21 September 2009

From a certain point of view...

When I got back in Rexburg I was just a little bored so I borrowed AJ's 1984 by George Orwell and gave it a read. AJ, the Covalent Roommate had read it over the summer and had something of a debate about what truth is. The Covalent Roommate recapped the discussion and asked me what I thought. I had to agree with the 1984 view of truth, sort of. In 1984 truth is described as what is true in the present was true in the past because They go back and change all tangible evidence of the past to match the present. Therefore truth is defined by the past and the past is edited by They.

My ideas of truth actually date back farther and are a little different from 1984. My views are much more inline with something from 1983: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. In the scene where Luke is on Dagobah and Yoda has just "passed in The Force". Luke is feeling all alone and says...

Luke Skywalker: I can't do it, R2. I can't go on alone.
Obi-Wan Kenobi[voice emanates from nowhere] Yoda will always be with you. [reveals himself as a spirit walking nearby]
Luke Skywalker: Obi-Wan! Why didn't you tell me?! You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father!
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view.
Luke Skywalker[incredulously] A certain point of view?
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. Anakin was a good friend. When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong.
Luke Skywalker: There is still good in him.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: He's more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.
Luke Skywalker: I can't do it, Ben.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: You cannot escape your destiny. You must face Darth Vader again.
Luke Skywalker: I can't kill my own father!
Obi-Wan Kenobi[resigned] Then the Emperor has already won. You were our only hope.

I would like to point out that Luke had a different lens or paradigm than Obi-Wan and was able to see a way to redeem his father, defeat the emperor and restore balance to the Force all without killing his father.

To me truth is only truth "...from a certain point of view." We can twist it and mold it into whatever we want it to me, from our point of view. Even God's truth is only true from a certain point of view, His. (It just so happens that no opposing view really counts compared to the views of an omniscient being.) Obi-Wan had used Anakin's dichotomy to describe him as two separate beings to Luke. I doubt that Luke would have been able to accept and handle the "truth" when he first met Obi-Wan. This pattern of receiving truth from a certain point of view and then out growing it and needing a new point of view seems to be a common issue with truth. One size does not fit all.

In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle C.S. Lewis describes a scene that take place after Narnia is destroyed and all the creatures are taken into the after life. In that scene Edmund sees a group of dwarfs who died while sitting in a dark shed. They had convinced themselves that they were still in the dark shed even though, to Edmund and everyone else, they were sitting in an open field under the sun. Edmund talks with Aslan who tells Edmund that the dwarfs are living a form of truth that they have chosen and that none, not even He, the mighty Aslan, can help them see differently. To prove this Edmund takes some of the wonderful banquet that surrounds the dwarfs and presses it to their lips. Immediate the dwarf jump up and begins yelling at the other dwarfs something about "shoving manure" in his face. Aslan reiterates they the dwarfs are so against "being taken it" that they can no longer see the truth that Edmund sees.

Another example is that of Moses. Moses receive a commandment "Thou shalt not kill" in Exodus, but then in Deuteronomy he is command to destroy entire nations. The two commandments show us that the first, given at the beginning of Israel's journey, was targeted to Israel's almost child-like maturity (this is the same place where laws are laid down for everything from "Thou shalt not kill" to detailed explanation of what to do if something bad happens to an animal you borrow (seriously, Exodus 22:10-15). The second, given later in Israel's journey, was an update targeted to Israel's almost teenager maturity. The revised commandment would be something liken "Thou shalt not kill, unless I command it and I will only command it when it is absolutely necessary." Both commandments were truth, from a certain point of view.

I will leave one final example. Often we tell little children "don't talk to strangers". We give this advice to keep them safe from evil people in the world. The simplistic advice is inherently flawed though. Children will need to talk to a school teacher who is a stranger. We expect them to interact with our friends, because we know them to be safe. They will certainly need to interact with other children that are strangers in order to gain new friends. So really our advice is "Don't talk to strangers unless they are associated with a reputable organization, someone you know can vouch for them or they are of a like age and sufficient appeal so as to not make you inclined to question there integrity". If this is the truth from the adults perspective why not tell it to the child? Because the child can't handle it, no more than Luke Skywalker could have handled know that his dad was the penultimate evil in the galaxy. So we give them a simpler truth. Truth from a different point of view, one that can be more easily handled.

In life I find it important to continually update my point of view to be able to encompass new learnings so as to be able to gather new insights and understandings.

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