My whole life I’ve heard religious folk claim special knowledge of divine TRUTH. They often speak of it expansively and in exaggerated verbal tones in order to add greater weight to their use of the term. For instance, some recognized authority may attempt to quell a spiritual rebellion by admonishing the subversive sinners not to abandon the TRUTH, as if the TRUTH is well known to all parties, requiring no further clarification. This is probably a safe assumption since where I come from, the doctrines of the priesthood are taught with overbearing frequency and consistency. A regular church attendee learns them well. There are many doctrines of Mormonism which are strange and unfamiliar to most Mormons which are nevertheless well known to members of my church. Therefore, admonishing someone not to abandon the TRUTH immediately brings to mind volumes of arcane instructions. Furthermore, the admonishment often precedes the pronouncement of harsh judgments and terrifying curses should the sinner fail to heed the warning. Apparently TRUTH is not a sufficient incentive in itself. Well, that is divine TRUTH, capital TRUTH. Feels good doesn’t it?
Then on the other hand, there is lowercase truth. It is plain, unassuming, and gentle. It doesn’t damn you if you don’t believe it. It simply waits instead. It knows that whatever really matters will eventually rise to the top and that all of the unimportant stuff will settle to the bottom. The process may take a very long time especially with agitators constantly stirring up the dregs, but the more murky they make their surroundings, the more they limit their own sight. Lowercase truth requires no concomitant threats to bolster its significance. It is often quietly discovered with noses in books, with pencils on paper, with pipets in test tubes, or with telescopes pointed at the silent night. It may be found by calming an upset child, by reassuring a spouse, or by arguing with a friend who holds an opposing view. It may distill upon the soul in the quiet contemplation of prayer. It may be found in many ways, but it’s found when the seeker is in a conducive frame of mind to receive it. Fear shuts down the thinking processes of the mind. Threats induce the fight or flight response: do I kick in your teeth or run to avoid them? Neither one of these conditions produce a fertile environment for seeking truth.
There are fundamental distinctions between TRUTH and truth which make the former a vexation and the latter an object of devotion, at least for me. Lowercase truth is honest. It only speaks of things which it personally knows. TRUTH repeats myths and legends with assertive testimony. It places credence in stories with respect to persons (how righteous, reputable, or authoritative they are). Practitioners of TRUTH forcefully apply it to everyone, except to themselves. Seekers of truth apply it to themselves alone and invite others to examine its benefits at will. TRUTH denounces science, shrinks from challenge, and controls inquiry. Lowercase truth embraces science, faces challenge, and encourages inquiry. It acknowledges that questions are more important than answers, that there is virtue in seeking alone even if never finding. TRUTH declares the answers for us and cautions us against questioning them unless we carefully arrive at the same conclusions that have already been written or spoken by canonized sources. The seeking and thinking has already been done. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along. Move along.”
Which brings me to the next point. TRUTH thrives among weak minds. I have no respect for accepting answers without inquiry. And before all the religious nutcases start shouting that they inquire into the answers provided by their religious leaders, let me ask, what happens when you come to a different conclusion? Is the answer defended intellectually? Are you free to examine the answer with the person who provided it or are you told to pray about it? Are you told that God will defend the answer? When God doesn’t defend it, are you ostracized for lacking faith? Is there intense pressure to come to the right conclusion? Does authority ever make mistakes? Is there ever a shadow of admission that the answer is wrong? I really want to know what happens when, after sincere inquiry, you find a different answer. I have my issues with Moses, but at least he broke the tablets that God himself wrote upon the mount. Moses smashed them to bits. That took guts and God respected him for it. After that, he told Moses to write his own damn tablets, but isn’t that what man was made to do, for God’s sake? To write his own fucking answers?! Have a little courage! Take it from Moses if you must, since you can’t take anything from unapproved sources.
Not all readers can relate to this. To readers who do not experience oppressive religion, I have a request for you on behalf of those who struggle with it daily. Lowercase truth is vitally important to us humans, but it doesn’t defend itself. It just is, with or without us. The vast majority of people on this planet still suffer under the veil of TRUTH blinded by bigotry, hate, and tyranny. So here is my request. Don’t squander your blessing. Don’t pass through life without a cause. Use your freedom to espouse truth. Love it and seek after it. Raise it into plain sight where those without may see it sooner. Nurture your less fortunate brothers and sisters. Learn mathematics and share it. Learn literature and share it. Extract truth from every source and share it. Relish your mind and its power to think. Model it for your neighbors. It is our greatest gift. Let us show God how much we appreciate it by making use of it frequently. Let it be adorned with the native beauty of truth. God bless.
Author of JACK
Image of scales taken from here.