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Mistake 3: Believing there is TRUTH

BBC: Murmuration of Starlings near Gretna.

BBC: Murmuration of Starlings near Gretna.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ― Aristotle

Believing there is an ultimate truth saved my mental health. In searching for it I kept my mind growing and flexible and I’m grateful for that. Yet the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve come to understand that Truth is like a murmuration of starlings: always in motion, difficult to pin down, and whatever it may look like, it may be something else altogether. Perhaps there are multiple truths, all equally true yet mutually exclusive. What is inarguably true for one person might be a laughable fiction to another.

I was raised in the United Church of Christ (non-instrumentalist—with a tone-deaf mother) with some pretty messed-up contradictions. Bible stories every Sunday were as often Old Testament as New. Those Old Testament stories are about the trials and triumphs of the Jews, God’s chosen people. One day, I overheard an adult conversation about how the Jews were doing something despicable. It confused me so I said, “But the Jews are God’s Chosen!”

The adult/s said, “The Jews killed Christ.” Yet the Old Testament stories continued. Jesus was a Jew … his followers were Jews …

“Oh.” was all I said at the time. But that and other inconsistencies continued to ferment in my subconscious.

As I grew the inconsistencies between the reality I witnessed and the “truths” I was told extended beyond religion and became more and more jarring over time. Teachers told lies — not always knowingly. Politicians described a world I couldn’t see. Adults swore some things were true despite the evidence of their own eyes. They sometimes swore things were false because they didn’t see them with their own eyes. Belief trumped reality at every turn. I kept witnessing adults being presented with reliable evidence refusing to budge.

It made me feel sick to my stomach. And I made a promise to myself in adolescence, that should a belief I held be proven wrong by reliable evidence, I would change my beliefs appropriately in response. I did this (in part) because I thought those who refused to change their beliefs looked foolish and the last thing I ever wanted to do was look foolish. I did it because I couldn’t bear to be wrong or be discovered to be wrong.

The first time this determination was put to the test rocked me to my core and forced me to rebuild my ideas about reality (serving Truth). But I survived. My newer stance in the world was far less black and white and was built on a more flexible foundation. I keep getting surprised by the “truth” of things but adjustments are easier to make than they were.

The funny thing is that reality is a tricksy bugger. Many scientists are agnostic or atheist. There are people who swear no human has ever stood on the moon. There are too many religious people who believe their particular religion is the only true religion. All of these people are convinced that their own take on reality is TRUTH.

But when I compare my experience of the world to the beliefs (the TRUTHs) I am presented with, I find bits and pieces of each belief system supported by what I see actually happening. I also find aspects of each not supported by the evidence. For instance, science insists that things that have not been proven by scientific methods are not true—often in the face of mountains of anecdotal data. And every now and then, something pronounced impossible by science is proven to be true.

Another example from another extreme: Certain Christian sects believe the world is only 6,000 years old. They choose to ignore the evidence of geology. I have even been told that God put the dinosaur bones on Earth to test our faith.

Yet, I find a great deal of beauty and wisdom in both Christianity and science. Not only there but in Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Paganism, and Native American religions, as well as in the disciplines of yoga and astrology. This is to mention only few.

There are profound truths (but not the whole TRUTH) in each system and I wonder whether deity (on an imaginary day of creation) tried first to present humanity with all understanding at once and all the little human brains exploded. So deity tried again by breaking down the knowledge into more manageable pieces and broke humanity into various groups. Each faction of humanity was put in charge of different segment of the knowledge and were seeded with individuals with inquiring minds (because they want to know) sprinkled throughout.

Each segment was given its own place and, without prompting, they created beautiful religions based on the truths they were provided with. Those pesky inquiring minds kept asking questions and getting quashed. So some of them headed out to explore the world. Along the way they began to gather other bits and pieces of truth and some of them began to stitch them together.

Perhaps the whole purpose of life on Earth is to find all the bits of this original knowledge and fit them together until TRUTH is revealed in all its complex majesty.

Perhaps not. I do know, I don’t have it all. I suspect you have a piece I haven’t seen yet.

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