Truth can seem like a very abstract subject – the kind of thing you can only explore with language and thinking. Take away language, and what you have is experience, and what you learn from the experience. Whether that’s right or not can be tested by whether you survive future experiences.
We go all too easily from the idea of truth, to the idea of some sort of fixed and ultimate truth. Then we argue with each other about what this might be, and it all gets messy. How we make sense of things depends on who we are and where we were standing when it all happened. The truth for a fox is very different from the rabbit’s truth when they find themselves in the same situation. My truth is not your truth.
Of course if truth is in the moment, in the perspective and the individual, then we aren’t going to be able to agree on it. If there is such a thing as ultimate truth, then persuading people of it becomes a thing. Ultimate truth has implications of power and control. The person who has the ultimate truth has the right to dictate and control, and so there’s a lot of people out there claiming that they have the one true way, the only truth, the rightyist bit of rightness.
The idea of ultimate truth – be that philosophical, spiritual, lifestyle, political, economic – offers the tantalising possibility of right answers. The scope to take the one true way and apply it – maybe only once – and then have everything be absolutely excellent and reliable and all the things.
What if the truth is that life does not work this way? What if everything is specific, and what works this week may not work the same way next week? What if most of existence cannot be tidied into predictable numbers in the style of the sort of physics they teach you in your teens? What if there is no magic solution to tell us exactly how to get everything right?
What if the people peddling ultimate truths, definite salvation and foolproof solutions are, for the greater part, wrong? What if the truth is that we have to make it up as we go along, based on the best information we’ve got right now? What if the truth is that there are no ultimate answers whatsoever?