Truth

By Con Carlyon

'Rosebud in the Blue Light" by Amber Burke

I’ve been thinking some more about Truth, or more particularly, how we come by it. For most of us, I would think we first look to our parents for our truth, then to our teachers, and then to our religious instructors.  And as we enter adolescence, we look to our peers. After that, we’re on our own. There is that constant weighing up of truth as we perceive it, and how it compares with that of others’ versions of ‘truth’. Is it any wonder that following such a haphazard path we become seriously confused? Well, I did, and from what I know, others did too.

As a young adult in the little town in which I grew up, I became seriously depressed. Looking back, it isn’t surprising that I did. My life consisted of work, pub, work, and precious little else. I can remember I used to look to the “Quotable Quotes” in Reader’s Digest for guidance in this world. I used to seize on the thoughts of those whose words were deemed worthy of a quote, and I tried to gain some wisdom from them. I still look to quotes in order to glean some knowledge from the thoughts of those who went before us.  For me, the pursuit of knowledge is the main purpose of this life. I want to know all there is to know. I’ll never learn everything there is to learn of course, but then it’s said “it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive”, isn’t it? That must have been one of the many quotes I read somewhere in the distant past.

This transfer of knowledge down through the ages is man’s greatest achievement. To me, I can think of no greater trust than to pass on a morsel of truth to those who come after us. And I can think of no greater betrayal of trust than to knowingly pass on an untruth, especially for personal gain.

Lately, some of those quotes that have been the guideposts in my life have had something to say about the manipulation by the media. Men and women in a position of power have deliberately abused the position of trust in order to propagate misinformation for their own benefit. No better illustration of this is the comment by Rupert Murdoch that we should invade Iraq so that we could get oil for $20 a barrel.

Yet, millions of our fellows look to the Murdochs of this world for their information. They take on trust that the information that is passed on to them is the ‘truth’. They are unaware that they are being manipulated and to me, that is a gross betrayal of trust, a betrayal of our precious humanity. I am reminded of the words of John Donne:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…”

We are all part of mankind. We can choose to mindlessly follow the self-serving truths of the likes of Murdoch, or we can carve out our own truths, like Thoreau’s did: “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

And not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

And that’s the challenge to us all.

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