Monthly Archives: September 2013

Truth

In John 18:33–38, while being interrogated by Pilate, “Jesus answered, ‘For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’

Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’”

Maybe if Jesus could’ve pitched a zinger, a sound bite he knew would reach Pilate where he lived, he would’ve responded. But most likely no such zinger is within the province of language.

Imagine Jesus answering, as did the poet John Keats about 1800 years later: “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.”

So Pilate asks, ‘What is Beauty?’

Suppose Jesus answers, “Love.”

Then Pilate counters, “And just what is love?” Which leads Jesus back to Truth, beginning an endless loop.

Or Jesus might’ve answered, as according to John 14:6 he did to his disciple Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”

To such a claim, Pilate could reply, “That’s not an answer.” Which would be a valid point, as Jesus seems to imply elsewhere.

In John 8:31-32, “Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed him, ‘If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'”

Here he has revealed that knowledge of the truth requires the actions of perseverance, discipline, and application of a fund of principles.

Probably since the concept of truth entered language, folks have argued it’s meaning. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives a summary of 20th century approaches. If you’re up for a challenge, give it a read.

Of the philosophers I’ve consulted on the topic, Soren Kierkegaard offers revelations that most appeal to my admittedly highly subjective mind.

What you’ll find below I have clipped from a philosophy website and edited a bit for the sake of conciseness and clarity.


Subjective Truth

Kierkegaard distinguishes between objective and subjective truth. Considered objectively, truth merely seeks attachment to the right object, correspondence with an independent reality. The statement “cats often meow” is objective truth. Considered subjectively, however, truth seeks achievement of the right attitude, an appropriate relation between object and knower. Thus, for example, although Christianity is objectively merely one of many available religions in the world, it subjectively demands our complete devotion.

For Kierkegaard, it is clearly subjective truth that counts. How we believe matters much more than what we believe, since the “passionate inwardness” of subjective adherence is the only way to deal with our anxiety. Anxiety, a condition central to Kierkegaard’s world view, is the appropriate reaction by seekers of truth to accepting that they must make the journey entirely on their own, relying on nobody or no set of dogma. Passionate attachment to a palpable falsehood, Kierkegaard supposed, is preferable to detached conviction of an objective truth or common belief.

This could translate, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you’re sincere.” But Kierkegaard’s standards for sincerity are exceedingly high. They bring us around the circle to John 8:31, where Jesus advises those who seek the truth to practice discipline, perseverance and the application of the principles he teaches. And I’ll maintain that such application requires uncommon humility and deep, courageous honesty.

For now, at least, I’m going to end this exploration with a highly subjective conclusion: Truth is that which alerts us to Beauty by drawing us closer to openhearted, generous, selfless Love. 

Find Ken Kuhlken’s books at www.kenkuhlken.net

Fun

I was hanging out with writer friends when someone suggested that the best move we could make was to, at the appropriate time, put aside writing for a few weeks or months and devote ourselves to promotion. Afterward, we could return to writing with more optimism about the fate of our books.

One writer commented: “But promotion isn’t any fun.” When all the others heartily agreed, I found myself wondering, are most of us wedded to this vocation mostly because it’s fun?

If that’s the case, I thought, what if we could make promotion fun? To that question, my rather childish mind responded, “Think about Mary Poppins.” In the Disney film Zoe and I have watched a dozen times. Mary sings, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun…. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

My big daughter Darcy found high school so tedious and irrelevant, she often made a detour somewhere between my car and the classroom and spent her days at a mall or a friend’s house. But, the semesters when she had an art class, she attended art and also her other classes. And in college as an art major, she not only enjoyed the art classes but discovered she appreciated some others.

So what if we could isolate the part of promotion we enjoy and devote serious time to that. Maybe the rest of the medicine would go down easier, and actually get done.

Perhaps each of us finds different parts of the promotion efforts fun. I enjoy tinkering with web sites and watching ideas take concrete form. When I ran a bookstore, I enjoyed stocking the place and organizing the shelves, while I didn’t much care for dealing with customers. Some days I would mutter a line of John Paul Sartre’s: “Hell is other people.”

Not that I don’t care for people. Most of them I either like or love. But they wear me out. I suppose that’s why you won’t find me involved in much tweeting or facebook chit chat. It’s a self defense technique, guarding my energy. But I do like to blog, and to link this to that, which gives me the illusion that I’m in control of something.

And if the day goes well, if I don’t encounter a legion of computer mishaps or run-ins with demanding, manipulative, or ornery people, I may find myself in such an upbeat mood, even tweeting feels fun.

Ken Kuhlken and his books reside at www.kenkuhlken.net