Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Subjective Truth


  [suhb-jek-tiv] –adjective 1.existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought ( opposed to objective). (dictionary.com)
So many people believe the concept of "Truth" exists. It is one of those things we just grow up learning about - Truth versus lies. When you were growing up, how many times did your parents ask if you were telling the Truth? We never think to question what that means, it is so ingrained in us. Our entire legal system is built upon it. But does a completely True statement ever really exist?   So much of this world takes shape through the specific lens each individual looks through, that I am starting to question if there is such a thing as a global, undisputed True statement. Everything I am finding is one person's Truth, which may or may not be mine as well.
Last week we went to see some fireworks. It was a beautiful show - huge explosions coming one right after another, us ohhing and ahhing at the brightness. After that night, I could have confidently came up with some True statements about fireworks:

  1. Fireworks are loud
  2. Fireworks are bright
  3. Fireworks explode high in the air
Fast forward 4 days to me returning from a quick business trip. My flight took off about 9pm, just as it was getting dark. I was looking out the window and part way into the flight, started seeing these weird shooting star type blinking lights, close to the ground. I perked up a little, confused what I was seeing. I would see one over there, then one up there a bit, then another one back there, then again up there a bit. What was going on??!?!
Suddenly, one happened directly under my window - the closest one yet. I could see the individual pieces making up what I thought was a blinking light and I understood, I was seeing fireworks. Being the Friday before the 4th of July, it seemed like every city between Philadelphia and Detroit had their fireworks shows going on! I saw bigger displays with many going off at once, I saw what was probably backyard shows with a sporadic one here and there.  It was an amazing site - seeing so many shows at once, knowing the people on the ground were only experiencing one show. It was like I was connecting them all together by being in that plane to see them. 
Seeing these fireworks, and comparing them to the ones I had witnessed under totally different circumstances a week earlier, brought out this quandary in my brain. A statement as simple as "fireworks are bright" was negated in that plane, with the ones I was seeing much less luminous than some of the building and streetlights surrounding them. They certainly weren't loud since I couldn't hear them at all in the plane. And they weren't high up since I was much higher than they were. Everything I could have confidently stated about fireworks a week before were all falsities in this new situation I was in while viewing them. 
It got me thinking to arguments and how useless they are. My week-ago self could have argued with my plane-self about the brightness or loudness of fireworks, and they would have both been correct. They would have been each telling a True statement - with the Truth subjective to their individual experiences. How often in arguments do we believe we are correct and the other person is wrong? What if next time, you try to believe you are both correct? How would that change your way of arguing? Seeing that there might be two or more True sides to a story removes most ammo and instead leads more to a need to understand versus a need to be right, which leads to a much more well-rounded view of your existence. Try it next time. No matter how wrong you think they are, try to see their argument as if it were correct, like they see it. It is amazing how much you can learn with this simple task.

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