Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Truth depends on perspective

April 23, 2008

What was it Obama said: "bitter, cling to religion and guns"? Why the firestorm of reaction if there wasn't an element of truth in his reflection? What difference does it make anyway? One man's opinion is another man's truth.

The truth is a many-sided, clear prism that sits on the table between us. You look through it at your angle and describe what you see; I look through from where I sit and tell it as I see it. Whose perception is really the true one?

The truth of anything depends upon where we stand in relationship to it, irrespective of the fact that the entire truth may not be something we can see or embrace in its entirety because of our inability to rotate the prism or change our position to see how the other person may be viewing it.

I remember one time standing at a pantry door, looking for something in a pantry arranged by someone else. I kept looking where I thought the object might be and couldn't find it. In my frustration I stepped back from the endless cans and jars and took a deep breath. Then it came to me to try to think about the arrangement, not as I might do it, but as the person whose pantry it was had done it.

Eureka! Object located.

That is one of the greater challenges of my life; to put myself in another person's position and think about something as they might think about it; to rotate a prism of truth to see it through another's eyes.

It is an undertaking that doesn't come easily and takes months and years of saying to oneself: how might he or she be thinking about this? And, what does how they see it matter to them, if at all? How we see things and how we believe about things does matter.

When I taught at Penn State, middle and high schools closed so the dad's could take their kids hunting opening day. It was a tradition that became a right of passage for many. The lottery to win a license to hunt was a much talked about event. Is it still true? I don't know but suspect it is.

Our traditions and rituals, including our religious beliefs and practices, are our anchors in a sea of life often beset by storms. Do we always understand why we embrace, or cling as Obama opined, such traditions and rituals? Remember the song: it was good for Paul and Silas and its good enough for me.

Give me that old time religion; it's good enough for me.

And for them? Give me the grace to understand; the ability to rotate the prism or get down on my knees and squint if I have to, to see it from another's viewpoint. If not a shared truth; at least a shared understanding.


hawk_fan 10 years, 10 months ago

Rae: You better look up truth in the dictionary. It is not relative, it is absolute. Just because someone doesn't agree or believes a different way does not make their "truth" true. We cannot simply accept things that are false and call them someone's truth so it makes it ok. If it's wrong, then it's wrong.

There used to be a time when people studied issues before defining the truth. Now (using your analogy), everything is filtered through the prism of personal experience and emotions. I'm sorry if I come across as intolerant but I cannot listen to someone say "The moon is made of cheese" and say to them, "Well, that's perfectly acceptable and I can see why you'd think that."

Your original supposition that "why the firestorm of reaction if there wasn't an element of truth to it?" is completely off base. This makes no sense. If President Bush called a press conference and said, "America does not have a Navy" there would be a bunch of blank faces of disbelief then a firestorm of reaction. Does that mean there's an element of truth to what he said? No. Your example is shallow and lacks any sort of logical thought here. Maybe you should go back to Penn State and take a few classes on logic.


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