We are now living in a year that will be noteworthy in history. The swirling of political events and their repercussions are astounding in that we won’t know their full impacts until years from now. We also don’t know the whole truth about them, either. These were a few of my thoughts yesterday after pondering the day’s headlines.
On a whim, I opened the “Ecosia” search engine and tapped in the word “truth”. When the results appeared, I scrolled down to the bottom and clicked on a random page. The first entry was “Perception Of The Truth” a poem by the Indian poet Gajanan Mishra. This looked intriguing so I clicked on the entry. This is what came up:
“Perception Of The Truth – Poem by Gajanan Mishra
Take this point of view
And come to
The perception of the truth.
Study the materials in details,
And Stay firm in
The expansion of yourself.
Stay alerted, and realize
The oneness with the truth.”
I studied the little poem for several minutes. There is a lot to unpack in this compact verse.
Every person looks at the world filtered through her or his personal point of view. The points of view are affected by our memories, which, in turn, are affected by our emotional states at the time they were formed and the emotional state when they are recalled. Our points of view are also influenced by our personal histories, our “station” in life, and our personal beliefs. It matters also whether the event happened to us in the first person or to someone else in the third person. There are other aspects, but these are the major ones.
When something happens, we perceive the event through our particular point of view. Even if we practice empathy and try to understand an event that happened to someone else that empathy is a product of our own interpretation. After our analysis, the end result becomes our own personal truth.
If our personal truth can be validated through comparisons with the opinions of our friends, the media, our favorite politicians, or the scriptures of our personal spiritual belief system, that personal truth becomes solidified and closed to debate. It becomes a Truth with a capital T.
Try a thought experiment about a few of your most treasured “Truths”. Ask yourself when they were formed, the circumstances in which they were experienced, why you felt the need to establish them as unshakeable truths, and how you eliminated conflicting opinions about the capital T Truths.
Researchers have known for many years that our perceptions are inaccurate representations of reality. There is the old study that asked several witnesses of a crime about what they saw. Each witness had a slightly different accounting of what she or he thought they saw.
The value of this story is that it helps us to remember that our perceptions are incomplete and faulty. Even if I see something with my own two eyes and hear it through my own two ears, it is filtered through my own personal point of view. Knowing this fact helps me stay more flexible in my opinions, in turn, giving me more contentment and peace of mind.
Due to the fact that our Truths are built upon memories of experiences it’s helpful to know that our memories are incomplete reconstructions of emotionally charged events. Our memories are further influenced by subsequent situations and interactions that happen long after the original event. We have gaps in memory and we mentally synthesize patches to make the memories whole again.
It doesn’t matter if the event happened last week or several decades ago, our memories just aren’t as accurate as we believe in our hearts they are. How we look at things affects the way things look to us.
It’s also hard to see the whole truth in real time. If I am cut off in traffic by a man driving his SUV by his aggressive lane changing and speeding, I will feel fear and resentment about the man’s wreckless behavior. After I’ve simmered down, I’ll wonder why the driver had to drive the way he did. Maybe he was late for work. Maybe he was rushing his child to the emergency room of a hospital. Maybe he had just had a bad lover’s quarrel. Maybe he was drunk. There was no way for me to know for sure.
We also don’t take in everything as we experience each moment. Our minds filter out extraneous features so we can focus on whatever it is we want to concentrate on. This is why it is very dangerous to talk on the phone and drive down the road at the same time. We can have our eyes looking out through the windshield but not see a hazard because we are concentrating on the content of the phone conversation.
Even if we’re not engaged in a conversation or otherwise distracted, sometimes we don’t remember how we drove from point A to point B. That is how selective our memories can be and how our points of view are quite faulty.
There are also those instances when we are deceived by someone. When we discover that she lied to us, we doubt her ability to tell the truth. Even if she tells us a truth, it is unlikely that we’ll believe her. We don’t believe her Truth is really true.
In the living of our lives, we close our minds or we open them. When our minds are closed we own more capital T Truths. When we open our minds, we have fewer capital T Truths. If our minds are open we understand what John Lennon meant when he said, “The more I see, the less I know for sure.”
When grasping for the Truth of life it is good to be reminded by two lines in Mishra’s poem.
“…And Stay firm in
The expansion of yourself.”
It’s good to regularly ask oneself, “Do I honestly know the truth?”
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a statement by Friedrich Nietzsche. “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”