I was sitting out by the fireless fire pit in the Las Vegas backyard of my great friend Shawn Williams. We were having one of those conversations that matter. You know, beyond the surface level of sports and weather. Genuine, meaningful and vulnerable sharing back-and-forth. Then wisdom stumbled out of Shawn’s mouth: “It’s real, but it’s just not true.” It immediately caught my attention … an insight that I knew had implications way beyond our conversation-at-hand.
It was an insight that deserved its own conversation.
Fearful that Shawn would say it first, I quickly replied: “Hmmmm …. Real vs. True … you ought to write a book on that!” As anticipated, he shot back with: “I was just getting ready to tell YOU that!” Maybe it will deserve a book someday, even knowing the likelihood a plethora have already been penned about it.
Nonetheless, in subsequent conversations, Shawn and I have noticed numerous examples of the gaps between what is real and what is true. The implications are wide and varied. As I continued to ponder it, the concept felt a bit like a cousin to the notion of a previous DIG DEEP newsletter article on Core Values Beyond Belief. Connected, yet different too.
Beliefs can certainly alter reality, yet sometimes we don’t let truth alter either.
It feels, today, that we are experiencing more than just a drought of truth. It seems we may be experiencing an increasing lack of desire for the truth. So much has jumped in line in front of truth … labels, bias, prejudice, cliques, tribes, boundaries, expediency, convenience along with self or group justification. Fattened-up on spin and sensationalism, I would suggest that we are starving for truth. Anchored in foxholes, we can fall into the trap of listening to what confirms our reality rather than challenges it.
It is completely understandable. It feels better to embrace a sense of quick confirmation. We can feel smarter and justified. Oh yes, and then there is that sense of being correct. It’s as good as a warm blanket wrapping our own ego in comfort. And the experience of it all is very real. Believe me, I have used plenty of those blankets myself. And that is the truth!
It is often said that “perception is reality.” How true that is. Yet reality is not always truth. Frequently, reality is not truth at all. I fully understand that I’m climbing out on a weak limb here because in a quick search to Dictionary.com or Webster.com you will see that each, in part, uses “reality” in the very definition of truth. I would concede that some reality is truth, but not all truth is the reality we create.
And without a genuine desire for truth, beyond all else, we are far more likely to deepen the reality we experience … whether it’s truth or not. And rarely is this intentional.
Which is what makes it all the more dangerous.
I am currently reading a book shared with me by a friend. It is titled Fifty Years with the Golden Rule written by J.C. Penny. In the early pages, I was struck by his warning of the impact of the increasing speed of change. He wrote this in 1950. Speed has an impact on the formation of our reality if we don’t step back to observe its implications.
And so do the extremes of anything. Extremes move you closer to a false reality rather than deeper into a truth. You can see great examples of this in political parties, churches, countries, powerfully enriched industries, liberalism and conservatism alike. I have found it in my own mirror as well.
So, who gets to decide what is true? I would suggest no one. It isn’t a decision. It’s an ongoing search amongst all of us. Once you decide, you quit searching for truth because you think you have found it … and your decision becomes your basis from which you build your entire reality. Unfortunately, even most well-intended judges and juries have missed the truth even when they were searching for it.
I think our best search for truth is lined by our diversity, by reaching and learning through all that seems uncomfortable, always questioning and doubting what we have decided to be true. In John 18:38, even Pilate asks What is truth? Stuck in a tough reality, at least Pilate was still searching for the truth.
The confidence we embrace in our individual reality makes us ever smaller. Whereas, our collective search for truth can widen our perspective, while deepening our understanding. It is the difference of division and multiplication.
In our endless search for truth, it is unlikely we will find it. It ultimately finds us. And whenever it does, it’s a treasure in which we all can share.