Thoughts On Truth

Adela Quested in the film adaptation of E.M. Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’.

“We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only by little at a truth we find bitter.”

Denis Diderot

For time immemorial human beings have warred over and split hairs about truth. What is the truth? Whose truth is the correct truth? No, really, what is the absolute truth?

In religion wars rage over the literality of events in the scriptures… even within the same faith, and in science- which of all the disciplines maintains truthfulness to truth- there are violent differences of opinion until the truth is decided…and then changed again when a more truthful truth is discovered.

The coronavirus appears to be dividing people into those with literal leanings and those who have more archetypal and symbolic inclinations. Of course something on a mass scale is actually happening, people really are dying by the droves, but the problem seems to be that people are getting themselves into a spin about the truth of the matter.

I read something very sad today: In Iran there were 2,850 casualties and 480 deaths caused by people drinking methanol in the misguided belief that it cured coronavirus. Apparently, this Chinese whisper started when a British schoolteacher in Wuhan claimed to have cured an infection by drinking hot toddies. That’s how things can start.

We have known for a long time that what’s recommended by the experts one year is pooh-poohed the next… and then maybe reinstated again. It’s the same with politics. Truth is a shifting sand.

For those who are falling down the rabbit hole of western conspiracy theories for the first time, it must seem pretty shocking. But the trick is to maintain the middle path of both/and rather than either/or. Things exist on many levels- to limit truth to only the concrete level is… well limited.

Sadly it is very difficult for us humans to accept that truth is subjective and therefore uncertain. Like Adela Quested in E.M. Forster’s Passage to India, the depth and unfathomability of the Marabar Caves- the void where nothing is truly known- is just too terrifying to comprehend.

Best then to accept (and then request) ever more security measures implemented by the truthful state to make us feel safe. Ah, that feels better… verifiable solid truth. But what do we surrender in our impossible quest for truth?

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