The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

QOTD – What Is Truth?

The beautiful thing about words is that they have more than a denotation and more than a connotation.  Words have meaning, purpose, feeling, and truth.

Forgive me for piggy-backing off of yesterday’s prompt, but I would like to discuss the word freedom.  Freedom is a word that gets thrown around very loosely and very divisively.  Individual understandings of the “true meaning” of freedom has turned what should be a barbecue and birthday party into a passive aggressive  holiday of contention.

It seems we all agree that freedom isn’t free, but we argue over cost

what’s the value of free speech when the meaning has been lost?

So scream out loud for change- but know that real change comes from within…

~Blackhawk Kings, Divided States

 

Yesterday, Facebook turned what should be celebrated as America’s “Birthday” or our a celebration of our nation gaining its independence from a colonial power into a passive-agressive 4th grade level debate on the true meaning of freedom mostly sponsored by ECard makers who couldn’t possibly have scored higher than a 2 on the analogy section of their SATs.

There’s a new price on Freedom, so buy into it while supplies last – Sage Francis, Makeshift Patriot

Yet they weren’t lying.

So, what is truth?  Is the truth of something driven by facts or by feelings?  (for a discussion on perception and “truthiness” see: We’ve Always Been At War With Eastasia)

Halfway falling asleep in the small, stuffy, uneven, wooden room that Pacific University should have been ashamed to have on its twenty-seven-thousand-dollar-a-year campus, I was stirred awake by a (finally) interesting point being made by one of the speakers in our panel discussion on Religion and The Quest for Meaning.

My eyelids had been painfully drooping listening to the white-haired Pentecostal Preacher spend seven minutes explaining that truth can only come from The Bible and that you know  it is truth because The Bible tells you it is truth.  This was the extent of his explanation and yet it took seven minutes.  The premise of his thought was not the issue (and if you are offended, please continue reading) – but if you are addressing a room full of philosophy students you should have a better thesis than what anyone who has taken a week of a 100 level philosophy survey can identify as circular reasons/paradoxical thinking.  If your truth comes from the Book, I hope your reasoning is stronger than because the book says it is true.

In the opening sentence of The Catcher in The Rye, Holden Caufield tells us he’s telling the truth…

The loud rapping of knuckles on the cover of the Book, as if to punctuate his point, stirred my eyes back into focus.  I checked the notes of the people on both sides of me and saw that either I had not missed anything or they too had drifted off.  The next speaker was Swami Shantarupananda.  On an extremely superficial level, he was more interesting to listen to simply because of his accent.

He began his discussion of truth with a story.

 

111

Imagine you are walking home along a sidewalk when it is very dark.  The streetlights flickering on and off as they are wont to do.  You are walking and you are thinking about what a wonderful day you have had and you are thinking about the things you must do when you get home and what you will do tomorrow.  

Then as you are walking you see a snake in front of you on the sidewalk and you become very frightened.  You jump in fear of the snake and as you land you twist your ankle on the edge of the curb and you now have a broken ankle.  As you sit in pain you see that the snake which had you to jump was not a snake, but in fact just a stick casting a strange shadow in the low lighting.  

So why did you break your ankle?  

Did you break your ankle because you saw a stick or did you break your ankle because you saw a snake?

 

I remember the Swami’s story because  I was intrigued with the concept.  Why did you break your ankle? What is the truth? One could argue you were afraid of a stick, but that is not true to the situation. One could also argue you were scared by a snake, but that too is not true to the situation.  The middle ground would seem to be that you broke your ankle because you thought you saw a snake– but is that true?  Did you brain say, “I think that is a snake: jump!”?

At the time I remember thinking, you broke your ankle because you’re stupid.  High-strung might have been more accurate.

How do you know what is true?  What is your understanding of truth*?

Is the truth what you see, smell, taste, touch, feel and hear? How many times have you jumped from a gunshot when a car backfired, swore you smelled smoke that could not be found, heard someone call your name who didn’t, or watched a magic trick?  I have a student who can turn a deck of playing cards into a dove.  Is that the truth?

This question is half-question and half-prompt.  I want to know your thoughts on the truth.

QOTD – What is truth?

Really, the truth is just a plain picture -Sage Francis

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* – Easter egg for you Constant Readers out there: http://darktower.wikia.com/wiki/My_Understanding_of_Truth

(if this is over, or to the side of, your  head, read The Dark Tower series by Stephen King)

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About Jamaal

Lover of words, liver of life, director of theatre, keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts. Twitter: @JamaalAllan

One comment on “QOTD – What Is Truth?

  1. The Running Son
    July 5, 2013

    “The bell”

    The ground, a sound,
    rhythm all around.
    Just a tone–alone
    no religion’s known.

    We groan, and I’ve found
    my home of profound
    life heuristics for lone,
    and ordinary mystics.

    RunningSon
    Jim

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