Saturday, July 28, 2007

truth, lies, black and white

This is one topic I have for a long time archived, and even kept, in the virtual partition. The last time I reflected about it, and sought answers for , I found myself not in in the color black nor white, but in a shade of gray ; I was in limbo.

I was in third year college, the first serious year of my course in philosophy, when I was exposed to the real clash of civilizations, between the western and eastern thoughts, and their views about truth. For six months, I practised yoga, and tried to embrace the east. On the side, I read the the nihilist philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and Rene Descarte, and many more. The two paradigms made a strong, pungent brew: I lost my christian beliefs, but did not really embrace fully well the eastern view. I was neither here nor there.

Does God exist? If he does, what does it make of evolution? Science circa 1980's already embraced the Big Bang Theory of the universe, that accordingly, there was a big mass that expanded, and exploded, the great cosmic bang, whilst from it, arose the planets, moons, asteroids and other celestial bodies. And man? the cosmic elements of matter as we know now in chemistry had, by necessity, to form the complex amino acids , which were the cornerstone of the unicellular organism which evolved, in zillions years later, into what we are now.

To grasp the truth of the existence of God therefore is the cornerstone of man's quest for truth. If God does not exist, then we have to hold the truth that we are mere accidents of the physical-chemical processes of the cosmos. We are insignificant made only important by our sense of self-worth.

The problem with our quest for the divine truth is that to know it, we have to have a leap of faith in order to bridge the infinite chasm between the human and the divine. There is always an element of faith, of what we may call, an intuitive perception of the divine. Albert Einstein once said, "Invention is not a product of intelligence, but of intuition." To explain the divine, we have to draw it more from our intuitive perceptions. And here lies the problem: unlike mathematical formulations, intuition can be as random as there are human beings.

My intellectual crisis led to my spiritual limbo: I think I became an athiest. ( which am not also certain about). I looked upon the east. It was difficult enough to understand western thought; it was doubly difficult to cross-over to the eastern civilization. As the poet British poet Kipling said:‘Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.’

For the east, man is living in the veil of maya. What we now experience are mere illusions. The moment we use our senses to perceive the truth, our perception is limited by parameters our senses set. The way I view reality is different from the way you view it. If a pretty lady in pink passes by, our perceptions vary. I may see the pouting lips, and appreciate them,but you see the slender legs, and ogle them more towards the upper part. Imagine the dog, man's bestfriend. When you see a person, you see the complete profile of what a human being is. But imagine the dog, are you sure he sees you the way you see yourself in the mirror? Remember that the dog's vision is drastically different from ours.

The perception of truth therefore, must not start from the senses. To grasp the universal truth, you must go beyond the veil of maya. You must smother the senses. Pure thought engenders pure truth. And to do this, you discipline yourself, meditate, and find the universal truths which are embedded deep in your being, waiting for you to discover, because the truth is both immanent and transcendent. If you are disciplined enough to go beyond your senses, you would find out that the transcendent is inside you, in your self. Budhha had his encounter with the truth when he meditated upon the bodhi tree.

It was exactly in 1985,in third year college taking up Philosophy when I started pondering seriously about the transcendal truths. More than two decades since, I have to revisit this intellectual ferment:I have to restore it from the recycle bin, to borrow the computer lingo, and re-examine my views.

Is there God? There were several ocassions when I went to church out of a social duty as a father having to accompany his kids. [I should not radiate my agnosticism to my kids.] In those times, when I see the images, I recall paganism; when I hear the homilies, I can visualize the grim images of the dark ages when the crusaders, in the name of a compassionate god, butchered human beings. In those times, the mass only added to my doubts.

But one time, in a moment of reflection, from the unknown depths of my being, there was this sudden flash of realization, my own bodhi tree, that alas, there is this Supreme Being, a being whose existence I don't have to logically dissect, but somebody who is as real, if not more, as my existence. If I deny His existence, I deny myself. The fathos of intuitive idea lies in its universal acceptance; neither reason nor conventions can go against it.

I had my own eureka.

The truth is there, and it being so does not depend on our logic nor perception. The west uses a lot of reasoning to arrive at the truth. This is a search method dependent , and therefore limited, by the philosophical formulations of the times. The truth , using this methodology, when apparently grasped, is colored black or white, dependent on the prisms set by the present conventions. On the other hand, the mystics of the east, have to suppress, if not smother the senses, so that they can perceive universal truths, unfettered by the prisms the individual eyes impose.

For Albert Einstein, intuition, and not logic, the pure revelation of knowledge that gives rise to an invention which heretofore previously unknown. For the east, truth is immanent, revealed in the moment of deep meditation. But whether intuitive or meditative, the truth is revealed, free from the limitations of matter, time and space.

Unlike Kipling, I say there is "something that can twain, between the east and west.

graffiti: apprehending truth

graffiti: apprehending truth

apprehending truth

If you have two identical twins who wake up at dawn at the same time, and they both look at the sky, would their experiences be the same? One twin may see the receding darkness, and the other may see the emerging daylight. But all the same, they wake up to the same reality, but they see it starkly differently.

Can you imagine if these twins would fight to the death because they cannot agree on what they see and experience that one fateful dawn?

The problem with apprehending truth is that we always perceive it based on our individual prisms, and the moment we do this, truth is colored black or white depending on the person. Truth then becomes a relative term. What is true to me may not be true for you. The moral relativism is the consequence of this perspective. Every action then can be justified; every wrong tolerable. After all, the final arbiter is the self.

But we know that what we perceive is limited by our senses, and by our capacity to perceive and understand. Besides, ones life history more often than not builds a framework upon which we view things. A person who has been unloved in his childhood would view true act of compassion as a bait, a trap towards violence which he ought to avoid like a scourge. That is why, instead of opening up to a loving relation, he distances away, and coil in his shell.

We thus perceive truth based on our experiences and our capacity of understanding or the lack of it. This way, we never arrive at the truth. Come to think of it? How many lives have been lost due to a misunderstanding because people perceive "truths" differently? Conversely, how many lives could have been saved, if they realized, that like the twins, they only see a version of one true, real world?

The information superhighway has bombarded us with an avalanche of information, which may be true, half-truths, sheer propaganda, or outright lies. This information cannot be filtered by our limited senses and understanding. It must be exposed to the shining light of universal truths which should be the prism upon which we evaluate the information we receive.

The quest for truth goes beyond perception and the limitations of experiences. Universal, transcendent truths are arrived at at the deepest levels of reflection; it's almost intuitive. It is said that man's divine character lies deep within, that draws out in the moment of reflection when he can understand and apprehend truths which are immutable and universal. It is said that there are mammals, marine or terrestrial, that are intelligent. But take comfort that it is only humans who can apprehend these universal truths.

Take the common example of what love is. We all experience what love is, whatever that word conjures. But our own experience of love is calibrated based on what we have understood as the universal concept of true love. You can announce to the world that you love somebody, but your actions may pale in comparison with what we universally understand as love. True love is the total giving of oneself for the beloved, and the joy and excitement that goes with the giving. God gave Christ to us. Mother Theresa offered her life to the sick and dying. In the act of giving, they find happiness and fulfillment. True love is happy in the act of sacrifice for the beloved.

Have you ever wondered why killing is universally condemned? An illiterate cannot cry wolf if he is convicted for murder if he argues that he has not read the penal laws. The moral truths about preserving life are there in the tribunal of our conscience, truths that we reflect about and understand.

Truths are the standards upon which we calibrate human experiences. Without these standards, the shrinking global village may implode with moral decay. In this time of age of moral and cultural relativism, there is a need to re-examine and reflect on these immutable and universal truths upon which we gauge human actions.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007