Monday, May 6, 2013

What Is Truth?

Oh say, what is truth? 'Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch's costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.
-John Jaques, 1827-1900
Truth is things as they really are, and it can be pretty hard to come by. 
I recently finished listening to the book "1984" by George Orwell. If you are into dark, depressing, futuristic stories that are eerily similar to the present even though they were written over half a century ago, this book is for you! If you want something inspiring and happy, don't read it. ;) 
Besides a feeling of hopelessness, the reader is left to ask this question: "Is the lunatic a person who believes there are problems in the world and that life and the system are less than perfect, even though they are the minority or even the only person who believes these things are so? Or is it lunacy to believe everything along with the crowd even when it doesn't really make sense?"
I've given it some thought and here is what I have come up with:
Truth is always true and never changes.
Truth is not dependent upon my belief or disbelief.
Truth isn't changed by redefining it.
Truth doesn't care about statistics or numbers.
Truth is eternal.
Following truth will eventually lead to peace and happiness.
Denying truth will ultimately lead to destruction. 
The application of truth can change over time without the truth itself changing.

Orwell's book uses the example of 2+2=4. In the beginning, Winston believes that freedom is being able to say that 2+2=4. By the end, he realizes it is better to say that 2+2=whatever the government tells him it equals. But even though everyone believes 2+2=5, or 3, or 4 depending on the circumstances, does it really change?

Different Paths

Here is a story problem: I need to have 4 apples. How can I get 4 apples?
The answers can vary immensely.
I can go to Sprout's and get 4 apples in one bag.
I can go to Sprout's and get 2 apples in one bag, and 2 in another.
I can go to Sprout's and get  1 apple in one bag, 1 in another, 1 in another and 1 in another.
I can go to Sprout's and get 2 apples in one bag, then go to Smith's and get 2 apples in one bag.
I can go to four different stores and get 1 apple from each.

The possibilities are endless, but in the end, I have reached the same conclusion. In the end, I still have 4 apples.

Truth can be kind of like this. There are many ways to get to truth. I can find evidence and scientifically find truth. I can receive revelation and discover truth from God. The truth does not change, just the method of learning it.

Everyone is on different paths in life. But we all have the same goal. We are trying to find meaning and purpose in this life so we can have joy in the life to come. Here is a wonderful story of a family fleeing from East Germany:

I grew up in Zwickau, in the former East Germany. When I was about 11 years old, my father fell under increased scrutiny as a political dissenter, and my parents felt that the only safe choice for our family would be to flee to West Germany. It was decided that the safest plan was to leave at different times and follow different routes to the West, leaving all our belongings behind.

Since my father was at greatest risk, he took the quickest journey, through Berlin. My older brothers headed north, and each found his own way west. My sister—who would have been the age of many of you here today—together with Helga Fassmann, her teacher in Young Women, and some others took a train that passed briefly through West Germany. They paid a porter to unlock one of the doors for them, and after the train crossed the West German border, they jumped from the moving train to freedom. How I admired my sister for her courage.

I was the youngest child, and my mother decided that she and I would walk across a mountain range separating the two countries. I remember that she packed a lunch as if we were going for a hike or a picnic in the mountains.

We took a train as far as we could and then walked for long hours, getting ever closer to the West German border. The borders were tightly controlled, but we had a map and knew of a time and a place where it might be safe to cross. I could sense my mother’s anxiety. She observed the area intensely to see if we were being followed. With each step, her legs and knees seemed to become weaker. I helped carry her heavy bag filled with food, vital documents, and family photos as we climbed up one last, long hill. Surely, she thought, we had passed the border by now. When she finally felt safe, we sat down and started to eat our picnic lunch. For the first time that day, I’m sure, she breathed more easily.

It was only then that we noticed the border sign. It was still far ahead of us! We were having our picnic on the wrong side of the border. We were still in East Germany!

Border guards could show up any moment!

My mother frantically packed up our lunch, and we hurried up the hillside as quickly as we could. This time we didn’t dare stop until we knew with certainty that we had reached the other side of the border.

Even though each member of our family had taken very different routes and experienced very different hardships along the way, eventually all of us made it to safety. We were finally reunited as a family. What a glorious day that was!

Each of us is undergoing our own journey and search for truth. The routes will vary, but hopefully we will all discover the truths we are seeking.

What methods have you used to help you sift through truth and falsehood?

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