Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Search for The Truth

While discussing philosophy and religion with some friends, someone floated the seemingly iron-clad argument that “truth is relative; your truth may not be my truth and my truth may not be his truth”. In short, this puts truth (what we may define as the reality of life or, at least, our recognition of what the elusive ultimate reality is) as a subjective matter that can never be reduced to an absolute statement which we can apply to all people and all things at all times.

For instance, the “truth” or “reality” of gravity and how it works may illustrate this common argument. In outer space, things seem to float and behave as if gravity does not exist. Hence, since there is no gravity apparently acting on a satellite circling the Earth, we may say that it does not exist as far as that satellite is concerned. It does not apply and is therefore non-existent. Concluding then: Gravity is not a universal truth (that is, it is relative) for it only applies on the Earth’s surface.

Right? Wrong!

In reality, any object beyond Earth’s atmosphere (even planets and stars) remains in equilibrium amidst a set of various gravitational forces acting upon it, primary among which are the stars, the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. Moreover, its velocity prevents it from falling headlong into the Earth or into the Moon or out into space. The moment a force causes it to alter its path, it will be just a matter of time when the greatest gravitational attraction will capture it into its direction.

So it is with truth: What a person conceives as the truth exists as a tiny reflection (whether valid or not, like the Earth being flat or Newton’s Laws) of the total or absolute Truth that exists, whether we recognize it or not. Another person may therefore deem that person’s “truth” as false and thereby negate the validity of such a belief. It does not exist as far as the unbelieving person is concerned. His own “truth” or understanding of the world is what exists and what constitutes truth for him. He will live with it and may even die for it. Indeed, a person might kill someone whose beliefs might “endanger” his sacred truth. With a few exceptions, all wars have been waged due to our uncontrolled passion to defend our individual or collectives “truths”.

But The Truth – that absolute and irreducible principle – exists outside of every individual. Whether we accept a part of it or not, that Truth will remain as it is. Hence, what a person knows or believes is merely an accumulation of everything he learned from childhood, those things passed on to him and those he learned himself, whether right or wrong. Any view then is but a sum of all “truths” that have ever been accepted at any point in a person’s life. The totality of that “truth” may not remain static but may actually be in a constant state of growth or transformation. The truly imaginative or creative may find things that will refine or even alter one’s conception of truth.

Relative to the absolute Truth then, we are always moving until we approach it finally and surrender to its overpowering reality. Like the satellite that is finally captured by an overwhelming gravitational force somewhere in the galaxy. If indeed the Universe began as matter of infinite mass in an infinitely small space and expanded rapidly (the Big Bang), then the time will come when all matter will collapse and return to its original state in the beginning.

The Universe remains in perfect balance because the galaxies are in constant motion relative to one another as every matter or atom pulsates relative to other atoms. The moment the energy that propels the Universe ceases (when light is recalled – “Let there be no light!”), nothing will remain except the Truth that does not owe its existence to this physical dimension.

In the “beginning”, time, matter and space did not exist. Science recognizes that truth (with a slight variation) as a valid possibility of reality. The Bible speaks of that hypothesis as Truth itself. Or at least, part of The Truth that gives a cause or a reason for reality. That is, God created everything from nothing. This was our introduction to Truth – the one that remains infallible even if we do not believe it. The one that is independent of us, whether we have heard of it or not and whether we have experienced (or measured) it or not.

If so, a person who denies the testimony of God and His prophets does not hold a valid truth at all but a falsity. If a person prays in the name of Jesus, he acknowledges the Truth that Jesus Himself gave witness to. (That He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”) Hence, when another person rejects that Truth, that person is deluded and dwells in un-Truth, in darkness because the Truth has not penetrated his or her life.

How then can we say that a person’s truth is as valid as any other person’s truth?

Socrates came up with a simple method to derive ultimate truth: by asking the question “why” for every underlying principle given for a proposition. For instance: An apple is a fruit. Why? Because it comes from a tree. But an avocado comes from a tree yet it is a vegetable to Americans. Why? Because they use it only for vegetable recipes whereas Fiipinos use it as a fruit dessert. Why? Because cultures have different ways of cooking. Why? Because they have different experiences? Why? And so on and so forth until the Socrates in us reaches the ultimate why?

In his life, Socrates came close to finding the Truth. Before his death by execution he said that “if there is such a thing as immortality then it is better to die than to remain here”. That kept him from weeping with his disciples who tried to console him.

Here was a man who, using his conscience and natural intelligence (and a lot of common sense), attained the stature of a wise prophet without a revealed Scripture to bank on. Yet, revelation of our beginning as humans and that of the Universe is clearly written for every person to feast on in various languages in the Bible. Science tries to muddle the issue with so much technical savvy while philosophy does it with a lot of opinionated baggage. Why? Because we have different values and tastes for truth? Because our education does not validate the obvious evidences found all around us? No, because we have allowed science and philosophy to delude us to believe that what we see with our eyes (the physical) and our minds (the philosophical or mystical) determines what is true. Many say that “to see is to believe” when in reality “to believe is to see”. Believe the Source of Truth and He will guide you into it.

Socrates thus proved that it is possible for humans to derive truth through logic or reasoning (alright, also through science), but such a method takes time and requires the abilities of a Socrates or an Einstein. The easier way to trace the Truth all the way to its beginning is to go back to it through the witness of the one Who was there working and bringing everything into existence. Who? No one else but Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1,3)

Moses wrote the testimony of Jesus when He revealed it to him on Mount Sinai. No, it was not Adam who first witnessed or experienced creation. The animals and the celestial bodies came ahead of him. Yes, after Adam was formed, his life served as witness to the reality of God’s creation. (To a certain degree, our own life does the same thing.) His aloneness gave rise to Eve’s creation. His marriage to Eve propelled the birth of human life through reproduction. Their sin led to the downfall of humans. But it also brought the salvation that the Maker Himself brought into completion at Calvary.

The ongoing human process or struggle is a continuation of our search for enlightenment and perfection. Freedom allows us to discover so many possibilities and means. Yet, history will one day vindicate the originator of all Truth, for ample evidence has been given in nature, in history and in revelation to the simple Truth that governs life. A simple “yes” to that Truth by the child or the aged begins the road to real wisdom. What a liberating feeling to know one doesn’t need to be a genius or a college graduate to understand this Truth. It is simple, valuable and available. Now, if we can only divine its essence from the complications of formal religion, more people will see it as it really is.

In essence, Christ was there at the beginning and at the end of an age deluged by sin. He was there at the beginning bringing light into existence and giving life and He was there at the resurrection granting the light of salvation and bringing back life to condemned sinners. And He will be there also at the end of all things. That is the Truth.

This Truth could not be rejected without disrupting the whole essence of the Universe and of our own existence. Why? Because un-Truth destroys relationships; it alienates and divides us from others and from ourselves. The very rejection of Truth ruptures the purity and goodness of the original design of creation – hence, The Fall. And so, the judgment of God is righteous because He has given us everything that should lead us to the acknowledgment of His very being and nature. We share His divine nature and His image – the greatest gift we have – for His children we are and were created in His likeness. How could a child disobey or not believe its father? We all know the answer for we were all children once.

A father has all the right to discipline his erring children. A teacher has the duty to lead the unaware into the Truth as well. Of course, a child or a student may debate with a father or a teacher about certain principles. Such is the process of learning. We may even, as so many do, try to argue against or refute the Truth but we would simply end up walking around the Earth and still not prove it is round. Until someone shows us the shadow of the Earth on the Moon (that is, the Truth) and free us from our ignorance.

(Photo above: The newly opened SCTEx (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) from Tarlac to Subic offers a refreshing view of Philippine countryside. Almost like being lost in a pristine place you never imagined existed. The splendid rivers, hills and mountains stretched out before you remind you of the vast Cagayan Valley. Natural wealth that sadly doesn't seem to flow into economic wealth for a country so blessed by heaven. Something just doesn't compute.)