Only a belief in Truth can set us—and keep us—free…
For my first “official” blog post, I’d like to speak briefly about Truth—with a capital “T”—and the core role it must play in our THINKING and ARGUING lives. Socrates, one of the great teachers of all time, understood the crucial role that the pursuit of truth played in the building and maintaining of a free Republic. It was his intellectual humility that was the key to his wisdom, however. He simultaneously believed that “Truth” existed (He believed it was woven into the fabric of the universe), but also doubted his ability, as a limited, mortal being, to ever know Truth in its “fullness.”
Socrates is most famous for his habit of questioning everything and everyone. He perfected the art of poking holes in the ideas his compatriots had about love, justice, goodness, truth, and beauty. But he did so not to promote skepticism about all knowledge or relativism about what constituted truth. He did so to force us not only to be cautious in making our truth claims, but also to be confident that our relentless pursuit of them would bring us ever closer to real knowledge. Seek the truth, but remind yourself that you will always fall short in your quest, seems like an easy enough rule to live by. Why does that humble position get him killed then?
The truth about seeking truth
Socrates was condemned by a jury of his peers to death on the charge that he was “corrupting the minds of the youth.” Any great teacher and thinker who has followed in his footsteps has usually met the same fate—if not literally, then figuratively. To be a warrior for Truth is to expose yourself—and your fellow Truth warriors—to the fury of all other competing perspectives, and the tribal warfare that grows up around each group’s need to confirm its own biased and partial grasp of said Truth. Thus, a desire for safety keeps most of us from moving too close to Truth’s center; the incoming fire from every direction is impossible to dodge for very long.
If the pursuit of Truth is so dangerous, why should we bother? Better to hold on to the “partial” truth our respective tribes cling to, and stay inside our “caves” AND LIVE. The problem—as Socrates knew full well—is that once we’ve committed ourselves to seeking Truth, there is no turning back. To do so would be to die to Truth itself—to inhabit the rest of our mortal lives as shades, cut off from reality and all human connection. So, when Socrates took the hemlock, he knew that his soul’s journey toward Truth would continue eternally, and he willingly discarded this false realm and its death-dealing ignorance forever.
Walk into the Light
As I think about trying to understand the truth of the world around me in the days and years and (hopefully) decades ahead, I will try to remain committed to the belief in Truth, and humble enough to know its wholeness is always just beyond my grasp. I invite those of you who come here to think along with me about a wide variety of contemporary and perennial topics to make the same commitment, and to allow Truth to keep you centered and humble. And ALIVE.