Archive for Nature of Truth

Empty Glass: Part 1–Ignorance

 

As a writer, naturally I deal with words on a regular basis.  As such, I tend to analyze words more closely than the average person does.  A pet peeve that I share with many writers is when words are commonly misunderstood and subsequently misused.

 

The misused word that’s bugging me more than any other these days is “ignorant.”

 

The rampant misuse of this word generally occurs within the realm of opinions, as in, “You do not agree with my opinion; ergo, you are ignorant.” (See “Entitled to Our Own Opinion?” for more on this topic.)

 

The word “ignorant” is derived from the Latin ignorare, meaning, “not to know.”  Ignorance is a lack of knowledge; therefore, an ignorant person is someone in the state of being where knowledge, instruction, training, etc. is not present or has not occurred.

 

Since ignorance is a lack of knowledge, we may liken it to an empty glass.  There’s nothing flawed in the glass itself; it just doesn’t have any water in it.

 

So an ignorant person is the one carrying the empty glass.  There is nothing wrong with this person’s mind; they simply do not know what they do not know.  The one thing they do know, however, is that their glass is empty, and they are thirsty.  As a wanderer in the desert is thirsty for water, an ignorant person thirsts for knowledge and Truth.

 

Now when you’re thirsty, what do you do?  You get a glass and either go to the sink or the refrigerator and get a drink.  You know where to go to get what you are lacking.

 

It’s different when you’re dealing with a thirst for knowledge though.  The more ignorant you are, the more you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know that you need knowledge, but you may not know where to find it.  Life’s not as simple as getting the pitcher out of the fridge and pouring yourself a glass of water.

 

No, in life, someone else is holding the pitcher.  If the empty glass represents ignorance, then the pitcher represents knowledge.

 

Ignorance is solved by the person with the empty glass finding the person with the pitcher and asking them to pour into their glass.  This is the process known as. . .

Education!

 

When pouring water out of a literal pitcher, the pitcher gets emptier as the glass gets fuller.  With the pitcher of knowledge, however, the pitcher loses nothing by pouring out.  Not only is ignorance overcome by education, but the educated person (no longer ignorant) has now become equal to the educator with the pitcher, at least in regards to the specific knowledge that was shared.

 

There is a catch to this education process, however.  If you were getting yourself a drink out of the fridge, you know what you are pouring yourself—water, juice, milk, soda, etc.  You can see what is in the containers, or at least you can read the labels.

 

The pitcher of knowledge is trickier though.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know when you are truly ignorant, you also don’t know what’s in the pitcher.  You know you are thirsty, your glass is empty, someone is offering you a drink, so you accept.

However, due to your ignorance, you don’t have any sure way of knowing if what’s in the pitcher is good for you or not.  You may end up getting an education you hadn’t bargained for.

 

(To be expounded upon in Part 2–Experience)

 

Entitled to Our Own Opinion?

           

 Opinions are like noses.  Everybody has one, and they’re always in your face.

            We say, “Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion,” generally when we disagree with that opinion.  But are we really entitled to an opinion?

            Everyone who has an opinion strong enough to give voice to it typically assumes that his or her opinion is the correct one.  Nevertheless, there’s always somebody who will disagree with that opinion and offer one of their own.

            So how do you determine whose opinion is the right one? 

            Well, the truth is that NO opinion is the right opinion.  Here’s why.

            An opinion is based on belief and perception with varying degrees of fact sprinkled in.  Different facts, beliefs and perceptions will lead to different opinions.  The one thing every opinion has in common, however, is that every opinion is based on an incomplete picture of the situation at hand. 

In other words, an opinion is simply somebody telling you what they think about what they don’t know. 

            For this reason, opinions can only serve the purpose of starting arguments.  Furthermore, these arguments have little hope of resolution.  For even if a person makes a show of listening to another’s opinion, much more often than not, they will still inwardly cling to their own.  Such a conversation will probably end in a mock-civil state known as “agreeing to disagree.” 

I believe the technical rhetorical term for that is “load of crap.” 

A Truthseeker never agrees to disagree.  Rather than attempting to win the argument by holding an opinion in a death-grip to the bitter end, a Truthseeker will do an end run around the argument to the common ground, seeking resolution in the relationship along with the Truth.

            Remember from the Nature of Truth series the criteria for Truth:

  1.      Truth is Eternal—it was here before you got here and will remain, no matter what else changes.
  2.     Truth is Universal—it affects everyone in exactly the same way.
  3.     Truth is Indisputable—it is what is left over at the end of the argument.

Opinions simply do not fit these criteria.  If it is an opinion that you formed yourself, it started with you and will probably die with you (unless you manage to convince some people to carry it on after you are gone).  Therefore, opinions are not eternal.

Opinions definitely do not affect everyone the same way, or everyone would have the same opinion.  Therefore, opinions are not universal (duh).

Even more of a “duh” is that opinions are not indisputable.  In fact, they are at the very core of every dispute.

Therefore, we can only logically conclude that opinions are not Truth.  As such, NO opinion can be the right one.

Now here’s the sticky part—that means that YOURS isn’t the right one either.

So what to do then?  Simple!  Seek Truth, share it when you find it, and have nothing to do with opinions.  As Paul advised Timothy:

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:23-25  NIV)

No one is entitled to an opinion, but EVERYONE is entitled to Truth!

     

 

The Nature of Truth–Part 4: Offense

 

TRUTH IS NOT CONCERNED WITH WHOM IT OFFENDS

In our politically correct society, people are growing increasingly leery of saying what’s on their mind for fear of offending someone.

But every now and then, a person encounters the truth in some fashion that fundamentally alters their belief system.  There is a part of them that feels compelled to share the truth they have found.  After all, if truth is universal, then it would apply to all of one’s friends as well, right?

However, what we all too frequently do instead is to take the path of least resistance and keep the truth to ourselves rather than rock anybody’s world by challenging their belief patterns and thereby offending them.

But still, the truth remains.  Because it is eternal, it will not change.  Because it is universal, it will apply equally to anyone with whom you share it.  Because it is indisputable, it could not possibly offend anyone who receives it with an open mind and heart.

Ah, but there we have hit upon the problem, haven’t we?  Receiving.

We would rather hear 100 lies that back up what we have already chosen to believe than to receive a single word of truth that could permanently change our lives for the better.

What is it that blocks us from receiving the truth?  Pride.

Pride is the mother of offense.  Pride is what makes us think we are better, smarter, more worthy than everyone else.  Pride is what makes us not want to associate with people who don’t live up to our standards.  Pride is what makes us not hear what we need to hear, because we have already made a judgment about the person bearing the message.

The most important thing that I can possibly tell you about pride is this: you will NEVER find the truth until you lay your pride aside.

The minute you believe that you have a right to be offended by a person or situation, you have slammed the door in the face of truth, becuase you have lost sight of the reality that how you live and what you believe is just as offensive to someone else’s sensibilities.

So it is not the truth itself that is offensive.  Rather, the offense comes from our own pride preventing us from challenging our own beliefs, perceptions and attitudes.

Again, the truth is what’s left at the end of the argument.  It’s also what’s left when you get over yourself and begin receiving.

Two plus two equals four, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well accept it.

The Nature of Truth–Part 3: Indisputable

 

TRUTH IS INDISPUTABLE

 

All of us spend our lives accumulating facts, having experiences, hearing other people’s opinions, analyzing our own perceptions, and we weave the sum total of it all into what we call “belief.”  Our beliefs are what define us as human beings, and we cling to them for dear life.

But not everybody believes the same thing, obviously.  Some would argue that because there are so many different societal belief systems and so many more individual belief patterns in the world, how could we possibly think that there is any such thing as absolute truth?

Well, simply put, belief is not truth.

Belief is individual; truth is universal.  Belief dies with the person or culture that holds onto it; truth is eternal.

And here’s the biggie: belief causes arguments; truth ends them.

One problem with belief is that it is colored by our perception, the narrow tunnel through which we view the world.  As such, it seems we are always ready to question others’ beliefs, but rarely do we question our own.

WHY do we believe what we believe?  How many of us can truly answer that?  How many of us have ever even thought about it?

If someone says or does something that is contrary to our beliefs, the adrenalin kicks in, and we are ready to go to the dirt for what we believe in.

But truth is another matter entirely.  Truth is what’s left over at the end of the argument.

Take the two most disagreeable people on earth, lock them in a room and give them a topic (and an occasional bathroom break), and they will argue for hours and hours.  Each believes that he is right and the other is wrong.  But given enough time, they will eventually run out of things to disagree about, and hit upon the one thing that they must agree on, because they have no choice.

This is truth.

We know that we have transcended mere belief and found the truth when there is nothing left to argue about.  Whatever started the argument, truth is what ends it.

Two plus two equals four, because it simply can not equal anything else.

 

(to be concluded in Part 4: Offense)

The Nature of Truth–Part 2: Perception

TRUTH IS NOT SUBJECT TO PERCEPTIONS OR OPINIONS

One of the most insidious falsehoods in our culture today is “What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me.

The post-modern worldview professes that if there is no such thing as absolute truth, then there must also not be such things as good and evil, right and wrong, etc.

However, as we have already discussed in Part 1, there is such a thing as absolute truth.  It is eternal, and it is universal.  It applies exactly the same way to everyone, everywhere and in every age.

Every individual has his or her own perception or opinion of a given situation.  Jack may say, “It is too hot in this room,” whle Jill might say, “No, it’s freezing in here.” The thermostat reads a constant 68 degrees for both people in the room, but each has his or her own perception and opinion about the temperature.

An argument begins.  When the dust settles, however, the fact remains that it is still exactly 68 degrees in the room.

Now notice that I said “fact” and not “truth.”  What’s the difference?  In a word–context.

A fact is a single, tangible, observable nugget of information which, while it may be true in and of itself, can also be manipulated or placed into a context where it is not true.

Truth, however, is the principle behind the fact that is true regardless of the context.

In other words, it is 68 degrees now, but I can change that by setting the thermostat higher or lower.  Or I can switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius, in which case the temperature of the room remains constant, but it is no longer a factual statement to say that it is 68 degrees.

So if the facts of the constant temperature in the room can be manipulated, and the perceptions and opinions about the temperature can be as numerous as the number of people in the room, then what is the truth?

The truth is that there is such a thing as heat.

There has always been, there will always be, and everyone everywhere must acknowledge this truth, even though they have their own perceptions and opinions about what feels hot or cold.

The key word in that last sentence was “feels.”  Truth is not something that you feel, like an emotion, a perception, an opinion or even a belief.  It is not even something you know, like a fact or an assumption.

Truth is what would be there whether you were there to perceive it or not.

Two plus two will not cease to equal four, regardless of how this makes you feel, or how many people think it ought to equal something other than four.

 

(Next, Part 3: Indisputable)

 

The Nature of Truth–Part 1: Eternal and Universal

(Hi there!  This is the first in a four-part series on the Nature of Truth.  If you’re new to this site, please stop by the About Truth Mission page first.  That’ll give you an idea of where I’m coming from with the rest of this.)

 

Are you as bored as I am with hearing “There is no such thing as absolute truth!”?  So many philosophies have been built upon this eight-word contradiction, all the while ignoring that any statement with the words “no such thing” in it is, by definition, an absolute.  For that statement to be true, it would have to be. . .true.  Which would make it a lie.

But why hurt your brain with such pointless, convoluted philosophy?  Here at Truth Mission, we like to keep things as simple as possible. 

So let’s look at some observations concerning what truth is, and what truth is not.  I will illustrate using a concept that anyone reading this can understand: 2+2=4.

 

TRUTH IS ETERNAL

Truth is that which has always existed and will always exist.  It does not change, because it can not change.  What is true today was true yesterday.  It will still be true tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, for all eternity.  Times change, civilizations rise and fall, ideas go in and out of fashion, but truth remains.

Two plus two equals four.  It equaled four from the beginning of time, it equals four today, and it will always equal four.

 

TRUTH IS UNIVERSAL

Truth applies to all people in all places the same way.  Something that is true for a Christian in the United States is true for an atheist in France.  That same truth also applies to the Bushmen of the Kalahari, the Aborigines in the Outback of Australia, the Waodani tribe in the jungles of Ecuador, Barack Obama in the White House, your aunt Ruth on the back porch, or a five-year-old kid in Iceland learning his addition for the first time.

Two plus two equals four, for all people everywhere.

 

TRUTH IS NOT A CULTURAL OR SOCIAL PHENOMENON

The world is a multitude of different cultures, customs and social taboos (or the lack thereof).  Even in a single place, over time, these cultures, customs and taboos change.  How many times have you heard someone older than you start a sentence with “When I was your age. . .,” indicating that something was different then than it is now?  There will always be changing trends that influence what is considered socially acceptable or morally objectionable within a culture; however, because it is eternal and universal, the truth never changes.

Two plus two will never cease to equal four, no matter what else changes.

 

(Still with me?  Stay tuned for Part 2: Perception)