Truth is perhaps most simply defined as “the actual state of the matter; seeing things for the way they are,” and it’s fascinating to me that the definition of truth entails having a clear perspective when looking at everything…Truth is found when we can lay aside our own preference and vantages and see everything for the way it is.Scott Erickson, Honest Advent
I read these words and immediately felt myself slipping into the chasm of chaos that is our current reality in terms of the 2020 Presidential election (even 31 days after election day – STILL chaos!) No matter your preference or vantage point, it’s hard to argue that we aren’t in the midst of a mess And part of that mess is where we start with political choices; the current system demands a binary: Us or them. Right or wrong. Good or evil. Truth or lie. Choose your side.
And while I agree that there are times and places where definitive dualistic thinking is required (there is good and there is evil), real life is a mixture of both. There’s always a middle, and the truth is usually somewhere in that space.
But here’s the thing: Living in the middle is hard. It requires careful attentiveness, and listening, and self-awareness, and the willingness to hang in there when emotions are high. It starts with “loving your neighbor as yourself”, which means respect and no name-calling and humility and a lot of other stuff that seems to be missing from our social and cultural positioning these days.
Admitting we have a problem is a good place to start: It’s hard to find a safe place to stand in the middle, and we’re not doing it well. Once someone feels boxed into a corner having to defend what is “right”, tunnel vision quickly follows. You find yourself seeing everybody outside your corner as “wrong”. Not just different, but wrong.
Here’s what I keep coming back to; when it comes to culture and politics, what is “true” for an individual has everything to do with their vantage point and our preference. I’m old enough to remember a trite slogan from the 70’s and a song hook that is stuck in my head now: If it feels good, do it – do it if it’s what you feel!
Back then, the outcry from both secular and religious folks – and those who have just plain common sense – was loud. If everybody just does what they want, the entire social order will collapse! There are rules! There are boundaries!
Out of my faith tradition, these words immediately come to mind:
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.Judges 21:25
The scripture implies a lack of moral authority, leading to chaos and destruction. If we’re left to our own devices, we’ll have a mess on our hands.
Whether you’re religious or not, there does seem to be some truth in this position.
Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a social media post from an acquaintance seeking some honest responses from those on the “other side” of a political position. I deliberately tried to step back from my own vantage point and read the responses dispassionately.
Whew. What an experience. We’re not good at this. But it occurred to me that it’s not just about civility and name-calling – it is something much deeper. Dialogue doesn’t seem to help. Resources and research and critical thinking skills seem irrelevant.
Truth is found when we can lay aside our own preference and vantages and see everything for the way it is. When I read those words from Honest Advent, I felt the connection. Our inability to reason out different political positions has everything to do with truth.
What is truth? What is true?
Everybody rants about “Main Stream Media” lying and being biased and not reporting things – but they do so even as their sources for information are part of that same “Main Stream Media” stream of information. Anything that anyone offers up as a resource and support for their opinion is quickly discounted if it seems to be from the “other side.”
We’re all running around claiming truth based on OUR vantage point, slamming those who hold to a different truth because they’re “deceived” or only listening to sources of information that we deem to be false. It’s a vicious circle; we’re all backed into our corners, shouting and screaming and yelling and feeling terribly afraid, making enemies of everyone looking back at us.
I’m a fan of critical thinking, of reasonable discussion. But that seems hard to do these days. We can’t have reasonable discussions when we’re clinging to cheap versions of truth because it makes us feel righteous.
What a mess.