Some Random Thoughts

The search for understanding

The life work of every person is to understand the world in which he[1] lives. From the moment of birth, probably even before, we are observing, comparing, testing, seeking understanding. Some of us seem to reach a point where we are satisfied that we understand how the world works and what our individual position or role is within it, and stop seeking. Others seem to go to their graves still desperately searching, never having reached a comfortable peace with themselves or within the world.

My goal is to continue the process of building my understanding, refining and correcting it with each new bit of truth discovered in sifting through all of life's rich and rapidly increasing variety of experiences. If I ever cease from this effort may it only be because I have also ceased from breathing!

If the life work of every person is to understand, what of the desire to also be understood? It cannot be denied that man, as a social creature, also actively seeks to be known, understood, and accepted as worthy of love by other men. Here too can be seen the variation of individuals - some men seem content to live almost totally independent of others, while some others would rather die than live in isolation from human companionship for more than a few days at a time.

The sources of truth

Throughout history whatever men could not understand and predict has been attributed to the actions of the gods. Adam was condemned for disobedience in seeking knowledge which God had withheld from him. The scientific, humanist faith proclaims that there are no gods; what we do not yet understand can be discovered. The only truth is that which can be discovered by careful investigation, the only reality is that which can be seen or smelled or heard or felt or tasted and measured.

But the priests and shamans proclaim: No! There are other truths and other realities which are beyond discovery and measurement. The truths, when we can know of them at all, we know only because the gods have revealed them. Thus it becomes for each of us a matter of faith - will I place my faith only in what I can see and measure, or will I also acknowledge revealed truths and other reality beyond the physical world?

Measuring truth

At least the faith of science provides a measure of truth. What is true for one person can also be demonstrated to be true by others. Experiences can be repeated and predicted. If I report the results of my experiment (or experience) others can also obtain the same results. If they do not then the truth (understanding) which I derived from my experience is declared to be not a truth and some other explanation of the experience is sought.

But what measure of truth exists for revealed truths? How do we determine whether revelations are valid or invalid, true or not true? Old Testament prophets were stoned to death if their revelations proved false. The proof was found in the predictive factor: if the prophet offered a revelation which clearly predicted a certain event and the event did not occur the falsity was self-evident. But what of non-predictive revelations of truth? Do they have any value if they claim to be true but cannot be used to predict anything? Or the predictions are of non-recurring events, or of events so distant as to be unobservable? What standard can be applied to determine whether revealed truths are true?

A matter of faith

This is, perhaps, why some things are spoken of as being matters of faith. Those of the scientific faith (who proclaim they have faith only in what they can see and measure) are quick to declare that science has nothing to do with matters of faith, the two realms are mutually exclusive. If it can be demonstrated as true by the scientific method then it is not a matter of faith. If it cannot be demonstrated as being true, and cannot be demonstrated as being false, then it is a matter of faith and lies outside the realm of science. Not all scientists are of the scientific faith, there are some who are willing to admit the possibility of truth and reality which cannot be seen and measured.

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[1] I am neither ignorant nor contemptuous of the distaste some people have for the use of masculine pronouns when referring to persons of either gender. I would be pleased to use gender-neutral language if it were possible without requiring verbal constructions which are awkward to write and read and discordant to the ear. I beg the reader's forgiveness for my adherence to a style which is comfortable. I absolutely do not intend to offend or alienate, only to communicate.