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How can you or I know the truth?
This is pretty much one of life's fundamental, core questions, isn't it? Philosophers, historians, seekers, doctors, scientists, discoverers, adventurers, lawyers, priests, rabbis, judges, teachers, students, the religiously fervent, and many others, have been asking and pondering this big question since long before our father's fathers were born.
"What is the truth?"
I'll give you my answer. Then I'll disclose the three steps I take when seeking, never finding, but always getting closer to that which we wish we could know with absolute certainty.
We cannot know the truth. We can only get closer, and closer, and closer to it.
Perhaps I am wrong, but even if I'm wrong, I benefit from leaving open the possibility I can always change my mind after further discovery and seeking, right? Can't I always be wrong? Should I ever take the position I know anything with certainty, I'm essentially saying I am no longer willing to listen and learn. I'm not going to get into the metaphysics of this concept. Aristotle ended up with the Unmoved Mover and Plato a very abstracted reality. The list goes on, and on, and on.
I dare not assume I have some intellectual advantage or power of discernment the great philosophers did not or do not possess. I have my limits. In recognizing my limits, I must have the humility to accept that I lack the faculty to ever be able to figure anything out 100%. I can only get closer, and closer, and closer to, "the truth." And even if I am wrong, in part or in whole, so what? I lose nothing. By doing so, I am leaving myself open for correcting this error!
Let's even assume the "truth" of philosophy or of religion can be known. We will not open this door. Reflections on such matters are far above my qualifications. Nevertheless, there is still a lot out there we can seek within the mundane. Within this worldly realm I offer that, in my anecdotal experience, I have benefited from keeping my mind open - in seeking the truth - when confronted by day-to-day challenges.
Letting absolute knowledge of the truth evade us is to our advantage when dealing with legal cases, business problems, or even when trying to figure out which politician is lying, if not both of them. To not yet know is to concede we must continue learning. To claim the truth has been found can limit us, surprise us, and embarrass us. New facts which can slap us right in the face are always around the corner. To not yet know is to be able to confront new facts and to welcome them when they arrive. To know is to risk being thrown into the despair of denial, rationalization, and dissonance.
My apologies for being so vague herein, but I don't want us to get bogged down in examples from modern politics, legal cases, or criticisms involving our current society. Involving such things creates a risk we will be detracted, or distracted, from our possibly becoming more adept seekers of the truth, whichever way it has run. Wherever she is hiding.
Now with all this said, I give you my three simple steps for trying to capture, but never capturing, the truth:
1. Empty your mind and heart of any passion, prejudice, preconceived notion, emotion, fear, worry, or self interest.
2. Ask the question over and over again. Meditate on it. How would others ask it? Why would others even ask the question? What do all the possible "truth" seekers risk gaining or losing, depending on which "truth" is discovered, or accepted?
3. Simply ask who, what, when, why, and where? Who saw it? Who heard it? What was said? What was witnessed? Where is it recorded? What is the history of the matter? Where is its future? Never come to a conclusion, but always edge closer, and closer, to the truth.
Keep repeating these three steps.