Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To be convinced of the truth or legitimacy of an absurdity is, apparently, not very difficult and rather common. Once an absurdity is glommed onto and embraced, it becomes next to impossible to dislodge. The person and the absurdity conform toe each other. Then, as Emerson puts it: “their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four: so that every word they say chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set them right”.
Nor do we know that our job is to set them right - nor that we ourselves, at some level, are not absurd. Such that the whole business seems futile. I sit and suffer one absurdity after another each like a hammer blow to my sensibilities and I am impotent against this. Does wisdom require patiently accepting the absurd - embracing it with compassionate tolerance? What about rebellion? What about the passionate fight for what is right? These options are available at any time. If I want a fight, all I have to do is pick one.
I’m not sure I want to be consumed in all that - which is worse? And what is the real motivation? I have considered it well to try to be as sane as I can -given the circumstances of modern life. I can see my own challenges to sanity and so I can find myself on shaky ground when my finger is pointed at the absurdity of another’s notion.
The challenge seems more about learning to find my own truth and concede some inevitable relativity. What else do I have, ultimately? If a man cannot trust his own sense of what is true and what is real, he is undone in every sense of the word. But a man grounded in his own sensibilities is …. Well…. Grounded. He may be wrong, but at least we know - and he knows - what he is: what he stands for. We all have this right to believe what is true to us. We can’t make it so for anyone else. We have to accept that, as we have this right, so does everyone else. Perhaps this recognition, more than some ideal of a universal truth, is the essential underpinning of civility.
There are some areas where facts still seem to hold sway. Certain rudimentary science and mathematic applications. But questionability of facts seems to be an ever increasing necessity - making smaller and smaller the realms where a fact is useful. This is a day and age were a person’s choice takes president over fact or reason. The personal choice to believe as you want is primary. Facts become simply garnishment to use as color or discard if they don’t suit us. I’m not sure if reason is completely dead, but it is clearly diminished. If you are hoping for reason to settle a dispute - you may be sorely disappointed.
Reason had a long run. We had an official Age of Reason. But today we have to deal with a new supremacy of the personal choice. So how are we swayed to choose? If reason is no longer the primary driver of belief, what is? I dare say feeling and emotion play a heavy part. Both highly manipulatable commodities. We choose what to believe as true based on what feels right to us. We’ve already reached a point of relativism in truth. And the liberals with their anything goes approach are not less to blame than the fundamentalists with their selective truth picking.
So what about me? I want to know and trust in truth with a capital “T”. But I am subject to the same emotive sub structures as every one else. So what is true for me is as valid as what it true for a Farwell or an Osama Bin Bomb’n. Which of us has the more accurate standard against which to measure Truth?
Ah, there is the rub. We all want that indisputable measuring rod. And so we pick one. The Bible, or the Koran, or science, or Reason, or Philosophy, (or the tried and true personal testimonial). We pick something and then use it to nail our foot to the floor. We decide to call this or that device the answer to the unanswerable. We decide on a device that woks for us and our decision becomes our truth. The decision is the important thing to recognize. Why did we decide on this device over that one, or why did we have to decide at all? Many of us become confused about the difference between our decision and the Truth. We have this uncanny capacity to believe that once we have made a decision, we have suddenly become the possessors of the truth. Deciding something is an ultimate truth does not make it so. It simply makes us decided.

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