What’s the truth is a question that has been asked by philosophers since the beginning of human thought. How do we know for certain that the things we believe are true? And if we don't know whether they are true or not how do we treat our beliefs that may or may not be true. The things we know (we think are true) that just aren't so, appear exactly the same as the things we accept as truth that are in fact true. Should we doubt everything?
Our actions, goals and dreams aren’t based on complete knowledge; only partial knowledge. Waiting to know all the facts would slow life down, almost to a complete halt. We would miss out on most opportunities. It’s human to want to know truth—in its entirety. We are curious and want security. Knowing reasons for events is the basis of wisdom and directs future choices. Personally accepted truth continually changes as we experience life. Many original reasons we assigned to previous events may be discredited as we gain further information.
Truth must be discovered individually. We don’t create truth—something is true or it isn’t. Since we can’t infallibly determine what is and isn’t true, we need a guidance system to help sort through the countless flow of information.
We emotionally respond to beliefs. Feeling emotions is a tangible reality. The feeling tells us how we feel about something, not necessarily the truth of what is creating the feeling. When a belief brings peace, we know that the peace is true—and that the thing triggering the peace is associated. We construct meaning from the event and the correlated emotional responses. The feelings give us guidance, a place to start a deeper investigation. Some of these beliefs need discarding others nurturing; how we feel about them doesn’t necessarily clearly identify which are which.
We must explore beliefs along with the accompanying feelings. Together they give insights; not just into beliefs but into ourselves. We learn about ourselves, biology and pasts. Too often we oversimplify the investigation. Instead of scrutinizing new beliefs, examining feelings, and gaining deeper understanding of the surrounding world and the much more personal internal landscape behind the feeling. We must reach beyond embracing beliefs that feel good and rejecting beliefs causing discomfort. The discomfort usually is the result of conflict. The belief creates a cognitive dissonance.
Our relationship to a belief produces the emotion. When we are highly invested, the bonds to the belief create extreme emotions—elation, anger, sadness and even panic. While we are inclined to identify the positive or negative emotion as proof or refute of the belief, we fail to scrutinize the personal biases and hopes that accentuates emotional responses. Emotional reactions give us access to intimate connections living in the unconscious mind. Our examination into the emotion coaxes hidden parts out of the shadows and into the illumination of awareness.
Once our relationship to the beliefs is identified, we narrow the investigation into the facts of the belief, more open to the truth, without the pesky influence of hidden biases. Ow we can critique individual elements of a belief, looking for supporting or refuting evidence, probing alternative explanations, expanding our knowledge. Even open, unbiased investigations have great limitations.
I love science. Science continuously provides new and fascinating knowledge from psychology, biology, and sociology. But scientific studies are based on partial correlations. Findings use classifiers such as the study “indicates” or “suggests.” Science expands and deepens our appreciation for complexity. But science doesn’t confirm all knowledge to irrefutable truths.
True beauty doesn’t project from exactness of the musical notes but from the beautiful blending of all the instruments in the symphony. The beauty of living isn’t from exactness of finding all truth but from the blending of faith, knowledge, and behavior. When we embrace the complexity of life, harmonizing both the known and unknown, life makes sense as a whole, even if we don’t know all the particulars. This acceptance creates a greater sense of meaning and purpose. An ever-increasing expansion heightens our knowledge and softens emotions. It is here we find truth.