Is there anything more important than truth? Maybe we should start by first asking…. “Quid est veritas?” (What is truth?)… the famous response reportedly given by Pontius Pilate, after questioning Jeshua during his trial. Jeshua’s words have been written as saying – “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” Thus initiating Pilate’s reply.
I use this example of someone asking this most ancient of questions simply because it is familiar to me personally, growing up within my culture; but the question has been asked through the ages, many times, across many faiths, schools of thought and forums of intellectual exploration, way beyond my knowledge I’m certain sure.
For truth, surely, is the most elemental essence of existence. To my, perhaps unsophisticated understanding, truth exists; our conceptual understanding of it has yet to catch up. We see vagaries where there are none.
Is truth important? Everyone wants it; many claim it as their own. In the light of current events in America, where the division of political thought has become so polarised, it culminated in five people dying at the hands of those who believed they were denied truth. There are people within religious doctrines who have taken lives in the name of it, including their own. How does something that holds so much power still remain perceived as abstract and undefined?
Why is truth so often associated with light? Why is falsehood aligned with darkness? A child might say – ‘you can see in the light, nothing is hidden’. In darkness there are corners for lies, duplicity and half-truths, disguised as truths to execute their deceptions. Does light bring the truth or maybe does truth bring the light?
Why has humankind always struggled to identify the nature of truth? Philosophers, scholars, theologians and latterly, scientists have all tried to dissect the anatomy of truth since our beginnings. In our own way, we all have debated with our breast, in moments of solemnity or high passion, about truth and how we recognise it when it reveals itself. It’s the reason I started this blog I guess; to try to learn, with the help of reading about those far wiser than me, and their explorations of the truth of things.
What got me thinking about truth so much lately, of course, was watching what came to pass last week at the Capitol Building in Washington, and recalling what sparked it. The events that happened on the 6th on January are well documented, but needless to say shocking to most people. It struck me, as it did others I’m sure, here is the culmination of ‘work’ that was put in for a long time. People marched for truth – and yet they had been lied to constantly. An election was won by over 7 million votes and was disputed in over 60 courts, where the dispute was lost every time. Here are people putting their lives on the line, some losing them, to overturn an election, and a government, in the name of truth, where truth there was little. The seeds for this insurrection were sown long before. Conspiracy and fear were woven into ropes that some used to leash the dispossessed, and lead them to an endgame that the indoctrinated had projected all their disparate fears onto. The months leading up to the election, Donald Trump was telling his supporters if he didn’t win it would be a fix. It was similar jingoistic rhetoric that the president had enflamed his crowd with, since he said he would run for office five years before. It’s a movement that won’t stop, unfortunately, when Mr Biden is sworn in. Mr Trump uses the misleading and dangerous ‘otherism’ of people who don’t suit his political purposes, often based on race. It has been obvious to most rational people that he has long been a fugitive from the truth. His close cohorts that sustain the longevity of that escape obviously hold truth in slight regard too. I struggle to believe, that within his camp, everyone is whole heartedly convinced their communications are completely truthful, and are not consciously signed up to the Machiavellian manoeuvres. Be it not forgotten though, when you sign a deal with the devil, one day he does eventually return for payment.
Psychologists have noted that he has qualities that would classically be defined as narcissistic – healthline.com writes as a definition – (a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others); and sociopathic (a sociopath is a term used to describe someone who has antisocial personality disorder ASPD. As such they can’t understand other people’s feelings. They’ll often break rules or make impulsive decisions without feeling guilty for the harm they cause. People with ASPD may also use ‘mind games’ to control friends, family members, co-workers, and even strangers. They may also be perceived as charismatic or charming.
A child would recognise these traits within Mr Trump; indeed it takes one to know one. (ouch!)
When we look at questions on truth, like – What is it – Is it important? It is helpful to me to remember a teacher of mine once explaining, that what is useful to try to understand a word, is to look at the antonym, the word with the opposite meaning.
Falsehood and deception – I think we all have come to be more familiar with the reality of what it is, to be face to face with these dark antagonists in recent times. Mr Trump has wielded these as political bludgeons for his own purposes and the effects are now plain to all of the cost of that.
Understandably, it is easy to draw the line between peoples and say these are the good people and those are the bad. That is being done in the media, on our behalf, plenty enough for us to save our energies. The truth is – as we are looking to find it – we are all potentially capable of being dishonest if we allow ourselves to lack courage in certain circumstances.
How can we find a positive within this whole mess? To salvage something from the fire; and try and reach the other side of all this. Let’s imagine – what if someone like Mr Trump took a life especially to bring falsehood and deception front and centre to the minds of people within the world? So there was NO equivocation of what falsehood looked like and the chaos, damage and pain it leaves in its path. What if the purpose of this was to help stir a slumber of complacency we all may have slipped into, and to make us re-evaluate the importance of truth? Just a thought.
What I do know is the story told by a fella in the 2010 documentary film ‘Catfish’, he remarked… “They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They used to keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the cod used to reach China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea; that if you’re going to put cod in these big vats, put catfish in with them, and the catfish will keep the cod agile. There are those people who are like catfish in life, and they keep you on your toes, they keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh; and I thank God for the catfish.”
Like a lot of metaphors, they only go so far, I don’t even know if Donald Trump can swim; I’ve never seen him in a swimsuit anyway (delete image).
I would offer that deep down we all know what truth is. We know when we are trying to deceive another. We can even learn to deceive ourselves if we practise.
Current events have been a physical display of where lies and obfuscation will take you. If we feel any sadness to the images that have gone around the world, maybe that emotion should make us step away from the noise, take some time, and consider the consequence of the denial of truth. We may be tempted to say to ourselves sometimes – it is only a white lie – but falsehoods build, one on another. We have seen the consequential mudslides of that practice in Washington. Untruths are not inconsequential, for when they eventually find the light of day, which they do, mistrust is born. What imp we tolerate as acceptable today, may have a big brother visit tomorrow. We all contribute to the environment that Mr Trump has found a home in. It is like the boiling frog in the water scenario, not noticing the temperature rising in increments before it was too late. It is for us to say, enough.
We can make a stand for truth in our own lives, this we can do. Use truth as our daily currency in dealing with others and also, with ourselves. The closer we live to the truth ourselves the more we will recognise it; and where it is absent. As every person drops their pebble of truth into the pond, and the ripples go out, until a wave is formed together that will gather in strength and will wash away the despair that suffocates the world right now. I believe this to be true; and this is where I do rely on faith. I have faith in people; that even in these darkest of times, in the end, when the hatred is spent, and through the endeavours of us all…. and when we are through all this, we shall bear witness to the truth once again.