Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I was walking between classes today, thinking to myself (as opposed to thinking, aloud, to someone else - which I am frequently known to do), and I started pondering the somewhat paradoxical nature of Truth; or, to be precise, the paradoxical nature of humanity's reactions to Truth (yes, that 'T' is capitalized for a reason). I suppose it comes from having two Minors that basically wind up dealing with this exact concept (for what are Religion and Philosophy, if not the search for Truth?). Anyway, I started trying to sort out my thoughts, and I figured that my blog would be a good venue to try and figure a few things out. So here goes.

I find it interesting that humanity both loves and hates Truth. That is, they love it when they get the Truth about someone else's dirty past, or mischievous and embarrassing stories. The grandiose sale of celebrity tabloids is evidence enough of this, but we also revel in the Truth about our neighbors and acquaintances. The Jones' are going bankrupt? That's terrible - but we love it that we know (heck, we may even love that they're going bankrupt, the jerks!). Even so, in this culture where it seems we want 'the dirt' on everyone around us, we hate it when the Truth is revealed about us. Let one smidgen of a lie you told at last year's New Year's party come out (maybe it wasn't even a lie, maybe it was a true confession that you have since tried to sweep under a rug), and boom! Explosion-Anger-Tears-Whatever. So it turns out your feelings on the Truth depend on the subject of that Truth.

It's also wider than that. Not only do we simultaneously love and hate Truth, we also rejoice in and fear it. Think about it - the last time you heard some new scientific study come out on a topic that you feel strongly about, what was your first reaction? "Oh, no! I hope they haven't proven me wrong!" If you're a somewhat 'religious' person, perhaps you feel fear any time someone advances the idea of Evolution, or maybe you feel strongly that Global Warming is going to destroy the planet - but you aren't as sure as you claim to be, and feel dread every time a new report is released. Either way, if the scientific statement (a controversial member of the Truth club to be sure) backs you up, you feel good - your opinions have been vindicated, at least a little. If they make you look bad, though...

So why do we do this? What's the deal about fearing the Truth? Shouldn't we all, no matter what our personal convictions, have nothing to fear? After all, if the Truth comes out, and we're wrong, well, then we can change our positions, and try it again - all the while feeling better, because another modicum of Truth has been added to the world's total. And if Truth is not a worthy goal for the world to strive toward, then what is?

But, of course, we don't feel this way. And thinking 'pie in the sky' thoughts about our reactions to Truth isn't going to help anything. The truth of the matter (sorry!) is that we invest ourselves so heavily into what we believe (be it a religious, political, social, or academic position) that we feel great pain at the slightest suggestion that our investments have been in vain, because that may mean that our lives have not been lived well (when you get right down to it). It's a fear of being wrong, a fear of failure (if you will) that makes us detest the revelation of Truth. We'd rather be ignorant and happy than informed and pained.

And yet we still seek this stuff that's supposed to hold such forbidding anguish. Scientists are constantly working to discover more about our universe. Philosophers are always debating ways to find Truth, and even whether or not Truth (as an absolute) exists. Theologians are constantly revising their work, trying to pry deeper into the mysteries of what God has revealed to us. Academics are always looking for new insights, or new knowledge. Conspiracy theorists are always trying to find out the secrets that everyone keeps hiding (and what is a secret, but the Truth?). Politicians are...okay, let's leave the politicos out of this.

So here we are. Constantly seeking for that which we fear, for that which might bring us what we most detest. Humanity is strange.

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A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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