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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Weeds That Obscure the Truth

The Wayfarer   
The wayfarer, 
Perceiving the pathway to truth, 
Was struck with astonishment.

It was thickly grown with weeds. 
"Ha," he said, "I see that none has passed here In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed 
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last, 
"Doubtless there are other roads."
By Steven Crane (November 1, 1871 – June 5, 1900) 
We must never end our search for the truth. To do so shatters all hopes and dreams, for in the truth, we find freedom. Many human activities depend upon the concept of truth, where its nature is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most of all, the sciences, law, and everyday life.

One of the derivatives of the English word truth is Proto-Germanic trewwj meaning "having good faith, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European dru meaning "tree," on the notion of "steadfast as an oak." A modern understanding of truth involves both the qualities of "faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, sincerity, veracity", and that of "agreement with fact or reality."
(Oxford English Dictionary)

In the context of philosophy, several theories have gone further to assert that there are yet other issues necessary to our analysis of verity, such as interpersonal power struggles, community interactions, and personal biases -- all of which may be factors involved in deciding what we believe is true.

Is truth elusive? Yes, most definitely. Truth is often so difficult for us to determine because objectivity means discovering the state or quality of being true outside of our own individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. To judge fairly, without bias, presumes we are capable of understanding the absolute need for neutrality without prejudgment.

Crane's poem "The Wayfarer" uses not a sturdy oak to represent truth but instead something that lay hidden somewhere behind a thickly grown blades of weeds. The speaker in the poem realizes no one in quite a while has even braved the threatening, pernicious barrier to the discovery. And, this path has become overgrown for fear of being sliced by the sharp edge of each individual weed that conceals the truth.

After briefly considering the impediment, the speaker decides, like the vast majority of travelers, to find some other less-dangerous road to certainty. The weedy symbol stresses the difficult, often painful nature of our quest for sincerity. Finding truth, something that should be easily accessed and openly practiced by all as a golden virtue, is very difficult. Like the wayfarer, if the path to exposure seems too injurious, we often feel finding truth can be accomplished on an easier route. 

But, in most of our truthful explorations, no primrose path exists. We soon learn that unless we venture into the weeds, we will never discover truth. We will be content to listen to the interpretations of others and believe in their opinions. And, unfortunately, many times this gullible action leads us to nothing but slanted opinions, half-truths, and well-calculated lies.

Armed with knowledge, logic, integrity, and great curiosity, a seeker of the truth must enter the weeds and cut a path to the reward. The task is daunting, but the effort and labor afforded in getting to the destination are the works that set us all free. Nothing. Nothing is more noble than fighting insurmountable odds to reveal the truth. In doing so, we forge new trails to justice and to equality.

The last several generations have become comfortable with untruths. People use falsehoods at will. From the top of the government down, we find the truth "spun" to fit the needs of biased ears. Lies have permeated our justice system, our law enforcement, our religions, and our schools.

Preferring easy access, we allow others to control our minds and our thoughts. Less and less, we find ourselves not using any critical thinking to discover the truth. We must educate ourselves and our children with skills that promote self-discovery. We need to put ultimate value on truth and be certain our loved ones have the tools needed to make their own "truth treks" as they build valuable personal integrity. Above all, we must understand our obligation to show them there is value in the truth itself.

A pioneer for truth is obligated by his or her love for their fellow human beings. Although finding a private truth may be a personal triumph, such solitary accomplishments pale in light of discoveries that free all of our fellow mortals. We must consider how much easier it would be to blaze a trail to such truths if we did so en masse. Surely as we shared the bleeding, each would suffer fewer injury and potential scars.

Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, once said, "Truth, like gold, is to obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold." I agree. Finding truth is like seeking gold: it takes hard work to uncover the valuable substance. Those who are willing to "wash away" the many things that obscure the truth mine precious freedom.

"God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. 
Take which you please — you can never have both."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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