I still find it a bit embarrassing and uncomfortable for me to say it this boldly: my life has become infused with faith. Faith in the process of life itself, as it unfolds for me and everyone around me, and faith in that even though things sometimes seem incredibly screwed up, it’ll all work out in the end. And I believe a lot of this development has to do with how my understanding of truth and of arriving at truth has changed.
In the past, I thought that truth is something that can be put into words, like statements that are either true or false. And if they are true, then that is the truth, and once I know the truth then I can move on to the next topic. I have however discovered a way of looking at truth as something much more of a process: I and the people around me engage with reality (and one another) in a way such that after a quite lengthy period an outcome manifests, and everyone can trust that this outcome is valid—at least until circumstances require another round of this process.
It’s a bit like wanting to trust in the quality of shoes (and keeping them in good working condition). There seems to be a difference if you imagine talking either to someone selling shoes or to someone making shoes—by hand! From the salesman, you are likely to get all the proposed benefits of a certain product, and all information seems to be consistent and neat. From the shoemaker himself, you will probably not hear many words at all, and instead you have to watch and observe and learn how shoes are made, and what the different steps mean for the outcome. You can ask questions, of course, if you don’t understand why a certain step in the making of a shoe is necessary or beneficial.
A good shoemaker may, however, not be able to put this truth, the fact that he can make good shoes, into words. And once you have worn such good shoes, maybe you also no longer need to hear the words—you simply trust the process. Similarly, I believe that coming to truths and making sense of reality is much, much harder, and ultimately more important and satisfying, than having or knowing truths, or how to sell them to people. Those kinds of truths can always turn out to be quite flawed, despite all the advertising…
And there is another catch. Truth as a process, or at least the process of arriving at truth, can be quite painful at times, especially whenever I and others cling to the idea that it is enough to “know” the truth, and to “tell the truth” to get there. I can for instance feel incredibly irked by something someone tells me or asks of me. And the reason is that I think or intuitively feel, “Hey, that’s not true!” It is difficult to appreciate that, no matter what people offer, it always reveals something that contributes to truth, is part of the truth process; for instance the fact that their attitude towards something I care about might be quite different from mine. Sometimes I get stuck in thinking, “what this person said is wrong,” and then I feel the need to correct rather than understand. And arriving at truth this way is, so I believe, unnecessarily painful.
[W]ithout this kind of exchange of opposing forces, of people who express their individual preferences to push reality in the direction they believe is best…it would be impossible to arrive at a truth that works for us all.
I guess this happens most often when I don’t feel enough space and presence, when I don’t feel enough curiosity to inquire into why the other person cares about what they are saying. Instead, what they say feels like the opening salvo for an argument, and I feel some kind of pressure and the need to push back.
This pressure and counter-pressure motif is something I have observed in many places in nature. It seems to be a necessary ingredient in a system producing goal-oriented behavior. Take how your body produces finely controlled movements of limbs, for instance. If you only had a muscle that pulls in one direction, and no muscle that works in opposition, you would have no true control over that limb. You certainly could not hold it in place as easily. And so I believe that without this kind of exchange of opposing forces, of people who express their individual preferences to push reality in the direction they believe is best, and for us to allow this process to play out, it would be impossible to arrive at a truth that works for us all.
What I believe isn’t necessary is for us to be in so much pain about the process. If we could all accept that when we express our deepest preferences, there will often be necessary pushback from others and that this serves as an opportunity to get to the bottom of our differences, then I believe the path we choose together will be good for all of us.
When Albert introduced me to his project, Noetic Nomads, I was intrigued by and attracted to the idea of experiencing a free-flowing exchange of thoughts with him, and our exchange becoming part of a collection of documents that offer a window into his guests’ preferences and their unique process of deriving their personal truths.
If we can be open to that, and not immediately think, “That is wrong”, but simply go with it, to discover how other people’s process provides the necessary counter-weight to our own blind spots, then we can enjoy the occasional argument as something life uses to arrive at the truth that works for everyone.