Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Truth, Your Truth, The Truth

I don't suppose anyone would have a problem with parts one and two of the title above. Part three however--the capital-T "The"--is another matter. It seems to give a whole generation existential heebie-geebies.

It may have been somewhere in the late nineteenth century that our culture wearied of the traditional capital-T Truth arguments and came to a gentleman's/gentlewoman's (Aren't I nice?) agreement to only deal with things on the basis of my truth/your truth: "I know that's true for you, but for me..."

Larry's truth might be that his liver and brussels sprout smoothie is the most d-lish drink around. Larry's friend, Bob has no problem accepting Larry's smoothie truth, but Bob's truth perhaps lies more in the neighborhood of banana-apricot-honey-pineapple. Fine. Larry has his smoothie truth, Bob has his, and they're both "good" with that.

One day though, as Larry and Bob are discussing the relative wonderfulness of their different smoothie choices, Larry mentions to Bob, in passing, that Bob's banana-apricot-honey-pineapple elixir may elevate his blood sugar level and so present a health risk. Bob thanks Larry for his concern, but states with certainty that the blending process removes all the sugar content while yet retaining the sweet flavor. "My cousin, an amateur herbalist, told me so himself--and he should know, he makes and sells them and drinks several every day" says Bob, a bit miffed at the skeptical look on Larry's face and offended that his friend would question his truth. Before you can say, "chop, dice, blend, puree," Larry and Bob are spitting, "Does so," Does not," "Does so" at one another.

Just then in walks their mutual friend, Debbie, a diabetic. Wanting to settle the dispute so her friends will be at peace, Debbie pulls a glucometer from her purse and proposes an experiment. Debbie administers the test. Then, Based on the outcome of this simple experiment, Bob, with his index finger still stinging, finally must concede that his beloved smoothies do indeed elevate his blood sugar. The nifty little glucometer settled the issue. What's more, it settled it without regard to Larry's truth, Bob's truth, or even Debbie's truth. The little device acted the part of a plumb line with regard to the question at hand.

Obviously, life's questions and moral challenges are not so easily settled. But still, we need to know if it is even possible for us to find answers to life's most important issues. Or, is even the possibility of real answers somehow not even allowed for by the contemporary "rules" of the discussion? Are we stuck with only your and my truth with no recourse to any truth outside ourselves? This, I believe, is a crucial question and one worth asking and pursuing an answer to.

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