It can be a daunting task to face the world and try to figure out any kind of universal truth from the storm of reality that greets you. It’s like looking out on a hurricane whose swirling winds are made up of countless images, voices, ideas, policies, religions, studies and proclamations, all of which bellow their unchanging truths, many of which contradict each other directly, clashing in an eternal struggle for dominance. THIS is the way, proclaims one religion, THAT is the truth states one scientist, THERE IS NO TRUTH say some people in reply, and it’s easy to sympathise with them in the face of this onslaught.
Those of you reading this as you face the hurricane will have your own approach to interpreting reality…
There will be readers with an established belief system, a religion, god or gods to look to for truth, a church, synagogue, mosque or brotherhood within which to shelter. If this is the case, you look about you and the world must still be tumultuous, but your faith probably helps you to organise the chaos into a coherent system of morals and a sense of personal direction.
At first thought it may seem like everyone can be described in this way if you replace prophets and holy books with scientists and textbooks, gurus and mantras, politicians and newspapers, celebrities and gossip magazines, or whatever acts in the place of traditional faith for each individual. However, there must be a large number of people who are undecided or confused, whose response to the storm is not to find a belief system but to switch off and hide from it, become overwhelmed and upset by it, or simply decide that it’s unimportant as they go about their daily lives… which after all, still need to be lived, whatever you believe!
And it becomes more complicated still… there are surely people who respond with the intellectual rejection of any solid reality, who decide that everyone’s reality seems totally and utterly different from everyone else’s. Other people may profess a specific belief or faith whilst being plagued by doubt in the form of questions that no-one seems to be able to answer. Still others might pick and choose from many belief systems, constructing a complicated web of ideas to support them in hard times.
As you read this, only you know with any accuracy where you fall within the full range of beliefs and/or non-beliefs in the world, and regardless of your faith or lack thereof, I don’t think it’s hard to sympathise with believers and non-believers of all kinds. In their private minds, everyone’s experienced a variation of unflinching belief and niggling questions about everything the world has to offer.
So, we face each other across the storm: I’m the writer and you’re the reader, but our roles might easily reverse if you wanted to reply to me. As far as I’m concerned writing this, you could be anyone, yet there is real communication between us, and the real potential of extending it into conversation. I hope that with these words, I’ve talked about a range of ideas and observations that you’ve probably recognised and understood if you’ve come this far. I’m not sure if you agree with everything I’ve said, but if you disagree, what an incredible basis of language there is to disagree with, what an amazing sense of understanding there is in the simple fact that you can read what I write!
Just a handful of sounds with corresponding symbols can be arranged in infinite, yet highly organised combinations to communicate, discuss and examine anything that pops into our heads! If you were unclear about an idea, I could use words and ideas you’re familiar with to introduce you to it, and you could use the same sets of words to introduce me to new ideas! We can share experiences that we’re likely or certain to both have had: waking up, going to sleep, eating, drinking, listening, seeing and feeling the world that we share, countless things that we share, countless things that we’ve both experienced… and we might not even know each other! When used well, our language cuts through the hurricane like poetry through butter, describing, commenting, analysing, comparing, debating, exclaiming or celebrating, and all so that others might understand us, or come to understand us in time.
If there is no truth, no discernible structure to the world, how can language have such a beautiful and functional structure, how can it be translated from any current culture to any other? If there is no shared reality, if each human is so different from the next, how can we potentially share so much, how can we come to understand each other on so many basic but profound matters, regardless of our beliefs? Or is such a thing impossible? It’s food for thought… and discussion! Over time, I hope to produce a series of connected blog entries on truth and communication that form a sort of narrative, and I hope that anyone who reads it will reply with their own thoughts and challenges to my ideas and observations.