Sunday, July 15, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and ultimate truth (part 1)

A study in what this story illustrates about the nature of ultimate truth

All of us can see the story from Phyllis's side and from Hayley's side. We all can understand where each is coming from, and we can commiserate with the plight of each.

"What's true for me is not true for you."

All of us have probably heard this saying at one time or another, and at first glance, it looks like this story illustrates a confirmation of this statement. What was true for Phyllis was not true for Hayley. What was true for Hayley was not true for Phyllis. Neither one could enter into the other's reality.

This can represent all kinds of debates, but perhaps most frequently it is used to apply to religion. Belief in the Bible, faith in Christ, awareness of spiritual realities, and the afterlife are seen by many people as "true for Christians" and accepted and respected as such, but that is as far as it goes. "That's just not true for me," people say with a shrug. The non-Christian is not able to enter the Christian's reality.

Similarly, Christians observe the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Hindu, or the witch doctor and say to themselves, "How can they believe that? It doesn't make any sense." The Christian is unable to enter the non-Christian's reality.

Therefore, it has become very popular to account for these differences by passing over the matter with a shrug. "What's true for them is not true for me," we say, and leave it at that.

Insufficient Explanation

I am here to argue that it's not good enough to explain away our differences so glibly. We are missing a key piece of information when we accept the saying, "What's true for me isn't true for you," and in so doing, we keep ourselves in the dark and rob ourselves of the truly intellectually-satisfying experience of seeing all the puzzle pieces fitting together.

I would also argue that this story holds some hidden principles that we can use to unlock other analogous situations. It shows us that we all have certain, innate, built-in structures in our thought patterns that enable us to identify reality and distinguish truth from error.

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