The Unyielding Search for Truth
To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me. - Isaac Newton
I've been wanting to write a post like this for some time now, but have been unable to due to the fact that I can't quite seem to bring my thoughts fully into focus regarding this matter. I recognize that this may never happen to the degree I would like it to, so I've resigned to finally put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and record what I think...hopefully you can take something away from it.
How does one go about finding truth? Well before we can answer that I suppose we must first define what truth is: an accurate and complete description of some facet of reality. I am sure that there are other definitions which are much longer and more philosophically correct1 ...but this definition will do for now, I think.
Back to our question...
How does one go about finding truth? Do we trust our senses? Our intution? Well if you think about it, there's really only a couple ways that a person is capable of knowing anything, but how do we know that these venues lead to true descriptions of reality? What if we lack the sensory tools to detect certain qualities of an object, do we see those objects for the way they really are? If not then are we not capable of knowing the truth about that object?
At this point I'm speaking at a level of abstraction that is above any given worldview, including the one given by the Bible. After all, how can someone develop a worldview if they can't even know that a world exists?
With that said, however, I do think it is interesting to note that Paul told the Corinthians that we do not see things for how they really are, rather we see them "through a glass, darkly".2That would seem to suggest that we cannot determine a truly accurate description of reality without some help from another who does see it correctly.
I'm reminded of the movie "The Matrix" (which if you have never seen it, you should). In this movie, most of humanity is born into an illusory world known as the matrix, the people who are plugged into the matrix are unable to realize this, however, and unkowingly accept this illusion as truth. On rare occasions there will be a person who stumbles onto some hint of the fact that they are essentially in a prison of the mind...but so long as a person is plugged in they cannot "wake up" of their own accord, they must be rescued by someone on the outside who sees reality for the way it really is.
This idea bothers me, but there is really nothing I or anyone else can do about it.
After thinking about it for a while I realized that if I am ever going to be able to feel intellectually satisfied then I must place my search for truth above all else. Even if I am never able to find it and the truth eludes me, I would have been satisfied by the fact that I tried to search for it as hard as I could have.
There are some curious feelings I have encountered along the way, though. One emotion I commonly encounter deals with a clash between my urge to know a truth and my fear about the reprucussions of what that truth would mean if it's contrary to my currently held beliefs. One part of me needs to know the truth no matter what, while the other half would rather not ask and just go on living comfortably in ignorance. I am afraid that the price of knowledge will not be worth the joy of living without it.
Near the beginning of "The Matrix", the protagonist is given a choice between a red pill and a blue pill. If he takes the red pill then he chooses to "see how deep the rabbit hole goes" and will discover the truth...if he takes the blue pill then he will pass up the opportunity of knowing the truth so that he can go on living in blissful ignorance. The only problem here is that if he chooses to know the truth then he will radically alter his worldview for the rest of his life, and in this case the truth is not a happy one. In return for that price, however, he would finally be able to know why and would no longer have to ask why.
One who places his search for truth above all else must, in the end, have no fear. So it ultimately depends not on one's ability to search but rather on his ability to let go of his fear that determines whether or not he will succeed in looking for truth.
Where I found truth, there I found my God, who is the truth itself. - St. Augustine
1 - Such as this one: The conformity of a proposition to the way things are. Precise analysis of the nature of truth is the subject of the correspondence, coherence, pragmatic, redundancy, and semantic theories of truth.
2 - Some translations will say "in a mirror, dimly."