Working with Truth

Any sane person, when faced with information that doesn’t fit their world view, or their understanding of something more specific, has to consider the idea that they’ve maybe got it wrong. The problem with this – and I speak from considerable personal experience here – is that if you are being persistently lied to, it’s not easy to work out where the balance of truth is. Truth is, to me, both very important and terribly elusive. It’s so often subjective, we see the bit of it in front of us and not the wider picture, we see it through the bias of our own experiences, and through the filters of our own needs and assumptions. What is true in one place and time may not hold up in another. I’ve recently read Graeme K Talboys’ The Druid Way – which discusses the importance of Truth in a Celtic worldview. Truth, in this sense is about inherent rightness which exists in relationship, less about the subjectivity inherent in surfaces, more about looking for deeper themes and currents. I care, passionately, about being honest and living honourably. Truth, in all its complexity has to be a part of that. Having a workable world view is necessary. Having a world view that fits with the available information is vital if you want to do anything at all. You can’t act honourably when you are standing on a pile of lies. Even if the lies aren’t yours. Good choices depend on good information – on truth. Being able to trust your own judgement is essential also, because without that it’s very difficult to navigate anything. Again I speak from experience here. Judgement is based on the quality of our own perceptions, our ability to asses those perceptions and deduct information from them in relevant ways, and our ability to predict based on those deductions. Most of us do this, most of the time in a fairly unconscious way. At any point, mistakes lead to confusion. The more precise our perceptions are, the closer we come to truth and the more scope there is for honour. The more aware we are of our own failings and biases, the better we handle the deduction stage, and the more experience we have, the more scope we have to predict outcomes based on what we think we know. There are so many places this can go wrong. Insert one false piece of information into the process, and it’s doomed from the outset. It’s a precarious sort of balancing act, comparing what I think I know with anything I now learn. Is the old information right? Have I misjudged? Am I being misled? Without the confidence that we can trust external sources as being truthful, truth itself becomes ever more elusive. It is necessary both to be able to learn and embrace new perspectives, and also to know when to hold firm. How? I can suggest reasoned arguments based on assessing available information, going beyond it to look for supporting evidence from less contentious sources, getting a second opinion and so forth. There isn’t always time. How do I tell between the truth I want to hear and the one that really exists? How do I tell between the truth that is mine, and the lie someone else wants me to swallow? How do any of us? Our entire legal system depends on these questions, and so many of our day to day interactions as well. Are there inherent qualities in truth that help announce its presence? I’ve mulled that old idea that truth is beauty (Keats?) and I’m still mulling. I want truth to be beauty. I want it to have grace and elegance. Perhaps the best measure of ‘truth’ and its value, is the direction it takes us in. A truth that challenges is different from a claimed truth that mostly just destroys something. A truth that explains is different from one that justifies. The devil is in the detail, as always. I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone else thinks on this one.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

One response to “Working with Truth

  • autumnbarlow

    Truth. Sounds so simple. It’s so enormously difficult.

    I used to attend Quaker meetings and my heart still leans that way in many cases. The Quakers have a threefold testimony: to witness for truth, simplicity and equality. Truth (or integrity) – it’s a constant challenge. The Quaker way demands you, the individual, seek the truth within yourself and live by it – whether it conforms to society’s standards or not.The truth, as you find it, can be a hard taskmaster. It is easier to ignore truth sometimes, and live by ego or whim or advertising slogans.

    It demands continual reappraisal too. A quaker cannot say “well I did this because a priest told me to/a book told me to/my congregation told me to.” You must be accountable and be prepared to uphold your truth publicly.

    Like the scientists’ goal of a Theory of Everything, it would be so easy to have One Truth that underpins all. Some people claim they have found it. Perhaps. I’m….still looking.

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