What is truth?
Two articles in The Friend, just before meeting, wound me up. One attacked a postmodern view of history: history is what happened, and not a view someone wants to put over. Its purpose was to criticise David Boulton’s argument that non-theism was in the Society of Friends from the beginning. One said that truth is indivisible: “my truth” and “your truth” is meaningless.
I went into meeting churning with these ideas. Also there was Arkenaten‘s dispute with Chi-Alpha girl: can I show that religion has value as more than a way of producing hypotheses about how the world works?
I had definite ideas about what having “heart and mind prepared” looks like: being calm, and able to listen; and if I say it could also mean being churned up, and seeking Answers that may be a rationalisation because otherwise I was Doing it Wrong this morning. Doing it Right matters.
A rationalist view of the world certainly has value. Proposing theories and testing their validity and predictive capacity helps us find truth. It can even make useful statements about how human beings observe and interact with reality, and how this affects our search for truth. Treating the Bible as such a hypothesis, as a fundamentalist would- the Earth is <10,000 years old, it is the centre of the Universe– gets in the way of this search for truth. Yet my spiritual searchings help me to relate to other human beings, and understand myself and my motivations, even if I cannot articulate how.
It is possible to be wrong, deliberately or carelessly, but “my truth” and “your truth” can still differ even if both of us are attempting to be as truthful as possible. The way we see, and the way we think about things, can lead to us talking past each other, and liking different kinds of history: finding how much the Darien adventure cost, and what proportion of Scotland’s capital it destroyed; or seeking to empathise with the feelings of those involved.
I went into meeting distressed about these conflicts, and wanting them smoothed over. (This is an important part of my self-image now, as a conciliator.) And after three quarters of the Meeting, I thought, this is how it is, these different views, different people striving for Good in their own way. And that may be a religious experience, a Vision of the Goodness of the Universe, or a simplistic rationalisation, or giving up in the face of overwhelming difficulty: but right now it feels good.