What is ‘truth’?


People used to believe the earth is flat, until someone proved it was a globe by sailing right round it. Success is searching stubbornly for the truth through experience and experimenting. Failure is clinging to an ideology that makes one blind to reality.

Most people who are failures find someone to blame for their failure, so they will never face up to their own illusions.
It is highly dangerous to live in denial. Reality is vicious; if you ignore it, it will hit you. Bang your head against a wall, it will not yield. But your skull will split.

People who once opted for violence are mostly dead by now. Countries that opt for war consist of ruins and rubble. The truth is: Violence does not give you new life, and war is no way to build a country.

Many people do not believe that there is such a thing as truth. Like Pilate when he conversed with Jesus, they ask sceptically: “What is truth?”

Many of us doubt there is such a thing as truth. We take it for granted that people lie to us. Many do not even want to know the truth. They prefer entertainment, fantasy, mere “stories”, rumours, gossiping. Words lose their meaning. Become mere noises.

Words must show us the real world. Signs must point towards things that really exist, events that actually happen.

Words have a purpose. They should not be mere babbling, providing us with a background sound of mere chatter to quieten our nerves. True speech should reveal to us what is real and exists and cannot be denied. Or so you would think.

We just prattle on regardless. True or false — who cares? We want to win an argument and feel superior, to gain power, not to speak the truth.

Truth is even more than words reflecting facts accurately which is information. Very necessary and very desirable. Teachers of media ethics struggle to make professional media workers care about truth on this level, the identity of words and facts.

Truth is more. It is the outer person and the inner person being in harmony with one another. It is listening to the inner voice and relating it to my own thoughts, words, and actions. A person who is capable of doing that is “true”, true to his inner voice, true to his conscience, true to himself.

Such a person is “walking in the light”. Such people accept and follow the path this light reveals to them. They are in the truth. Believing there is such a thing as truth is almost the same as believing in God. “God is truth and light.”

Truth is not just a commodity for practical use — that is “information”, things I need to know so as to overcome my rival in the constant competition of life and survival in the daily rat race. Things I need to know in order to cope.

Truth is more, it is not just a means towards an end. It is an end in itself. It is something I seek for its own sake. Like seeking God.

The big and powerful like to surround themselves with yes-men and flattering women who are like nurses giving out tranquillisers. Such people are welcome. Whereas the messenger with the bad news, true but upsetting, will be shot.

Politicians are particularly skilled in turning and twisting words in the pursuit of power. In the contest between truth and power, truth usually loses. Or so it seems. See the encounter between Pilate and Jesus. And yet: in the end powerful Rome fell , while those who seek the truth rise from the ashes.

The drug of self-deception and delusion will turn you into an addict and keep you in the dark. “The truth will make you free.”
If you believe the earth is flat you will fall off its rim. If you believe in violence it will destroy you. If you believe the decline of our country can be blamed on its enemies the decline will continue.

Only those who accept their own failure and are ready to accept responsibility for it will reconstruct the country or give others the freedom to do so. Only the sorrowful who seek forgiveness will find a way out of our current darkness. Only the way of truth is a way of life and survival.

But those who do not respect the truth and seek power through distorting it will end up in self-deception. That is the punishment for habitually “walking in the dark” of falsehood and deceit.

A leader who claims divine authority or wants to be acclaimed as “another Jesus” should humbly remember the truth that it is the people who made him their servant-leader through their votes. Ruthless ambition makes him another Pilate.

Truth is life, it is life-enhancing, without it life gets rotten and decays. Take marriage. If you hide your “small house”, even the “big house” is at risk. By not facing the truth a man and his wife live in the dark, and they are heading for perpetual domestic warfare. Living in denial is a denial of what might save you.

Children are born liars. If they are never taught to be truthful, their and our future will be dark. If they catch their Mum and Dad telling lies and know they can’t trust them, who will teach them?

You cannot even do business without honouring the truth. What do we have accountants for if not to do audits that confront us with reality? Honesty between business partners enables them to trust each other. Without trust there is no handshake to confirm a deal.

Governments that spend money which does not exist do not live in the real world, and reality takes its revenge.

There is a profession which should be the guardian of truth and keep its light burning — writers, journalists, media workers in general.

As such they are bound to collide with those politicians who sacrifice truth to power. Or they sell their souls and become mere loudhailers for their employers, just pens or voices for hire.

But then there are others who insist that they are more than processing machines for’ information’, true or false, extensions of their computers, but men and women with a vocation to tell the truth and to give a voice to conscience. We cannot do without them if our hope one day to rise out of the rubble is to come true.