Truth is an old word with an old discussion. Truth is supposed to be absolute. It is supposed to be objective. It is supposed to be personal. It is supposed to be relative. It exists. It does not exist. There is one truth only. There are many. It is comforting. It is threatening. It has started wars and is said to be the first victim of war. People love it. People hate it. It is the base of religion and of science. People offer their lives in the search of truth. They find out that they can not know truth. They live by it. They are truth. There are truths, half truths (also called political truths), lies and statistics. The latter two can be political truths as well. It has so many faces, yet is supposed to be one.
Take the guy who does not trust anyone. He lives his truth. Or the guy who was so naive, that he could think to live in the neighbourhood of grizzlies. (Never trust grizzlies). Take the man who thinks that he is telling the truth to a lot of people every week again. The man who can tell the truth and make people feel miserable. Or the man who is telling the truth and letting people feel great. Or the man who is telling his audience about the complexity of the truth in such a way, that his audience does not believe they will experience it during their lifetime. Or think about Popper, who first said that truth is not possible in science.
I see the attitude towards truth as a very good vehicle to tell how one speaks and listens. It works like a mirror. If a person believes in an eternal truth only available for a chosen few or another person believing in no truth at all, will have its effects how people talk and listen in discussions. At least, it is how it works out for me. Hence I will show you how I have thought about truth during my life sofar. Always thinking that that attitude would be my final attitude I had concerning truth. Now I have found it. :-)
As a child I simply believed in truth and could not understand something different. Things are true or not. No perspectives, no restrictions. That truth is one could be 'experienced' during holidays. I must have been maximum six years old when I was playing with a Swedish boy and understood his mother, when she spoke Swedish to me. I knew she spoke a different language and I knew I understood her. What had to be said was clearly independent from language. It felt very warm and comforting.
Later on I realised that there was more to life then what I know and even more then I could ever know. First I tried to overcome this problem trying to learn it all. Then I realised that after every new piece of knowledge there were many more and more and more. It was uninmaginable. And then there was even more. How sad it was and how I would have liked to know, I had no choice then to accept that I would not know everything of all I wanted to know. I had to say goodbye to things I could have known, but which would remain for ever out of my sight. There is knowledge I want to know, that I will never know.
For years I tried to get as much knowledge as possible, even in the knowledge that it is impossible to know all I ever want to know, but then I realised that I was not only restricted in my knowledge but even more restricted in my understanding. I was specialized, restricted. Other people could make beautiful drawings whereas I could not. Doing that they proved to me that they could see things more precisely then I was able to do. But these people were often not so good at mathematics. There I had more precision in perception. Since mathematics was considered more important then making a drawing, I felt superior, although I knew that my superiority was limited. And then there came drama. Some people – like my twin brother – could play drama. I could not, but I could see that it was a totally different way to experience reality. Where I observe, they enlarge their own feelings. They go for it. I looked at it. It not only differs in attitude, it also differs in experience. Differing in experience also differs in paths of knowledge.
With that ended my life living at home. Truth started as the conviction that there is one way to experience life. Then the impossibility of knowing it all emerged, which showed me that I was restricted in collecting the truth. Next came the realization that I could not understand all things possible to know. That is, that whatever truth I will have, it will be a special form of truth – but a superior one. But then I realized that there were more challenging attitudes in life then observing.
I saw how people expressed their feelings freely, whereas I could not. Behaving in some kind of manner opened paths to different experiences of reality and therefore different viewpoints on truth. I was left with a choice how to life my life, but sofar I only knew that I was restricted in collecting knowledge, restricted in talents and very restricted in selfexpressing. Truth was very far away from me. I could not believe in it anymore. I could only say that people can have their own opinions, but it is not possible that there is a truth out there. And if there is one, then it is not revealable.
At this time of life I often felt very lonely. Even having a solid social life and a study in progress, I really had the feeling that I was not landed on earth. That I existed here right now. That I could sing the song 'This is my life, this is me' like Shirley Bessy. I admire people for that, but I can not experience life like that. It is not me. My restriction is my cross, my only road to my life, to my search for the truth. I am inescapable myself and if I like it or not, I have to deal with it. I can for a while pretend that I am not me, but eventually I will have to admit and be just me again. My lack of living some truth is my faith. Life is a struggle, truth a paradise until you wake up.
Intermezzo:I have no Ideas
I have always had a fierce resistance against the cave allegory of Plato. I could not believe in an ideal world outside this one, impossible to perceive nonetheless existing. I could not believe in something independent and pure. I could not belief in the definition of things like a horse or a cow and that for every definition available there should exist some ideal. First we create these definitions and next we say that there is a independent, pure idea expressing that definition exactly. How natural it is to create definitions beyond any reasonable doubt, that is impossible. The more one focusses on the definition of a term, the more it becomes impossible to describe. You can only know beyond reasonable doubt what is not really important to know – because you do not take enough effort to look at it. And off course there are a lot of people who know some very important things very boldly. Quite often I perceive them as having a wishful perception of reality, implying that what they do not want to see, they actually do not see. I must have this restriction as well, but just as I can see theirs and they can not see it themselves, I can not see mine. That I can not see my restriction does not imply however that I can think without any restriction, hence I can not assure that I use words, which exist in an independent and pure reality. Because I can not tell when I overstretch my words in respect to my restrictions, I can never postulate the existance of abstract Ideas indepedent of my own way of thinking. That is what makes me resist the allegory of Plato. It is so restricted in its self consciousness.
Doing time in university the gap of life and truth deepened. While learning science it becomes clear that we do not know anything for sure and that a lot of ambitions are realized not by intellectual capacity, but by realistic social behavior. The theory of science showed me that it is not possible to establish knowledge with certainty and that perception influences theory. The practice of science that a lot of people at the universities do it for a living, not for their passion of knowledge. The possibililty that there existed an independent viewpoint disappeared. Everything was position. Position was politics, politics was power. Truth was manifested power. What was said to be true, was true. Truth in science is the result of social power, not idealistic research. Truth in religion was definitely the truth of an organisation. In the catholic church there were men who were obviously speaking about things they did not understand themselves.
Most of the truths out there were social beliefs, results of strong personal expressions made by leaders of the group. There were people who are very intrinsically motivated. Some of them had clear perception problems, but at least the desire to know, others had what I called 'capacity'. I had a little bit the capacity to see that other people might have capacity. I could see that I had almost none sofar. I had to be modest about my viewpoints about truth and everything and I hated that. My viewpoints were not a social belief, but they were not right either. It is not that they were so special, one could not discriminate them from the beliefs of others, what made them different is that they came from an original source. I believed them, because I believe them. There is no other reason, why I should believe something else. People reckognized that in me. I really wanted to give something to people, I really wanted to explore honestly, but I was so restricted being me. I could refute almost anyone, crushing convictions with my critics, telling people my truths. But my truths, even my most sincere ones, felt all like lies. If I had to put myself into social perspective, I had to admit that I was one of those people with an intrinsic desire for knowledge and truth but incapacity due to clear perception problems. We all do have this lack of capacity, only a few people talk beyond reasonable doubt, most of the people talk socially apt and some loners hang somewhere inbetween. I was definitely of the hanging unkind. Tell me, what is the use of an independent point of view when it does not surpass any social belief and it results in anger and in pain?
The answer my friend, is me. I always try to take care of me. I want to be honestly me. Whatever it takes. If I can not live my life successfully, happily or whatever, then I can at least be me. Let me be me. That is what I can do at most and at least. If there is no truth out there, then I am independent. When I am independent, then I am responsible for myself and therefor is no one else to blame. It is me. Whatever, but I have to take care of me. This is my life and I have to live with it. This is me.
Intermezzo: a political confession
The most important aspect of a society is common binding. The highest truth of a society is loyalty, whatever is said beyond that. One impressive event at that time was the decision of the Dutch government about the cruise missiles on the first of november 1985 and how they balanced between all odds. They wanted to stay loyal to our American allies and place the nuclear missiles, but at the same time they did not want to have these missiles in the country – maybe because of the security risk, maybe because they did not agree with the missiles themselves, maybe because they wanted to listen to the voice of the people.
The Dutch government by Ruud Lubbers had his final hour with the decision made. Ruud Lubbers made the impossible possible. Yes, the nuclear missiles were allowed to come, but they should be at top of the list to be cancelled in the negotiations with Russia and these missiles should not be stationed here until it was clear that they were here to stay. It was obvious that these missiles would never come to the Netherlands. But the Americans were satisfied that the Dutch government permitted the missiles and the opposition could have been satisfied, because it was practically arranged that they would never arrive.
That is the binding power of someone who is trying to be loyal to the end. I was angry that the Dutch government did not listen to the people, that the missiles were not rejected straightforwardly and that Europe was further prepared to become the nuclear battlefield of the cold war. We were not born to become victims of that. So yes, I went demonstrating and among many others I searched for confrontation with the police, I shouted out loud my protests, I was one of those who completely blocked the traffic in the city of Nijmegen that day. But somewhere deep inside, in a hidden place, well known and only know to me at that time, I was admiring the solution of Ruud Lubbers. I was admiring him. At that day ended my resistance against subjectivity and loyalty and especially against social truth as the best truth one can get at a specific time. Yes, I was search confrontation with the police, but I was loving what they resembled and I was worried about those police officers as well. The hate was ended.
But why and most of all: how? I had a history of struggle and criticism. I did not know how to behave differently. Sometimes I was tired of my own way of being, but I did not know how to escape it. I was wondering why people wanted to talk to me. I could not understand. But on the other hand, I can not give up myself. I can not resign to society, I can not be a loyal person to some belief in some group. That is not me. I am responsible for myself and will not sacrifice myself on the altar of loyalty. Yes, I love my society and I want to give in return for what I get. I am grateful to my society, to the world I am living in. But I do not know what I can give more then my independent me. It is my gift and it is a precious gift. There are people in a society who have to stand in the centre of the inner circle, like all politicians. The majority of the people stand somewhere else in these circles. I consider it my duty, my gift to society to stand at the outer circle and reflecting life and reality with love, compassion and criticism. It is where I end up automatically. When I was a little kid I always sat at the side of the group with my back turned slightly towards the inner circle.
So now there was shared truth. Truth of loyalty. And I think it is good that this exists. It is good to adhere, because it destresses life and makes it a joy communicating with other loyalists. Non loyalists become people who still have to open their eyes for that what we share. Social truth is safe and comforting, just like the truth in childhood. And is that not the most important of all?
Yes, but not for me. I am interested in life itself. I am interested in being, mere existence and I do not need social truth. So although I have a refuge, I can carry on exploring and I needed it, because I did not have a clue to the answer how to live my life.
That has amazed me very much throughout my life: how humanity has not organized their knowledge about life. We know how to build ships, weapons, houses, roads etc.. But we do not theorize successfully about our bodies, family structures, sex, raising children and the like. We know and learn each other least about what for all of us is most important. There is a vast literature on these subjects, but it is not organized and learned at primary school. Remember: primary school. I really feel like an amateur in life. I love it, like an amateur, I live it, like an amateur, I discover myself, like an amateur. Unbelievable. Why is this? What is more important then the organization of life? The subject of truth ought to be solved after some thousands years of research. Doesn't it? Why is it not? Why do I have to reinvent the wheel of life again? Why the same mistakes as all previous generations? We all know about the problems of people in puberty, but why did we never find any solution? Why do all people have to suffer almost identical problems during this time period? Why do we not take care of our children and learn them how to live instead of arithmatics? Do not get me wrong, I love arithmatics and algebra, they belonged to my favorite hours on school, but what is more important: live or calculations? What are the primary subjects we have to learn at school?
Were we ever interested to teach this to our children? We are social beings, definitely, but were we ever interested in life itself? Did we run from it? Is that the origin of our educational system? Loyalty to the group instead of the group supporting the life of its members? Have we ever in history supported our society members as we might now do? Was there always a struggle about truth, because no one was really interested in solving the issue? We never focused? Did we speak for ourselves or did we listen to each other? Was there primorally a will or a need? When we learn other people, do we that in our own interest for continuity of ourselves or do we do that to support the unfolding of the new adult?
Having a shared truth showed me the sadness how the individual was forgotten in the struggle of power and survival. Shared truth comes with a price. Sad that it is a good price to pay. It has always been wise to trade independence for loyalty, to trade own beliefs for the truth of the majority. But it is a life we are talking about. An existance in the vast universe. A conscious, that is not allowed to be who it is. Once in an universe and still not special enough? What do we have to do next?
Surprisingly, that let me return to the existance and acceptance of an absolute truth. When a shared truth is possible between humans, then why not think in bigger circles of sharing? Why not think that on the conscious level of stars there was a shared truth? Or on the universe? There might be a difference between personal and social truth versus universal truth. Aside that it is an extrapolation of existing truths, it is a parsimonious argument: it all becomes so difficult to understand when there is not one truth, but many. There may appear many, but that does not mean that there are in the end all one. And please, how could I say that there exists no truth, when there exists no reality? There is a difference between actual truth and perception of truth. The latter is restricted on all sides, but the first is independent of our own perceptions. Can we know such a truth? No, not directly because we can not transcend what we perceive. Is that a problem? Is it a solution to postulate that there is no such a truth? How does one behave? With the idea that in the end all is one, or with the idea that in the end all is a collection of different viewpoints? I think that ultimately everyone has one reality. Since that time I also think that everyone is ultimately in the same universe. But we do not know.
Social truth then becomes the best effort of a historical society to serve and guide its members. It is a truth which is a result of a historical process, not something which is freely tradeble for a different kind of way dealing with reality. Truth in science is the best effort of a group to express there findings. Science is a historical process as well and when a scientifical program is not effective anymore, but a concurrent theory is, then the concurrent theory will get the money for new programs. Time will tell effectively. Science is not a quest for truth, but a mentality of a community in time that says that reality is right and that theories are wrong, which implies that one ought to be openminded to accept everything from reality which is against ones own hypotheses. That is quite often too much asked for an individual, but in time a reasonable question to a community. My last development is that there is one truth, but that the same truth can unfold itself simultaneously in different perspectives. I call these perspectives from truth. There are infinite perspectives and people can use different perspectives all the time, not knowing they were changing perspectives. The same truth can therefor be expressed in infinite different ways.
People themselves have also different perspectives on truth, but that has nothing to do with these perspectives from truth. That has to do with shared beliefs, viewpoints and the like. We do not know truth, but we live it. The more we live our lives in line with our self, the more we live our truth and hence unfold it in many different ways. Truth is not there to be expressed solely in words, but to be listened at in all different ways. The way we say things is much closer to any perspective from truth then what we say. A lot of philosophies and religions write about unconditional thinking and reasoning. That has in my opinion nothing to do with the perspectives from truth, but at most with the perspectives on truth. How good we might think and reason without preconditions, it will always be from some specific perspective with a lot of restrictions. An unconditional mind or awareness is a historical point of view for some individual by which he/she has overcome a lot of ineffective thought patterns. But there will always remain patterns of thinking as it is impossible to perceive without any referential points to become aware of something.
This viewpoint has the effect on my person that I do not want to fight anymore for some truth. That is annoying. But I will resist if someone is putting words in my mouth, which I do not intend to speak or when someone will cross my line of independence. My critics should be done with utmost effort to speak in line with the way the other one speaks. It should be aimed to mirror the other, which might inspire the other to further unfold oneself. That might be done showing inconsistencies in the line of thinking (at least from my point of view) or showing the consequences of the toughts of the other. That might be considered patronizing, but that is not the intent. The intention is mirroring, returning attention and listening inline with the world of the other. The alternative would be to have no conversation about ones believes at all. Not a lively alternative, is it?
It is my aim to learn to understand other peoples perspectives on truth as truthfully as mine. That is very difficult, but the more I learn, the more rewarding. It is very easy with people having attitudes I respect, but to show unconditional respect to someone with utterly different believes that is a different story. That is the learning path, which I have set for myself, stating that there is one absolute truth but we all do not own it. I will automatically think that my way is the best way to think, otherwise I would have a different opinion – this is my mirror in trying to stay or become modest. Although I can not think unconditionally, I can try to meet unconditionally, that is to have an unconditional meta point of view on different perspectives on truth. The closest I can get to the absolute truth is acceptance of all different viewpoints without the need to change mine.
Will this be my last viewpoint? Can we teach that on primary school?