Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields. Nothing is real. Beatles
There’s a story about a guy who devotes his entire life to seeking out a guru who will reveal the meaning of life. He finally makes his painstaking way to the mountaintop cave. An old man sits staring into the fire. “What, oh wise man,” the seeker asks, “is the meaning of life?” “Life,” the sage replies, ” is a deep dark pit.” “What?!” the pilgrim explodes, “You mean I’ve wasted my whole life in search you only to be told life is a deep dark pit?” The sage wearily looks up and replies, “You mean it isn’t?”
The truth is certainly an evasive commodity. For us humans, being the greedy bunch of con artists we are by nature, lying is nothing new. In our day and age, helped along by mass communication, lying, and the attendant nefarious traits that give rise to it, have risen to a fine art. Worse, it is accepted as normal and inevitable.
Up until fairly recently the fundamental “truth” was considered, self-evident. God was in charge of everything, created everything and proclaimed us to be the pinnacle of His creation. Our world was the center of the universe. You wanted truth? You just read His “Word” which, preachers tell us, has been, is and always will be, the whole truth.
Today this “truth” should easily be seen as flawed by any person with two neurons to rub together, but, for millennia, It was the best theory people could come up with given the dearth of scientific knowledge. The problem is, we kept renewing their copyright, but never got around to revising them.
Galileo peers out at the heavens through his telescope, and realizes the universe is a lot bigger than we thought it was and we are not its center. We occupy just one of many heavenly bodies that revolve around bigger bodies. The Church is not amused.
Sometime after they lock Galileo up and get him to recant, his new truth starts to take hold with enough scientist that some begin to view the universe differently from the Biblical view. One day an apple bops Newton on the noggin and he realizes there’s this force called gravity that keeps heavenly bodies going around in circles that are predictable and regular. Uh-oh. Looks like God is getting some competition.
But not to worry. God was still in His heaven (wherever the heck it’s hiding from the telescopes.) Like a “celestial clockmaker,” he had personally set up this elegant system for His convenience. It permitted Him to ignore the big stuff and focus on the minutia that his crowning creation were constantly bugging him to attend to. ( Like which football team will win the game.) The Church is placated, but big trouble is brewing.
Darwin comes along and really shakes things up. He informs us that we and all other creatures were not created in their current form but evolved. Meanwhile, geologists figure out that Earth is a lot older than the Bible says it is. More people are starting to think, “Hmm….Maybe the Good Book is not such a good science textbook.” Smoke from this idea is still streaming out of the Church’s ears.
Fast forward a half century and along comes Einstein who says there is no fixed reality at all. Everything, even time, is relative to our position and speed compared to that of other moving objects. Therefore, what we perceive as true is not truth in the absolute sense. Not to worry, says Albert, there is an absolute truth but our puny brains can’t grasp it. He searches for this “grand unifying theory” in vain for the rest of his life. Still, this assumption that there is some universal rhyme and reason underlying it all leaves room for a God. The Church gives a momentary sigh of relief.
But now Bohr and Planck come along to tell us that on the most basic, subatomic, level there is not any solid substance to grab on to at all. All is energy. The movement of tiny packets of energy occurs in little jumps, not a straight line. Everything that exists and all events that occur are the result of the sum of an infinite set of random movements. The very physical existence of everything, including us, is not a set thing, just the statistical probability that all this chaos adds up to. Just like that, God goes from being a frumpy little clockmaker to a high rolling craps shooter. Einstein was not amused. The Church?……don’t ask.
This reminds us that it is not only thanks to Donald Trump, but also, paradoxically, to science, that truth has become squishier and squishier over time. With easy access to previously inaccessible people, places and ideas through fast travel and electronic communication, suddenly we are butting up against a plethora of “truths” that we had remained ignorant of for a long time.
While this should serve to make us more aware that our own “truth” may not be the whole truth, many of us cannot abide life without the comfort of believing truth exists. That truth, naturally, happens to be whatever we believe. That’s why, for example, holy rollers insist every word in the Bible, no matter how thoroughly debunked by science or common sense, is the absolute truth, immutable for eternity. God forbid someone may question it, any of it, and compel them to ask “You mean it isn’t?”
Such people desperate for simplistic answers and absolute guidelines to what is good and bad, right and wrong, sacred and profane, have no choice but to reject any other “truths” as false. They will do anything necessary, including what their own belief system identifies as evil, to insure their “truth” rules.
This all works well for politicians. They can lie to their hearts’ content while voters believe whatever lies fit in with their own version of truth. While we are so busy fighting among ourselves to assert our various truths, the con artists clean up.
Lately, this may be the only thing we can be sure is true. Or is it?