What is Truth, and Can it Be Known?

The following essay is quite the far reach for me! I am not trained in philosophy, nor epistemology, and therefore am totally out of my depth. That being said, I believe I raise some fascinating questions. My hope is that some of my friends and readers may enlighten me as to the subjects of truth, what it is, if it can be known, etc. IF, that is, they can make sense of the following ramble.

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My good friend, Michael Moen, has recently introduced me to the writings of Eastern thinker, Krishnamurti. One of his ideas I’ve become fascinated with has to do with the subject of truth. Krishnamurti claims that if truth is a living thing, then it must continue to change and evolve, such as all living things tend to do. Therefore, what is true today may or may not be true tomorrow.

Yet can there be a difference between truth and our perceptions of the truth? Perhaps it is our perceptions which are living things, which change depending upon new information and attitudes. Perhaps truth is “a dead thing”, forever remaining static and unchanging. Or perhaps not! We shall hold our judgement until we have collected further evidence to form a decision.

We may bring up innumerable examples of changing perspectives, of course. Once upon a time, humankind believed the Earth to be flat. Although there had been theories of a round Earth as far back as Pythagoras (6 BC), it was not until Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the Earth (1511), that we had conclusive evidence to say the Earth was, in fact, a sphere.

Although human perception had declared the Earth to be flat, had declared that it was “truth” — the actual truth remained – regardless of our beliefs about it. My assertion here is that truth does not need to believed, such as lies do – truth merely needs to be understood. I venture to say that no one believes in a round earth anymore – they either understand it, or they do not.

So what is this “truth” thing, anyway? Some claim it does not even exist. Perhaps. But let’s look at a definition of truth from the online Merriam Webster, just for kicks:

 

1a (1)the body of real things, events, and factsACTUALITY

(2)the state of being the caseFACT

(3) often capitalized a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality

ba judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true

cthe body of true statements and propositions

 

Well, fair enough!

I am particularly fascinated with definition number three, which states, “a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality”. Now, why might the truth be transcendent? Obviously because truth is beyond human biases, human ignorance, human beliefs – we may say it is even beyond being human. Truth, after all, seems to have a quality of remaining itself, since it is unaffected by what we humble creatures would like it to be.

Here I will dare to tether together a more succinct definition: truth is a factual state of reality which is indifferent to the cares of consciousness, human or otherwise.

Such “factual states of reality” indifferent to ourselves include:

The state of the Earth being round.

The state of our planet being in constant orbit, as opposed to the outdated perception that it is stationary and the center of our solar system.

The state of space-time being curved, allowing for gravitational attraction.

Ad infinitum.

 

In order for these truths to be ascertained, they require not our belief, but our understanding. Either we understand the Earth is round, or we don’t, and believe other posits. Either we understand the universe has gravity, or we don’t, and find ourselves mysteriously unable to remark on the results of jumping out of a twelve story window.

Let us return back to the question posed at the beginning of this essay. Is truth a living, changing thing? Let us take up a truth and observe if it changes or remains static.

Truth: The Earth is round.

The Earth has been round for approximately 4 billion years, which is far longer than Homo sapiens have been alive. Yet during Earth’s initial formation, it was not round at all. At its beginning it was positively jagged! It was only until enough material had been accreted and there was enough time to pass, that the forming planet began to “round out” under the laws of gravity. The Earth will also cease being round sometime in the next 4 billion years, as the Milky Way galaxy is on a collision course with Andromeda.

Thus, a truth such as “the Earth is round” will eventually change into, “The Earth is non-existent” or “The Earth is a gaseous and rocky soup”.  Yet, so what? The facts may change, but this does not mean they will become lies. That would be quite a jump indeed. I think we may do well to keep in mind that the future does not negate, nor erase the factual circumstances of the past.

Let us take the universal force of gravity into account. There seems mountains of evidence in support of the theory that space-time is curved, which is what creates “gravitational attraction”. Now, we may in the future discover information which makes our current thoughts about gravity narrow, primitive and outdated. But this new information will not negate the truth of gravity – if anything, it will expand that truth and allow it a depth and grandeur we had not previously understood.

Perhaps we may discover that our universe is merely a bubble located in a fast soup of infinite, bubble universes, popping in and out of existence for eternity. A giant God dips a spoon into the soup, downing a trillion universes in a single gulp. If such an astounding idea ever be granted evidence, such truths as “the earth is round” and “there is such a thing as universal gravity” will not cease to be true — even if our little bubble-universe goes ‘pop!

So it seems as if what is true today will remain true tomorrow, just as much as it was true in the past. Our perceptions, of course, will change constantly, whether we are reading Krishnamurti, or engaging in amateur epistemology (for which, of course, yours truly is undoubtedly guilty)!

Life in the Silence, Machine Men, & Jealous Gods

The Silent Life

Life, stripped of the subjectivity of its participants, stripped of all sentiment and nostalgia, stripped of ego and left naked, is immaculately silent. Life appears as a black and white film. All shadows. So very quiet. When we tyrannical men speak, our lips move and our tongues wag but there are no sounds to be vocalized — or to be heard for that matter. Our grand industries of energy, war and empire rape and pillage the planet with a silly, easy motionlessness. A sense of sorrowful hilarity can be felt in the heart. We raise our hands into the sky now and then, desperately in praise of something just as invisible and imaginary as ourselves. Lips mouth that ceaseless ‘O’, vomiting words into the void. Mad silent laughter. Parades of insane, rapid posturing and gesturing, like decadent cocaine-addled mimes. Our eyes blink into the swift, soft eons with an erratic frenzy, kissing gravestones into eternity. Then the universe blinks and we are gone.

At last! There is a more beautiful silence.

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A Jealous God

God said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Is this an admission that there are in fact other Gods in existence capable of man’s worship? It seems as if this were written with an insecure envy, as if the Christian Lord were fearful of his date sleeping around with Zeus or Osiris. Can’t have that, can He? Interesting how insecure envy, or jealousy, is a particularly human trait. This is yet another facet of theology which of course begs the question: Did God make man in his image, or did man make God in his?

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Monotheism Minus One

History has been making a more or less steady progress toward Atheism, or at least Agnosticism. First there were civilizations which had many Gods to worship — the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, etc. Then the philosophers used reason and logic to argue against the existence of these Gods, which made way for Monotheism, the Christian God. We are getting closer to the inevitable. Monotheism is almost entirely correct, if only it were minus one.

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Oh, Humanity

Humanity has an essentially retarded nature. For all our increased understandings and so-called progress, there is that omnipresent dark shadow, forever biting our heals, holding us back, and back, and back — to the point where a return to the tribal jungle may not be so unlikely, nor so bad. After all, what is there to lose when nothing has been gained?

Three questions: What is the ugliest thing you have seen? What is the most beautiful? What is the most suffering? My answer to all three: Humanity.

Oh, humanity.

***

Dissected Machines or Murdered Men?

I wonder about these people sometimes. I wonder if I took a sharp scalpel and cut into their flesh if they would bleed like men, or if those plain red, white and yellow wires would show, elongated into their arms and legs, mimicking tendons? I wonder if I cut out their eyes, would the flash bulbs go ‘pop!’ ? Or if I took a buzz saw to the 23-inch circumference of their craniums, would I see brains or circuit boards? If I dug into their chest cavities, would I pull out a still beating heart or mere white, placid cushion stuffing? Dare I try the experiment? I wonder sometimes.

 

Blessings of Nothing & The Curse of Immortality

Our existence is structured, framed and given ambition and purpose through the perceived presence of the Nothing. Without death dispensing the flesh from our bones and the consciousness from our brains, without the due process of time and the phenomena of entropy and age, in what dastardly hell would we find ourselves? In other words, if we were not mortal, what possible freedom and purpose could there be invented for our means of existing?

Death provides human beings with much needed liberation from the chains of living — it is only sad or unfortunate that at times this liberation can take place unsuspectingly. Death comes whether we are ready, or not. If we are to accept these things with Stoic temperance, we might say, “such is life”.

Humanity has a difficult enough time providing purpose and meaning to their lives as it is. Imagine the hollow and empty hell of an immortality! Some human beings are ready and eager for non-existence by the time they are seventy-five or eighty. They are like ripe fruit, fit to be picked, ready to fall. Imagine being five hundred and eighty years old! (Perhaps at this point we would dispense with the obvious euphemism “years young” and openly accept our own antiquity). I imagine Immorality would be fun for a few minutes. Then reality would set in and the repetition of life would drown us with insurmountable sorrow. Immortality is meant for unconscious things, such as subatomic particles, energy and the like. But we conscious humans are not fit for it. Morality is copacetic only with mortality, and nothing beyond.

I think now of the common goals and ambitions of the race. I think of goals and ambitions of the common individual. “I want to obtain my PHD by the time I’m twenty-six.” or “I want to live a life of travel. I want to see France and Spain and the Netherlands!” Well, cursed with an immortality — what need would there be to strive for that PHD? You’ve got all the time in the universe. As for world travel, you might circle the globe a million times or more. What left is there to see after the first few hundred years? Futility and boredom breeds sorrow in the Immortal Man. Perhaps we should pity the Gods, should they exist. Can we truly blame them for creating such a faulted and entertaining species such as ourselves? Humankind is the ultimate comedic tragedy and we would undoubtedly make for some fantastic, cosmic theater for any outside observers. We would be a wonderful distraction.

Getting back to the Void, the Nothing….just as the purpose of a bowl is to hold things, it cannot do so without the emptiness which shapes the rest of it. The Buddhists call this emptiness, this nothingness and void, sunyata. Just as without the nothingness which gives purpose to the bowl to hold things, without the nothingness which circumvents our lifespan and all of humanly existence, mankind would be without pleasure or purpose to live. So, I say, let us be thankful and grateful for nothing!

Nothing, the thing which is no thing, by virtue of its definition does not exist. Yet its non-being is immediate and felt everywhere, like a phantom embrace. It is herein that humankind subscribes to these non-values of nothing and are remarkably all the better for it.

Good day to my beloved readers, and sunyata!

It’s Your (Existential) Attitude!

A great multitude of people wander vaguely and aimlessly through their existence, clutching onto thin air, stumbling like zombies all the while soaking and rolling themselves through that existential muck of a question, “What is the point to all of this?” And therefore they miss the point entirely — for there is no point, except for the point that you so ascribe to your existence. If your existence has no point, so be it. You’re searching for the meaning of life? It is simply to live, and you need not search to accomplish living! As to the next question: How does one live? Well in short, one lives by breathing in oxygen and exhaling CO2. Other than this basic function of existing, one should attempt their best to live well. Thus we invent moralities and systems of ethics which best benefit the good life and we work to better ourselves through the utilization of those systems and philosophies. All of this meaning and ‘what is the point?’ baggage is entirely up to you. After all, it is the duty of a conscious animal (such as yourself) to ascribe meaning/purpose their own environments and situations. This is the prime task of any individual perceiving reality with clarity. And as Albert Camus once said, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

You are (presumably) an awake and conscious creature with a brain and a spinal column — but only for the moment. Before you were born, you were nothing. After sure death has come you will return once more to nothing. You decide — rejoice or despair! 

If we are living the aware and good life, perhaps there is room for both rejoice and despair. Perhaps living requires of us that we experience a bit of both things. Although we may certainly decide to entertain one over the other for the majority of our time. Both reactions (rejoice and despair) are apt responses to our predicament of existing for a short span of time on a random and tiny, beautiful blue planet in a far off corner of an infinite universe. In short, the flavor, purpose and meaning to our living is determined by our decided attitudes…

Cherish the Now

It is a shame that familiarity should breed indifference. Humankind would do well to guard themselves against this tendency, this apathy toward their everyday environment, life situation and the people that surround them. When we think of what is familiar, we may consider our day jobs, our companions, our children, our friends, our house, apartment or living quarters, our geological placement (nationality), etc. All of these aforementioned things are quite significant in their effecting our quality of life. To think that we should find ourselves in a state of unconscious apathy toward those people and things most dear to us is indeed foolish, and even a bit horrifying.

Instead of indifference, let us raise our awareness of present life, and cherish our loved ones and be grateful for the good fortunes at our dispense. When you kiss your wife or lover goodbye for the day, consider it may be the very last time you see them. When you tuck your child into bed at night, consider that they can be taken away from you without a moment’s warning. Such is the state of an inhospitable universe that grants no favors and is in fact, indifferent — that state of being which we must guard against.

Let’s expand this appreciation for the here and now, for the present existence and include other familiar things, especially the precious, small ones: Our beam of sunshine upon the carpet, the tweet and twitter of the birds in the trees at the park, the night of bright stars and the pale moon, a cup of black coffee, a green field, etc.! In order for us to live wholesomely, we must recognize and appreciate these small things which weave the tapestry of our lives. For these seemingly atomic things make up the elements which make up the whole of everything. Cherish your parents while you still have them (if you still have them), cherish your siblings, your children, your lovers. They belong to you only for a short while. No person or thing is permanent, including yourself. Not even this planet is permanent, nor the stars, nor everything. All is transmutable and changing.

Forgive the mistakes and trespasses of your friends and family. Forgive the wrongdoings of a stranger, for they don’t intend to do no wrong and act not in their own interest. Love the commonplace things in your life, love the small things, love the people of your tribe, and share a bit of that love for yourself too!

Musings on Old Age, The Ego, Art & Sex

Old Age

Being the young man that I am, it would be foolish and arrogant of me to pretend that I truly know anything about old age. What I can observe, however, is that reaching an old age and inheriting all that comes with it is a bizarre and absurd phenomenon, which is why it fits in well with the rest of reality. In our senior years, we return to a likeness of infancy. We reduce in size, are often required to lean on things to walk or to stand (such as it is with toddlers), and sometimes we even have to resume the wearing of diapers, which are euphemistically called, “incontinence pants”. You will notice that in many circumstances the elderly are often talked down to as if they were children by their care providers. It is not unusual to see.

An old man is akin to an infant with 10,000 wrinkles; a pruned up baby, albeit a far wiser one. The forces of time and entropy work upon all things most naturally, and not to exclusion of our species, either. We humans like to refer to this as, “our mortality”.

The Ego

The ego is a monster of many tentacles. They are multifarious, these tentacles, and are eternally hungry to attach themselves to all passing sensory things, desiring to draw them in, to keep them. Consume them.

From time to time, for the sake of the virtues of temperance, justice, and reason, we must sever our dear monster’s tentacles. It may be a painful endeavor. Upon regeneration, we must persevere and sever them again. And again. We must tame the beast which is ourselves.

Sex & Art (An Analogy)

Herein I will attempt to make a nice analogy between sex and art, both of which, in my view, are highly related three letter words. They are in fact rather in the same bed with each other if we consider the following:

Creativity is a fertile phenomenon. When we are feeling ‘creative’, we are turned on and stimulated. The initial idea or conception for an artistic endeavor is the sperm, the seed for the planting, or the ovum eager for reception. The physical act of creating a painting, sculpture, poem, etc. is akin to the act of fucking, making, creating. Our paint brush, pencil, slab of clay or typewriter is the effective genitalia of our (re)productions. We are planting our seed with each stroke of the brush. Finally, the resulting artwork is the orgasmic completion. We are satisfied. So we set down our brushes or our pens and have ourselves a relaxing cigarette.

Let us remember that if either art or sex is to be of any good worth, there must be attention paid to sensitivity, intuitive judgement, and artistic temperance. Both sex and art are sensual affairs which involve precision use of our senses and emotions. Of course, we may even transcend analogy and say that sex is an art — and for those whom have mastered the practice or are in the steady progress of doing so, they are sure to agree with you!

 

A Few Aphorisms

  1. Realistically, nothing is an unreal thing.
  2. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in America, eat deep-fried candy bars while hypnotized by the mass distraction of portable social media devices.
  3. The Ego is a monster of many tentacles. From time to time must sever our dear monster’s tentacles and tame the wild beast, which is ourselves.
  4. Whether fortunate or unfortunate, it is nonetheless fortune.

The Spirit of a Chameleon (A Musing on Change)

As it happens, we human beings often define ourselves through some perceived pivotal or vital experience from out of the foggy trenches of our past. We can become frozen, stuck in time as it were, and as a result become very discontented and unaccepting of the present. The old definition of ourselves (which tend to form the whole of our identity & purpose) are askew from the present conditions. We are like a crooked painting on a wall that is crumbling with the passage of time and procession of entropy.

Our honorable goal is to define ourselves regardless of our past and in such a way as to rise above the conditions of any circumstance which existence throws upon us. We must be at home with change and transition, and fear not the natural, corresponding changes and transitions of our personality, behavior and ultimate self-definition.

Let’s think of it this way: Our souls find their spirit with the chameleons. We are adaptable and flexible with our ever-changing environments — so long as we incorporate the color and hue of the present moment, the eternal now that is the entirety of our life. In order to accomplish this, we must first be willing to throw off the psychologic shackles of our past definition.

True, all human identity has its rightful heritage, but to allow that heritage (or, experience) to grow so obtuse as to prevent maturation of the Self, would be very foolish indeed!

Aphorisms of Divine Intoxication

Aphorisms of Divine Intoxication

I’m a guy who really enjoys reading short, pithy statements that are honest, reflective and to varying degrees, quite true. The following twenty-two aphorisms contain thoughts that I’ve had for a great deal of time now, so I decided I should share them with you. By “divine intoxication”, I mean precisely what the poet Baudelaire meant when he exclaimed “One must always be drunk!”

I myself am always drunk — on love, creativity, music, literature, etc.

  • Make your life an art. If your art is any good, it will have life!
  • To talk extensively, to be conversant, is to assume knowledge.
  • Truth rarely has its place in daily conversation. We use our mouths to decorate space with the desperate skeletons of our barren knowledge.
  • We all become victims of our childhood. To be a child is to be a victim.
  • If man’s destiny is to untie the knots of his individual existence, those knots were created and secured in childhood.
  • Amazement is the realization of wonder.
  • Philosophy is a conclusion or interpretation of wonder.
  • Coffee is beautiful. Coffee is Energy. It is Life. It is vitality in a cup.
  • A man without a regret is a man without a moral.
  • A man with a regret is a man with a conscience.
  • To say, “it is truth for you” or “truth for him” or “truth for her” is to eradicate the very meaning and nobility of truth. If one man’s lie is another man’s truth — there remains mere subjectivity. In this respect, truth is good as dead.
  • Truth is a continuity of existence which possess a noble quality. Truth is noble because it is beyond man, beyond human ego and its preferred interpretation. As Nietzsche might phrase it, it is beyond good and evil.
  • The world is a mass graveyard dance!
  • The masses are lost and drunken in somnambulistic reverie.
  • A wild star in the firmament of freedom shines the light of begotten triumph.
  • The only death to be feared is the death experienced within the bounds of one’s life.
  • The organic death at the end of life is the mere period at the end of the sentence.
  • Poetry is the wordly manifestation of the great passion evoked from emotion. One can always hope that manifestation is committed with grace and style.
  • Poetry is the working of beauty…to create rhythm and form from the disorganized chaos of emotional minds.
  • The goal of high art is to reverse chaos into cosmos.
  • At heart, I am an actor, as we are all actors. A man, just as any man, is a role to be played.
  • Imagine the immortals of existence watching the tragic comedy of humankind, feasting on pleasure with wondrous eyes like children in a perfectly enclosed and darkened cinema. They laugh and weep from eon to eon, from reel to reel, omnipotent and glorious.
  • Thanksgiving is a national holiday which praises gratefulness while endorsing and encouraging gluttony and indulgence.

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!