Archive for the ‘truth’ Category

Recently, I identified the red-streaked house finches in my back yard, in the evening sky the Orion nebulae in my telescope and also I sorted a way to respond to my wife’s request for feedback on how to handle a touchy relational issue.

I also learned that diatoms — a major group of algae, specifically micro-algae found in the oceans — may pile up a half-mile deep on the oceanic floor. It may well be that oil supplies were formed out of the carbons. I love scientific knowledge. So cool!

I also noted in the news cycle that mortgage interest rates are falling to historic lows, and I am sorting who the candidates in the next election are that best reflect my values and priorities.

Knowledge — we do well to embrace it and all the academic disciplines and news sources ferreting it out, and I do. I rush to knowledge found in theology, science, history, art, linguistics and literature. I am a truth-monger. I crave understanding. I look for it everywhere.

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Proverbs 18:15

It’s wise to dig for knowledge. It’s treasure. But sometime we shouldn’t try; and sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes life puts us in places where understanding is beyond us and our attempts to grasp it become befuddled and confused. Life’s trauma — relational conflicts, exhaustion, loss, illness, poverty, violence and war can bring us into times when try as we might, we lack understanding and even wisdom goes missing.

Such times create a knowledge-deprivation and an attendant insight-humility. Even when we are healthy and stable, concerning so many issues we remain benighted and confuzzled. We experience a kind mental cinemuck. We wallow on the floor of our own scary movie theatre. At such times, brought low, if we are honest, we admit what we don’t know. This can be so disconcerting. It can also be a relief and in itself enlightening.

We Christians, unfortunately, have too often — well or sick — trafficked heavily in wisdom replacements, bad science, inept interpretations, conventional platitudes, sappy cliches, out-of-context Bible verses and a pride fueled denial of our own ignorance. But a poorly researched, unfootnoted, overly syrupy, Pollyanna Christianity helps and enlightens no one.

I’ve mind-wallowed recently as some of my health issues have escaped my understanding and have dodged resolution, both by me and my doctors, even my specialists! The experts in medical science — baffled. Such ignorance however is common to all disciplines and Paul’s “we see through a glass darkly” comes to mind.

Psalm 131, I like it, it’s helpful in modeling the opposite of the ubiquitously ego-driven quest for knowledge, good as knowledge is.

Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David

My heart is not proud, Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord

both now and forevermore.

Two questions. One, what are the great matters? They certainly includes matters where we have tried to find understanding concerning something and failed.

I don’t believe David is modeling giving up on understanding. Certainly not. In his writings, we can see is on a constant quest for truth, and yet here, concerning great matters, he cloaks himself in humility.

If you look over the history of competitive, self-driven experimentation, research, invention and discovery — look in science or theology— wherever you find unbridled ego, you will find grave unhappiness and tensing ignorance. You will find conflicts, law suits and relational smashups.

In contrast, when truth diggers have taken humbled attitudes before the unknown, taken needed breaks, consulted and relied on previous seekers, consulted their team, answers have often come to them in epiphanies and “Aha!”moments.

Second question: What does it mean to be a weaned child, content in our relationship with knowledge?

It means that we do well to rest in what we do know, celebrate what we do know and to let ourselves be weaned from what Fenelon refers to as the pseudo experiences that give “false courage to the senses,” that is merely propping up a hungry ego with an incomplete theory or insight that won’t hold water when reality comes along with it’s pointy stick and punctures it.

What to do?

Don’t stop seeking knowledge.

But when life weans you from understanding, seek contentment.

And for we who have faith, trust God that he knows and that he, like a wise mother, has us.

We can sit with him quietly, not understanding, yet loved and and at rest.

“Everybody lies,” he said and laughed.

Cynical, I thought. Too much time working in the Social Security Fraud department.

Now I don’t, disagree.

They do — lie.

We do. I do. We lie first to ourselves. We don’t and even can’t tell ourselves the whole truth about ourselves.

The truth about myself?

Recently, my wife reminded me that I tend to be dominant. It’s true. So does she, thus we make a great match —  two really strong people not easily told what to do. It works for us. We don’t — and can’t — run over each other very much. And so we allow for a fair degree of autonomy and independence in the relationship and we talk a lot, process a lot, keep everything current — criticism and praise. That is how we can tell we love — we’re honest.

But when other people tell me the truth about myself, sometime I deny it. Why? I’m not sure they love me, know me, care for me, and I fear motivated feedback, manipulative feedback, especially the negative stuff, but even sometime the positive. What are they trying to get from me with their frothy compliments?  Such guardedness, such suspicion,  closes me up to others,  but sometimes others —  even strangers and casual friends —  know me better than I know myself.

Simine Vazire, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University, has discovered that we are better at assessing our “own internal, or neurotic traits, such as anxiety, while friends are better barometers of intellect-related traits, such as intelligence and creativity.”

Cornell University social psychologist David Dunning, PhD has found that, “People overestimate themselves.” The least competent performers inflate their abilities the most,” seemingly based on ignorance of their own abilities.

This seems to be in part a cultural phenomena. Americans tend to overrate themselves; East Asians tend to underrate themselves. Sounds about right. In American, everybody gets a star in school.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for American overconfidence lies in our tendency to avoid giving each other feedback. Many of us are really quite closed when it comes to giving and receiving feedback. We tend to hide our assessments of other and ourselves — particularly negative assessments  — to gain a surface and veneered aura of public peace and acceptance.

We seem too much afraid of each other, and not skilled at delicate, nuance conversations that can promote deep bonds. We hold back, then gush, then attack, then hide; we are passive and aggressive, and we spoil things.

I can tell this is happening because people are always telling my something about someone else that they won’t tell that person. Triangulation seems rampant in our society. It is because we are chicken! And because we simply won’t face and do what works. Honesty works. Dishonesty — it doesn’t.

My bother told me a while back he thought I was a bit of an elitist about food and technology and material stuff. It stung, I considered it; then I told him. “You’re right, I am.  Sorry I offended you with that. I’ll work on it.” I am, working on it. We are closer now.

Can we do this with each other?

We can.

I’ve finding more and more that it is best to “go there,” and let other go there too, to bring up the issues that lie between us, to invite conflict, to gently talk about difference, early, before they inflate. It is best to be honest. It is best to be open. It is best to realize that I need others to properly assess myself. If I include them, then I can can get better at important stuff — at truth, at love.

Lies don’t work. Ignorance doesn’t work.

What works is gentle, safe, loving, ongoing dialogues about what is true — that works.

What passes through our eyes and into our heads, this is what we have to think with, and this is also — at least in part — what comes out of us.

In November, I read that Black Friday would have some good sales. It did, so I bought a iPad for my daughter. They fished; I bit.

What I read controls my behavior. If I read that life is a shopping cart, I shop.

This is how it works for most of us. We put limited information in our heads, we think in a limited way. We put in biased information; we think biased thoughts.

Consider the news. The news is booze. We are mostly just high on it — or low.

The American news media told us Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 Presidential election. They were wrong.

They predicted that American housing prices would continue to rise in 2006. Wrong again.

We feast ourselves regularly on blind print.

As I consider this, I think one of the main problems here  is that there is a myopic dipping, again and again into small, single-focused, partisan bubbles of information.  This is the thing. American news is so provincial, so narrow, so limited. It ignores so much of life in the rest of the world.

The local news feeds us local stuff — local fires, local robberies and local wrecks. It’s micro-woes and micro-climates in a world full of huge weather systems, of massive accomplishments and massive disasters. The local news is life, it’s important, but it’s a small feeding trough.

The national news is no better, because it feeds us from an only slightly larger bowl, a standard, tried-and-not-so-true menu — Washington, Wall Street, and Walmart. It’s our government, our economy, our business,  as if it was the only one in the world.

Provincial news, nationalistic news, incomplete news, inaccurate news, fake news, biased news — news based on our previous viewing habits — sensationalized news, ad driven news, we get a ton of that.  It’s half the story, not the story, the government’s story. News wise, we get had, all the time, in our brains.

To some extent, you are what you read. We buy what is put in front of us.Many Americans feed daily on a limited, Americanized, party-line, sound-bite version of the news. If we have a political bias, and most of us do, we limit ourselves to one or two news channel — the ones that share our bias. If we are conservative, we may get all our news from Fox News. If we are liberal from MSNBC/NBC. If we stick to these, we may show that we don’t want a report on reality; we simply  want to hear someone repeat what we already believe. It’s the post-truth thing — in us.

I am tired of it. Particularly as a Christian thinker. It’s not responsible. I don’t think God wants our minds controlled by incomplete, inaccurate sources. I think God wants us to be wise, unbiased, fair, knowledgeable. I believe he wants us to know people  — all the people of the world — to know their issues, to care for them, and to pray for people all over the world.

We can’t do that by only consuming only a standard, limited, local, American diet of news.

As a result, I have recently attempted to internationalize my input, read more widely, exposed myself to different sources, connect with the wider world, to care for the whole world, to see life though their eyes.

I’ve been reading from some of the following online sources. They aren’t unbiased, they too have limits, sometimes they too are selling a point of view, but by exposing my mind to different perspectives, to the news from different parts of the world, I am better able to understand competing mindsets, to see biases, to think with a broader base of information, to know a broader world.

I encourage us all to do the same, especially Christians, because we have a history of getting stuck in narrow perspectives. Because of the internet, we don’t have to be ignorant, we don’t have to limit our input to a few sources, we don’t have to get cramped into small, provincial, egocentric points of view.

I encourage you, my friends, read widely; consider your whole world. Here are some possible sources. You can find more sources like these by researching.

The Center for Public Integrity

The Christian Science Monitor

The Russian Times

The Asian Times

The British Broadcasting Corporation

The Latin American Post

Aljazerra – Middle East News

It’s been said that no news is good news. With that, we might avoid the news altogether.

But no news isn’t good news; no news is terrifying, because no news leaves us ignorant, and completely unaware of all the amazing people on our planet, and all the amazing and horrible things they are living through.

We are at our best when we are truth mongers — always after what is ampliative, honest, accurate and complete.

A friend who works investigating social security fraud once said to me, “Everybody lies.” I thought, “Wow, nothing like law enforcement to craft a lovely, generous, cherry outlook.”

Of course he was right — and of course he wasn’t. Blunt, extreme generalities seldom shelter complete truths.

Not everyone cheats the government out of social security money, not everyone is fundamentally a liar, but all of us sometimes fudge the truth a bit with each other, and perhaps for good reason. We do so to be sensitive, perhaps to be successful; some at times simply to be safe.

Some one recently asked me, “How do you like it? ” It was about their hair. “Careful, careful,” my mind whispered frantically. “Your life depends on your answer.”

We prevaricate, or at least dither with the truth, to be kind, sensitive, supportive.  It works, kind of, but let’s be honest here. We do lie. All of us, and it has come to me in moments of personal clarity that perhaps the most fundamental lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

Recently I dialogued with myself about a certain kind of success. I muttered internally, “I don’t really care.” I really do. My accismus is self-protection. If you can’t get something, pretend you don’t want it. “Ah,” that’s painful.”

But there is hope, as we blunder towards Bethlehem, as we muddle toward the kind of truth that can set us free. Truth is a process — with our Caesars, with our friends and family, with ourselves.

Someone told me recently, “I trust you.” I trust this person too, and yet a deeper level of trust still needs to be and can be constructed as we get to know each other better. Trust takes time.

Consider ritual deference. It is a game we all play. Flatter publically; mistrust privately. And let’s not act uppity about this.

Who hasn’t been obsequious? Who hasn’t fawned, flattered, flirted and flummoxed the truth, to ingratiate ourselves to another person we wanted something from, even if it was something good, perhaps simply mutual respect.

It isn’t all bad. Recently someone asked me if I liked a purchase they made. “It’s great,”  I said. “Nice. Good job.” In a way I covered my opinion, but I did so because I wanted them to have the say, make the choice, enjoy their selection. It didn’t matter what I really thought. What I was saying was that I supported their right to make this decision independent of me.

The dispensing of truth is a lot about discernment, roles, dosage, timing —  even love.

I love you so I will tell you the truth. I love you, so I will be very careful with what and when and how I speak to you.

I just read Winning From Within, by Erica Fox, and The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, and I’m now reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. I’ve also been reading the book of Acts, in the Bible.

Some of my Christian friends don’t read much outside the Bible. This is not the case with me. I am madman for truth, hungry to know as much as I can from whoever I can learn it from. I find that a variety of reading gives a width, depth and height to my store of knowledge.

Is this the Christian way?

Paul quoted the pagan poets; Daniel studied Babylonian literature. Jesus was the great observer of nature, following the way of Solomon, the wisdom sage-scholar. Truth is, in fact, everywhere. God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, he confronted Balaam by means of a donkey, the sun, moon and starts speak for him continually.

Oswald Chambers went so far as to claim, “The man who reads only the Bible does not, as a rule, know it or human life.” That’s a strong claim, but it carries a credible point.  I’ve met people who put themselves forward as knowing the Bible well, and yet who knew so little of the workings of their own hearts that they became harmful in their relationships with others. They would do well to look within, to observe the inner dialogue of their own hearts, to learn about human nature from wide reading, from science, from the study of psychology. In this way they could better understand and help themselves and others.

In Philippians 4:8 Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Paul didn’t limit his admonition to seek truth, beauty or justice to the scripture. He said, “whatever is true,” implying wherever you find it.  This is in line with the ancient proverbist himself, who in the book of Proverbs, claims that wisdom cries out from every corner. I find it so.

Recipes for good food, medical information for healing, solutions to computer problems, directions to our next destination, the meaning of unfamiliar words, an understanding of culture, the sciences, the planet — wise ones seek knowledge from many sources.

I urge all my family, friends and followers — read, look, listen.  Sample and test; experiment; draw conclusions.

Know yourself. Know what others think. Know your world. Know God.

Why? Because truth and knowedge and wisdom are the gifts of God, and wise ones seek them everywhere as if they are gold.

Within knowledge lies solution and health and improvement. Within truth lies safety, relationship and the greatest things of all — love and God.

Got it? Get it!