What is Truth?

This age old question keeps popping up into our daily lives.  It is a question that Unitarian Universalists struggle with as a people of faith.  I remember my grandmother used to say that there were always three sides of every story.  Your side, my side and the truth of the matter. 

It remains a difficult question to answer.  Some folks see truth as in stark contrasts.  It is a concrete truth meaning if this is true than that must be false. For instance it is true that parts of the earth are in light and other parts are in darkness.  Concrete truth.   But there is also a relative truth.  We state the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  This is relative truth.  It is relative to our perspective of living on the planet earth.  The sun does not really rise.  The earth is rotating on its axis which gives the appearance of the sun rising.  And because the earth is rotating counter-clockwise it makes the sun appear to rise in the east.  Planets that rotate clockwise would have their sun rise in the west. 

My first automobile was my grandfather’s green metallic rambler stationwagon. It was a good looking car and it served me well.  A friend of mine during that time period commented that he really liked the brown metallic car I had.  He thought the color was just wonderful.  He was colorblind.  He was unable to see greens so for him the car was brown.  In reality it was green.  He just was unable to see it.  Actually the color might have been something else because there are spectrums of light that we are unable to see with our eyes.  For him the truth of the color of the car was brown.  For me the truth of the color of the car was green.  For the bees and other insects that see ultraviolet and ultrared spectrums the truth of the color of the car might be something else again.  For my beagle that I had during that time, the  truth of the color of the car was gray.  What is the Truth? 

It would be simple if truth could be revealed in stark contrasts.   We could see clearly this is true and this is false.  But that is not how the world works.  It certainly does not work that way in religious circles.  If it did, Christianity would not have schismed into myriad of denominations.  Buddhism would not have broken into a variety of schools and lineages.  Judaism would not have several movements within its purview.   There is truth in the perspectives.  There is also untruth in the perspectives as well. 

It comes down to how well we are equipped to see the various nuances and respect the others perception as they will be seeing truth to the best of their lights.  It would do me no good to argue with my friend who was colorblind that my beautiful brown metallic rambler stationwagon was really green metallic.  It is truth that he would never quite grasp because his eyes simply do not have the ability to see certain colors.  Nor would it do any good for the insects of the world, if they had speech, to argue with me that the green metallic car of mine really had other shades of colors swirled into it or that the orange day lily really has deep blues and reds directing them to the center where the nectar is to be found.  I cannot see these colors in the day lily but they can. 

What can be done is for us to listen to my friend describe how the brown metallic car gives him pleasure to look at.  And in the listening maybe learn something new about how the world works.  Unitarian Universalists need to learn this skill as much as anyone.  The skill of deep listening, not judging, not arguing, not trying to change another’s point of view.  SImply listen, simply be present and hear what is being said and how it is being said.  To understand another is perhaps the closest thing we can come to knowing the truth as another perceives it.   And in maybe in the listening we can also learn the truth of love.   Blessings

Published in: on September 9, 2008 at 9:49 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. It is SO hard to listen. Especially when I hate what I am hearing.

  2. Jacqueline: Thank you for your comment. Yes, it can be very hard to listen. Listening is a learned skill. It can also be considered a spiritual practice. Which is another way of saying that we are not always going to be able to listen with full presence of mind and heart.

    My grandfather was town supervisor of the township of Deerpark, NY for 25 years. I remember watching him hear all sorts of complaints and ridicules about what should be done or not done within the township. He smoked a pipe, back then smoking in public places was permitted. He would have his pipe in his mouth, even if it was unlit, and he would use it as a tool to keep himself quiet while these comments were being made. It was a matter of be slow to anger and be even slower to speak as Paul of Tarsus would say. It gave him the time to think through what response if any needed to be made. I think his using the pipe as a tool to help him listen and not respond immediately made him a good town supervisor “even when he hated what he was hearing.” There might be other tools that we can use to do the same. Breathing slowly and meditatively is one. Are there others? I think there are. Blessings,

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