A man with inoperable cancer decides to attend an event led by a wellknown faith healer as a last ditch hope to stay alive. Despite pleas from his family and his doctor to avoid the "charlatan," the man goes anyway. Though he is a little skeptical, he does feel a mysterious "something" go through his body when the preacher pronounces him cured.
The next day his doctor assures him the cancer is not only still there, but that it is, in fact, getting worse. But the man is confident he has been healed. He begins to exercise daily, take his medication faithfully and even thanks God every day for bringing him in contact with the healer who made this all possible. Though the doctor is correct, the cancer hasn't disappeared, the man's sudden zest for life and newfound hope is truly inspiring. The doctor had given him just three months to live, he has now made it over six months and there's no end in sight. But then one day the man sees a story on television that exposes the faith healer as a fraud. His doctor and family members call him to make sure he saw the story so that he could now know the truth. He assures them he did. He feels foolish and ashamed but within days the truth sets him free; he dies in his sleep.
Though I have doubts about faith healers myself, I told you this story to make an important point. While there are clearly times when we need to know the truth about what is going on in our lives, there are just as many times when the truth is the worst thing we can know. Was the faith healer "wrong" to give the man false hope? Well, since the man experienced a sudden and miraculous new zest for life and lived twice as long as had been expected, it is ard to say it was "wrong." But what about the others the faith healer treated who weren't so ucky? Now surely he was "wrong" to give them false hope. After all, they didn't receive any benefit.
Believing that something called “the truth" is the ultimate goal of enlightenment and that knowing it will set you free presents some interesting questions.
Who will decide what is ultimately true and how can we be sure they aren't lying to us? And once the "truth" is determined, how can we be certain there isn't another discovery just around the corner that will prove our current "truth" to be false? Can we ever know what is "really" true or can we only believe certain things to be true given our current understanding of reality?
And how do we address the issue of truth in art? If the goal of enlightenment is to discover “the truth,” that is, the model of thought that most accurately maps to physical reality, then wouldn’t a crystal clear photograph be more valuable than, say, a “sloppy” portrait by Van Gogh? Too bad Van Gogh didn't have a camera. He could have created a more valuable (i.e. more useful)work of art and saved himself a lot of time, and perhaps an ear, in the process. Of course this is ludicrous. There are times when a photograph is more “truthful” than a painting and vice versa. A police officer would probably find a suspect's photograph more "truthful" than an artist's rendition, whereas a patron of the arts would be the other way around. Who’s right? Whose “reality” is more true? Who knows. Who cares. Perhaps the better question is, whose “reality” is most useful at the moment?
So will the truth set you free? It can. But free from what? Just remember our hypothetical cancer patient and how well the truth served him. Perhaps there are times when a beautiful illusion beats reality hands down