Friday, July 14, 2017

Why We Must Kill the Truth

The truth will set you free, but perhaps not until it has killed you.  Or is it you who must kill it?

Grasping the truth is like trying to grasp the ocean.  There’s just too much of it, and even if you can grab a handful, it slips through your fingers and evaporates off your hand so that nothing is left but a slight residue of salt.  You can see more of it than you can touch, but even that is something of an illusion. What you can see is an infinitesimal part of the whole.

You can always use a map. On a map you can see it all, but maps are only representations, despite their seeming precision in latitude and longitude.  Maps are like stop signs; they do not effect what they signify.

I hear it said, and from my own lips, that I must speak my truth.  A warning should flash behind our eyes like a beach sign warning of the rip tide that cannot be seen.  “My truth” is too much shorthand. The most it can mean is “the truth as I dimly perceive it at this moment in time.”  Tomorrow can so easily bring some different truth, new and strange.

In the few years that I played at being an evangelical, I was told there was a difference between capital “T” truth and small “t” truth.  God and the things of God were capital “T” truth.  Just read the Bible (that’s capital “B” bible).  I did read the bible and I read Paul saying, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, only then we will see face to face.”  The truth will set you free, but only when you and it can look each other in the eye.  The older I get the more I know how much a rarity is that experience.

The truth that we must kill just may be what we call “my truth.”  Does this mean that we let dishonesty abound?  Does this mean there is nothing on which we can stake our life?  To quote the said apostle, “By no means!”  We must always seek the truth, but never feel assured that we can catch it in our net and mount it for display like a beautiful butterfly.  Even God, the bible says, seeks the truth.  The psalmist says, “You look for truth deep within me” (51:7).  That is, deep within me, where I cannot see, at least with my eyes alone.

It is not so much that truth must die. It is our grasping at it which is in need of the grave.  It is the mirrors in which we think we see clearly that must be smashed.  It is the ocean’s vastness that we must respect.

So what ought to live if truth is to die?  It is, of course, the truth, paying no attention to the size of the letter.  The truth that is grasped must die so that the truth that is sought might live.

This essay was written while I was attending the Kenyon Institute's Beyond Walls annual week for spiritual writers at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.  It was written on the prompt, "What must die? And what ought to live?" given in the session my group had with Jeff Chu.  Photo by manu schwendener

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