Noodling

True and Real

Once there was a boy whose father went to war while the child was very young. The war raged and the boy grew and one day the news came that his father had died. The boy grieved, but continued to grow and still the war dragged on and did not end until the child had become a man. On day word came that his dead father’s friends were come to visit and the boy went out to meet them. The old and battered men embraced him and led him to a hall where they could sit together and recount the tales of his father so that the lad might come to know the man whose name he bore.

The medical man spoke first. He gave the youth a detailed account of his father’s health and physical being. He outlined scars and explained inherent traits. He listed every malady, misfortune and injury the dead man had experienced. He gave accountings of height and weight and build, and the lad thanked him.

Next came his captain who described skill with weapons, strength at combat and bravery in danger. He told of exploits performed and deeds done. And the youth thanked this man too.

Another soldier spoke. This man had kept a log of all that their squad had done for the duration of the war. It was a lengthy and detailed account that recorded what the fallen soldier had eaten, when he had slept, where he had traveled, what he had done and seen and encountered.

Finally the chaplain spoke “ Well, son, do you feel now as though you know your father?”
And the young man answered truthfully “No. I feel I could describe him, but not recognize him. I know what he was, but not who he was.”
“Let me tell you about him then” said the old man. And he told about a day long past in which the father and the priest had gone into the countryside to gather dry wood. The story was short but funny and after its telling all the men laughed together and agreed that it exactly captured the fallen man. They could almost hear him saying the words the chaplain had relayed; see that particular expression on his face. But the man with the logbooks called out “No! That never happened. The story isn’t real.”
“Ah,” smiled the priest “but it’s true.”
And so the man knew his father.

I’ve been playing with ideas of truth and reality, with subjective facts and objective value. I came across this with the Why I’m not an Atheist thing I wrote a while back. The question for me is less “is God real?” and more “is God true?” Are there truths in myths that are more important, more true than history? Is it possible that a deliberately made up story can be true? Can something not real be true?

The kite writings got blown off course by a heavy wind of relativism which suggested that there is no Truth, only my truth and your truth and who’s to say which truth is True? And if I tell you that one truth is no better than any other truth, clearly I’m contradicting myself believing that my truth (that no truth is better than any other) is better than other truths that assert that they are the only truth.
See how that could tangle a kite string?
So here is what I think now- that you can evaluate a truth with some measure of objectivity. There are truths more worthy of my respect than others. You discover the relationship between the facts and the meanings or values contained within it. I have less respect for a truth that requires me to discount facts. I have more respect for a truth that reveals relationships and meanings I had not previously seen. Objective truth is fact. Subjective truth is belief. Where belief and fact intersect is Truth. And the more we collect our facts and the more we study belief, the closer we can get.

Imagine a four-sided pyramid. The eastern point is the movement of individuation, the western point the movement of integration. The northern point is Objective Fact and the southern Subjective Belief, and at the apex, the very peak, is Truth.
So is this useful? Does it help? It helps me. It untangles the relativist knot and allows me freer access to areas of my thinking. It allows me to judge truths, which I was having a hard time giving myself permission to do. And it gives me another spiffy formula to keep my Power= Energy & Time equation company: Truth= Fact & Meaning.

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