Saturday, January 29, 2011

More about the Truth....

Because of some of my "truth" as I know it musings in a recent post, I thought I would post the following thoughts on the truth...what it is, if it can be believed and how the truth can sometimes actually harm us.  Posted for your ponderments.....from the No Nonsense Guide to Enlightenment by Blair Warren 

The Truth Shall Set You FreeFrom the No Nonsense Guide to Enlightenment 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


Kansas Bob said...

"Who knows. Who cares. "

Well said!

"whose “reality” is most useful at the moment?"

Better said!

I liked the cancer victim story. Gives a different perspective about charlatans.

Rhonda said...

For me, the parable fails because had it not been for "the truth" to begin with, that the man had inoperable cancer, he would never have visited the charlatan to begin with. It fails because after hearing the man was a fraud, he somehow wasn't capable of understanding the real truth--that it was hope and optimism that kept him alive, not the fake "healing".

I always want to know "the truth". It isn't always easy to take; but I cannot know how to deal with something if I don't have the truth. Lies harm far more people than truth ever does.

I also find the example of a Van Gogh as compared to a photograph a bad analogy, because the Van Gogh is "the truth" of a man's heart and mind as to his perception of an object, person or scene--not the original object/person/scene itself. A painting of Van Gogh's irises isn't at all the truth in regard to irises, but very much reveals the truth of how the man Van Gogh, "saw" them.

There are times when the truth cannot be uttered; one pebble of truth can shatter the glass house someone has built around him/herself; and it could be that person's "house" is too fragile. Someone who suffers from dementia is sometimes better off humored, because the mind isn't capable of understanding or registering truth; and will leave the person even more confused. There is no "good thing" that comes from it, so there is no point in that case.

But there is nothing more cruel, in my opinion, than to withold the truth from someone who has the right to know it, and who can then make decisions based on it. What if the doctor had lied to the man to begin with? Never told him of his cancer? Would he have lived a long, normal life simply because he didn't know the truth? Most likely, the answer is no, and not one of us who is sane would want that. Just my ponderings on this. :) --rhonda