Truth and Good – Part 1: Truth

Whenever I am trying to decide anything (Which happens a lot on a daily basis. Why sometimes I’ll even make up to, and including THREE decisions a day.), I usually try to boil it down to these two basic thoughts:

Which way of thinking is more consistent with reality?

and

Which way of thinking does the least amount of harm to others?

Truth and good.

To me, those two things are what we as humans should be striving for.  I will first explain what it means to seek truth, and what it means to be good, then I will try to convince you why these are not only important goals, but the most important goals.  Today’s lesson:

1.  Truth

To me, truth means “consistent with reality.”  This, of course, assumes that reality exists in an objective fashion.  If you believe that truth is relative, then this blog probably isn’t for you, and there is plenty of material out there that could prove you incorrect.  Although, believing that truth is relative, you could just choose to ignore that proof in favor of your own personal truth, like that the Mighty Ducks movie was an action flick starring a real life duck.

Let’s use an example.  Let’s pretend that my friend and I both go to a football game.  This is funny because I hate football.  Calm down, meat heads.  My friend and I come back from the game and I report that the score was 35-40.  My friend reports that the score was 448394-9.

If you were to believe in relative truth, then there’s nothing really more to do.  I have my truth.  My friend has his truth.  All is well.  But it isn’t.  It irks you.  Why do we have two different perspectives?  Why so vastly different?  Which one is “correct”?

We have a natural curiosity.  When things are inconsistent and we get two conflicting pieces of information, our brain naturally wants to know why.  This is what fascinates me about humanity.  We not only crave information, we crave correct information.  We crave truth.

So let’s go back to our example.  Obviously, either I am wrong, or my friend is wrong.  Or we both are.  But at least one of us is inconsistent with reality.  We can account for this with the fallible nature of humanity.  Our perceptions are imperfect.  We are flawed.  Sometimes toilet cleaner gets in our eyes and the score board seems to display a few extra numbers.

So how do we correct this?  How do we get to the bottom of things?  Science.  Over a long period of time we’ve developed methods of determining what is actually truth and what can be attributed to human error of perception.  We’re still developing these methods, but in today’s age, we’ve gotten pretty good at it.  We test ideas, we test theories, we use trial and error, we build tools to observe things for us, we document, we discuss things, we use logic, we use reason, and ultimately we get really good at overcoming human fallibility.   So why is this important?  Well I put that below under the fancy new paragraph heading.

Why this is important

Truth is important because without it, there would be nothing, absolutely nothing, to strive for.  Remember that natural curiosity for correct information I mentioned earlier?  Well if we don’t have it then we have no reason for becoming better.  As we learn more about the world we live in, ourselves, and others we become better, smarter, and we can do more things.  We have MEANING.  We have PURPOSE.

Also, truth is important because untruths can lead to harm.  Physically and mentally.  (First link is not for the squeamish.)  These experiences are usually called “reality checks” in that, even when you deny reality, it will keep tabs on you and keep you consistent with it.

Notable examples from my childhood:

-I once got my head stuck in a steering wheel.

-I once got stuck between a sink and a wall.

-I once tied myself to a fence and couldn’t get free.

I was inconsistent with reality when I mistakenly thought “I can get my head back out of this steering wheel by myself” and reality checked me.  That was definitely a learning experience, and while those examples are silly, I want to continue to learn to be more consistent with reality and be truthful in my thinking and my doing.  Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to do the same.

In later blogs I will tackle how truth applies to religion, politics, and a variety of topics.  This was just a precursor as to why I feel it is so important to any decision or discussion that all people involved have a strong love for the truth.

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