Sunday, March 14, 2010

Truth as a beautiful many-splendored Thing and the Importance of Being and Embodiment

Painting of different flowers by Ambrosius Bosschaert
Flower Still Life by Ambrosius Bosschaert, the Elder
It may seem confusing at first glance, but everyone out there claims to be in possession of the truth. Often it may come either as a sudden insight into the higher workings of the universe, or it may be a synthesis of various life experiences. Whatever the source may be, each person believes it to be true for them.

We may encounter other contradicting experiences and accordingly modify our brand of truth, or we may stumble upon a philosophy or religion that changes us and replaces in a subtle or dramatic way our previously held beliefs. In fact, it is generally a good idea or healthy habit to regularly update our philosophy, as the world and the technology around us keeps changing.

One thing that confuses many, however, is the fact that truth is indeed a difficult matter to convey to others. It is the same with happiness. When you are happy, you want everybody to follow suit. You want them to share the joy you feel inside of you. And in many cases, it is contagious. A cheerful spirit is often able to chase away the dark brooding clouds or frowns of the person around them. People cannot help but smile at spontaneous outbursts of happiness.

This may be true, but we cannot force anyone to be happy. Even though we wish them well, we will encounter certain limits because we are dealing with another living person with different perspectives and life experiences. For them to adopt our views, there must be some congruency or else some willingness of the other to embrace our views.

Here is where truth has suffered greatly. Many religions have made the mistake of being “overzealous.” Convinced of their own truths and that these would be beneficial for all of humanity, they become too aggressive in their approach. And nothing good can come out of this violence.

Truth is an inner state of mind and is not just about appearance. For instance, people can be outwardly compliant Catholics, but inside they have quite other beliefs and thoughts. A religion that does not enter into the inner recesses of the person is nothing but make-believe and appearance and the “truth” is nothing but shallow water.

So how can we get others to accept our version of the truth? First of all, we need to be open-minded and tolerant. If somebody starts off ridiculing my belief system, no matter whether it is flawed or not, I will not seriously listen to them. Their attitude makes me want to close off or even end the conversation there. No truth can be transmitted in such a way regardless of its validity. But if the person begins by patiently making me see my own flaws in my system only then is a true conversion possible.

A good way to convince others is to give them examples or role models. It is to entice their curiosity the same way a parent manages to instill curiosity and inner drive within their children. If you want them to read, take a book, sit down and read quietly.

Be patient and sooner or later your child will come up to you and ask you what it is you are doing. You will explain it to him briefly and return to your book. Next time your child may ask you what it is you are doing. And you give her an answer that partly satisfies her curiosity, but equally makes her want to know more and to try it out for herself to see - or rather experience - what this activity is all about. If your child does not show interest or does not imitate you, then there is no interest in them to begin with, so no need to try to convince them of reading, and you need to move onto other things.

I use the example of children not in a condescending manner. It does not mean that the person who has the “truth” is in a superior position or has a parental role or obligation. But it shows that the method works best when we provide examples and awaken interest in others instead of shoving down the truth.

But to return to our previous example, if you are happy (and if your truth does not provide any sense of joy, I would find it rather suspect) then you will transmit more of it by demonstrating to the world what your truth does to you personally. It will come from and shine through the core of your personality.

If others come and ask you about it, you can give them the secret of your success, or you can keep them on their toes and give them hints of it by making them even more curious. Either way, at that point they would be more willing to listen to you, and you will have their full undivided attention.