James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Truth

I don't recall from whom, but I recently came across this quote (which is listed at BrainyQuote so I doubt it was made up):

"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth."

-Henry David Thoreau

Frankly, I disagree. I would rank them this way:

1. Love
2. Truth
3. Money
4. Fame

Every "truth" we discover will just lead to more questions - more "truth" to have to search for. And the various truths out there - Enlightenment liberalism, Calvinism, Islam, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, etc. - can't all be "true" as dogma all at the same time, but they can inspire new modes of thought, new perspectives on old problems. The difference between Lutheran and Catholic doctrines of salvation are, I think, purely of semantics, but without Luther, perhaps the Catholic doctrine would be muddier and more confused today. And so it goes throughout history. New knowledge and new ways of thinking can enlighten us, but they don't provide complete answers.

I suppose what I'm getting at is a rejection of any concept of "truth" that can be summarized as dogma and/or formula (like Reason, the God that Left Us Depressed and Bitter Toward Our Fellow Human Beings). Or the impression that one person's experiences and deductions can provide a more complete version of the truth than is accessible to other people not so fortunate to have those experiences.

More important is "truth" that can give an individual peace of mind. And that begins by "feeling right" in the gut and heart. If one's heart and instinct or intuition rejects what seems to be a logically infallible truth, there is the possibility that the heart and guts need some sort of transformation. But there's also the possibiity that this logical truth is a serious error that hasn't taken all the real-world information - such as how people do think in feel, as opposed to how they should - into account. It's like using infallible mathematics to count two cookies plus two cookies equals four cookies - two for you, two for me. Except, one of the cookies is burnt, so there's not really four cookies of use to us. An admittedly simplistic illustration, but such are the blind spots that the pursuit of Truth may lead us. The abstraction doesn't apply in the real world.

Love is, "Oh! This cookie is burnt! That's okay - you can have two of the good ones, and I'll have one." It's attuned to the reality that there are really just three cookies.

Truth imposes a universal ethic, whereas love uses situational ethics. Love, I think, employs the entire person, including the intellect but not just the intellect, to move things forward. Truth itself is an abstract concept that only the intellect grasps. We don't "feel" truth, but we do feel love. Love isn't subordinate to the truth; truth is subordinate to love.

After all, what's greater than looking out for the ones you love?

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