claim that by scrutinizing all things as closely as possible, we may in time divine the over-arching, universal truth. If, says this culture, such a thing truly exists.
Yet science looks too closely. They find pieces of this truth, and hold it up as the truth. The soft sciences do this quite a bit. Find a thing. Draw conclusions based on perceptions of that thing. Claim this perception as truth.
Universal truth cannot be dissected like a frog on an eighth grader’s science lab table. That dissection shows us the pieces that exist inside the frog. In the end, we learn nothing about the habitat of that specific frog, or how its species lives, functions, and moves in the environment. We pour salt on the muscles and see them twitch. Hardly the same as chasing down frogs by the side of the lake and experiencing for yourself just how fast the little blighters can be.
You have your experience of reality. I have mine. Neither of these is the truth. Both of them contain pieces of the truth. In the coming days and weeks, I intend to discuss what bits of truth I’ve come to understand through my lived experience.
In the end, only by coming together to discuss, openly, respectfully, with frank precision can we come closer to understanding the universal truth surrounding us all.