“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.” – Jesus
Truth seems like a value in decline, associated with an earlier, simpler time when character was a matter of honor and what you said and did was a matter of self-respect.
Daniel Boorstin, the American professor and writer, warns us of the consequences of the decline of truth in modern society: “’Truth’ has been displaced by ‘believability’ as the test of the statements which dominate our lives.”
More recently, the American comedian, Stephen Colbert coined the satirical term “truthiness”– the conscious avoidance of facts, logic, evidence and rational analysis – to describe the same condition.
“What is truth,” asked Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus?
It is easy to imagine a combination of skepticism, mockery, resignation, and weariness in Pilate’s tone as he asks one of the most famous questions in history. Washing his hands of the pursuit of truth and his responsibility to uphold it, Pilate becomes the archetype of the weasely politician. His profession has yet to recover.
Jean-Paul Sartre sees a distinction that we would do well to remember in wisdom work. “Like all dreamers," he wrote "I confused disenchantment with truth.”
Like Pilate, many of us struggle to recognize and acknowledge the truth even when it stares us in the face. Seeing what is true can be disheartening. Sometimes it may seem easier not to see at all.
But to avoid looking at what is true is cowardice and comes back to wreak havoc. Those who prefer fantasy or the posture of an ostrich, head firmly planted in the sand, rather than looking at people and circumstances for what they are, participate in their own betrayal.
One has no one to blame but oneself.
© Patrick O’Neill 2013. All rights reserved.