Tuesday, May 5, 2009

And the Truth will Set You

The other day, I was reading a Facebook posting by a friend who talked about the concept of 'truth' leading to 'self-righteousness'. It got me thinking...

For those of you who know me, you'll know that I consider 'truth' to be a really interesting concept. First of all, there's the whole idea that something might be true or not. The idea that something could be invariant across time, space and whatever other dimensions come to mind (i.e., true), strikes me as being, well, not true. (For you sticklers on logic, I know that what I just said is kind of oxymoronic, but nonetheless...)

Second of all, there's the whole idea that, even if there were things that were 'true', why would I be in the position to know what they are? I'm always amazed that people can talk about both the existence of truth and the idea that they actually know what is 'true'.

Third of all, even if I were to believe in the existence of 'truth' and the idea that I actually have an inside track on knowing what it is, I still have a hard time finding the practical application of truth in the midst of the world in which we live. Whereas I used to believe that most wars were fundamentally linked to money, I'm starting to believe that most wars are actually linked to a conflict of truths.

So, from my perspective, truth doesn't really set us free, it just sets us. It locks us into a set of beliefs. It keeps us from seeing other perspectives. It's mitigates against new insights, creativity and invention. It runs antithetically to curing cancer, solving world hunger, keeping the planet green, and so on.

So, what about this concept of self-righteousness... My experience with self-righteousness is that it helps us to pursue our wants when we believe our wants might conflict with the wants of the people around us, i.e., we use self-righteousness to justify unpopular decisions.

For example, if you want to break off your relationship with your significant other, then there's a high probability that your significant other won't be too happy about it. In anticipation of this, you might look for ways to justify your leaving the relationship. To do this, you'll most likely look for things that are wrong with either the other person or with the relationship itself. Of course, their being wrong naturally gets juxtaposed to your being right. Before you know it, your need to justify your wants becomes, well, self-righteousness.

All this self-righteousness stuff has very little to do with truth; it's simply the way we deal with our discomfort around pursuing what we want.

There's nothing particularly good or bad about self-righteousness, it's just another way we take care of ourselves and help ourselves to make transitions. Still, it can be a whole lot easier to simply say what we want and why we want it, without justification or defensiveness.

So, that's what's on my mind tonight. I hope you're having a wonderful, open-to-new-idea, justification-free day!


  1. "Wars" acts of uncharitableness towards another peoples, beliefs, ways of responding....history surely demonstrates is counterproductive, resolution wise. All wars are championed by flag waving beliefs about the relationship between them and us, with fear and ignorance thrown in as gunpowder. I admire and support those that encourage dialogue towards fascilitating greater-understanding of the choices we as individuals make, and "charity."

  2. I love this post - what I have come to see is that what I used to call the truth is merly my interpretation - it is informations filtered through my belief systems.

    - but I'm currently getting confused about "my new definition of the truth". The reason for my confusion is that I always had honesty as my key value - and if I no longer believe in "the truth" - where does that leave honesty? is honesty then the ability to ask for your wants and give your reasons?

  3. I think the confusion might be in mixing up being true, as in choosing a straight path, towards ones goals, with what one 'imagines, or makes up' attaches meaningfulness to, and then insists it must be true.

    Different context. One can lie, attempt to deceive, could be said to be 'untruthful' (and I might ask, untruthful to whom, to deceive whom?) In my world, there are no secrets, ultimately, so, when one attempts to deceive, lie, they do it to themselves, and we in response, buy or not buy what the other is selling, as their version of 'truth.'

  4. Very interesting and thought-provoking post indeed, Teflon. I'm totally with you on the self-righteousness part. However, on the topic of truth, I'm not quite following you all the way.

    For instance, you say "The idea that something could be invariant across time, space and whatever other dimensions come to mind (i.e., true), strikes me as being, well, not true".
    Are you basically saying that you believe it's not possible for something to have validity across any or all dimensions?

    More later...

  5. This may be a bit off-topic, but there are a couple of interesting articles on www.NYtimes.com dealing with or mentioning happiness. One ("Recalculating Happiness in a Himalayan Kingdom ") is about the concept of measuring "Gross National Happiness", and the other ("Going Dutch") is a broader article about life in the Netherlands, with a final reference to happiness. Just thought it might be of interest to readers here.

  6. Hi Sree,

    The Going Dutch article has helped me a lot over the last weeks to get my thoughts clearer about the differences in culture related to work, employment, benefits, government support and relationships between employees and employers.
    In some ways the Dutch and American culture seems quite similar. But in some areas they are very, very different. As a "Dutchie" living and working in the States, I created frustrations around some of the things I experienced din these areas, but I seemed not able to put it into words properly until I read this article. Now I understand better the way I have been raised and my beliefs in these areas. I can see that my belief system creates different responses to the same stimuli than americans around me. This helped me to let go of frustrations about emotions in me that I didn't totally understand.

    What an awesome lesson! I'm grateful for your stimulating material! Thank you.


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