Working With Truth
Our third degree, as everyone knows, is the Degree of Truth. Odd Fellows are told that “truth IS the imperial virtue.” But how do we know what truth is? How do we arrive at “truth?” Is there anything that can be called “THE truth?” Your Conductor’s goal here is to simply raise questions about “truth” and start a dialog in your mind about it. By the way: your Conductor does not claim to be a philosopher.
Here are three observations about “truth.”
The first one:
Examine the following sentence:
“This sentence is false.”
Can we say this sentence is true? Or is it as the sentence says: “false?” Or is it both at the same time? Actually, the sentence is a paradox. A paradox is a statement or situation that involves a certain tension between two claims that seem obviously true.
“This sentence is false” states that the sentence is clearly false. But the sentence also lays out a position that it must be true. So, which is it? Is the sentence partially true, or completely true? Or is it partially false or completely false?
Here’s the second one:
Experiences may be measured with a sliding scale. One end of the sliding scale is completely true. The other end is completely false. If we say, “today the wind did not blow.” Is this a true statement or can it be only partly true? If we think about it, the wind likely blew somewhere on earth “today.” So, this statement would not be completely true, and it would fall somewhere along the sliding scale, but not at the “completely true” end. On the other hand, if we say “It did not rain today,” but we collected a measurable amount of rain we might say the sentence is false. But, it may not have rained in other places and, why does it take a certain amount of water falling for us to call it rain? So, we can’t put our “rain” statement on the false end of the scale either.
So, at what point does true become false? At what point does false become true? At what point does true Friendship become true Love? At what point does red become orange? Is there an exact point we can all agree upon? Some would say that true and false are expressions of the same thing.
If we assume that ideas about truth follow along this sliding scale and nothing is necessarily true or false always, then why does humanity often search for a single universal truth?
Which is the MOST truthful view of Van Gogh in this video? As he saw himself or as the video maker sees him? And, what is the MOST truthful view of you? As you see yourself, or as others see you? (continued below video)
Here’s the third one, and it “is” about a simple word: “is.”
The word “is” may be problematic when discussing the present moment. It implies that something could be total, absolute, perfect OR absolutely true in that moment. “The Mountain IS beautiful.” “Today IS Tuesday.” “2+2 IS 4.” “This IS a table.” “She IS mad.” “This IS art.” “This IS a problem.” And so on down the line.
Someone once observed that the concept behind the word “is” limits our ability to search for solutions. The concept behind “is” meaning something solid, firm, unchanging—something we don’t need a solution for or something we don’t need to see differently. In fact, as this person observed, we might be better off using “could be,” or “might be” in place of “is”. “The mountain MIGHT BE beautiful,” “today COULD BE Tuesday,” “2+2 MIGHT BE 4,” “this COULD BE a table,” “she MIGHT BE mad,” “this COULD BE art,” “this MIGHT BE a problem.”
Heck, “Truth COULD BE the imperial virtue…”
Viewing the word “is” in this way opens an entire world of possibilities, solutions, and yes, more problems. It opens the mind to further inquiry and in this we can discover more about ourselves and others.
Scott The Conductor
Scott Moye is an award winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folkore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas. He is a founder of Heart in Hand blog.