Looking at Four Truths
I write a newsletter once a year to friends for the winter solstice, summarizing my year and the year in general as it has unfolded for me. All the news that’s passed before me, before them. This habit started in 1999, before the turn of the millennium since the world was supposedly going to end then and I wanted to have some final say to my friends about what I was thinking about at that time. I even held an “End of the World Party”. As we know, nothing much happened – planes did not fall out of the sky, computers continued to work, life went on. The Fireworks were awesome though. And the newsletter habit continued.
Now I’m starting my Solstice newsletter earlier than ever, just because this year has been cramped with change and varying degrees of truth. Whose stories are you going to believe? Yes, fires in Australia, Iraq shot down a plane destined for Canada, a pangolin started the pandemic – whoa, wait? what? The airwaves are flooded with stories, and the ever shifting uncertainty of truth creates that shaky feeling in the pit of our stomachs. So what can we do? What is the TRUTH?
What about if we accept that there are different kinds of truth out there? Objective truth is what exists and can be proved in the world physically. The Story e.g. – the Covid19 virus causes a nasty incurable infection at this time. Normative truth is what we as a group agree is true. Our Story e.g. Because of the incurability of this infection, there is a pandemic that requires everyone to take safety precautions like hand washing and wearing masks in public. Subjective truth is how an individual sees or experiences the world. My Story e.g. Because I have taken these precautions, I have not gotten infected, but others are not complying and are at risk, so I will avoid contact with them. Complex truth recognizes the validity of all those truths and allows you to focus on the one most useful at any given time. e.g. Today is a good day, I should be safer, now that the city passed regulations requiring mask wearing in public indoor spaces, so let’s go grocery shopping.
So what difference does having four truths to use make in my world? Well, for one thing, everyone has those four truths available to them and when I consider how others are shaping their world, I need to check in with my own normative truth and the objective truths to filter what is true for me in my world. Social media feeds me a lot of subjective truth, which might not be factual or helpful, therefore not worth sharing with others and creating a new, normative truth in my friends group. For my Solstice newsletter, I check my facts against objective truth before I file it away in my normative truth box for consideration later for publication and perpetuation. Thinking about the four truths and how they work in the world saves me a lot of embarrassment to reduce incidents of retraction and or apologizing later for stating the correction. You can take the next wise step in your work, too. How would you apply the Four Truths?
graphic courtesy of HSD Institute