Devoted to truth

By the time dinner was over, we were sitting like content cats, warm and sleepy, sinking into the corners of the couch. The conversation had relaxed to a steady rhythm, like the breath you listen for in a slumbering child.

“If you can’t rely on the Bible for truth,” Dimitri was saying, “then where do you look?”

I gazed at a poster on the wall, not really seeing it. The Bible and me – yes, what a contentious relationship we’d had. It no longer made sense to believe all it contained at face value. Worse, often my efforts at understanding context and peering behind bad translations left me wondering whether I was getting any closer to truth, or just reading into the Bible what I wanted to read.

“I suppose you look within yourself,” I said. Even I wasn’t entirely convinced.
“But then you could end up believing just about anything, based on your personal circumstances or just the whim of the moment.”

Dimitri is not religious, but I agreed with him on this one. When you seek truth, surely you need some kind of reference point. People believe all kinds of crazy things because it feels right. There is good spirit within me, but I can’t know truth based on that alone.
“You need to talk to other people,” I offered.
“Yes.” Dimitri was nodding. “There’s something to be said for talking to others, and maybe for traditions, too. You can’t believe something because it feels right at the time, and write off centuries of thought and the experiences of other people.”

At some point Dimitri mentioned the word ‘listening’. Maybe truth-seeking involves good listening skills, I mused. Listening to other people, the voices in your own tradition, the voices in other traditions, the sounds of your own heart, the words of sacred texts, the movement of waves and the rustle of a breeze. I don’t think truth can be found in any one of these things. It has to be sought after in all of them.

The conversation reminded me of a prayer by Leunig:

In order to be truthful.
We must do more than speak the truth.
We must also hear truth.
We must also receive truth.
We must also act upon truth.
We must also search for truth.
The difficult truth.
Within us and around us.
We must devote ourselves to truth.
Otherwise we are dishonest
And our lives are mistaken.
God grant us the strength and the courage
To be truthful.

I haven’t known Dimitri for very long, and we continually marvel at just how differently our brains are wired. You really think like that? He is brain; I am gut. He is scientist; I am spiritualist. While I am intrigued by mystery, he would prefer to ignore what is unknowable; what cannot be measured or investigated. He wants concrete truths. I am content with the knowledge that some deep truths cannot be proven, but are still very, very real.

But the prayer struck a cord with both of us. While we seek our truths in different ways, we are nonetheless both devoted to it. We are both ‘listening’, but perhaps hear different things.

What we agree on is that truth must be lived. It is no good simply to believe. If the world is heating up we must do something to reverse it. If Christ calls us to befriend the poor then that is what we must do.
Otherwise we are dishonest
And our lives are mistaken, says Leunig.

We sipped tea, together and different, pondering the nature of truth.

God grant us the strength and the courage
To be truthful.