Giving Up on Truth Will Set You Free

If you get nothing else from this website, please take away the possibility of this: The pursuit of Truth is a fool’s errand.

Fool’s Errand 1: The Impossible Task

We grow up in a world of competing stories. Call them culture, call them religion, call them beliefs; at heart, they are stories about the world, the universe, and our place in it. Some of them are trivial, at least on the surface (what you must serve at Thanksgiving dinner springs to mind). Some of them encode profound or demanding limitations about the world (never do [this] or you will suffer eternal damnation). When we are small children, the stories we hear are largely determined by the people who are raising us – our parents, grandparents, extended family, church or social community. Even our access to media is limited. The degree of certainty of our “truths” depends on the degree of certainty of the people presenting it to us.

We are taught to deny our (inner) truths, the things that we know or suspect about ourselves, and to defer to the dominant stories of our tribes. And we suffer for it, trying to fit ourselves into ill-fitting costumes the size of a life. Someday we wake up, and find ourselves thinking, “Is this really all there is? Is that it?”

The stakes are high. The clock is ticking. And someday you are going to die.

No pressure.

Liberation: You are Probably Wrong

Here is something I want you to hear. You are one of billions of people on the planet. Your experiences are necessarily limited. It is the nature of experience to be partial. You are not The One with the final answers. (Neither am I, just to be clear.)

I want you to release yourself from the requirement of being Right. This is not easy. It runs contrary to almost all of our upbringings. If you can’t do it right now, allow me to suggest this: Entertain the mere possibility that you are not required to be Right.

And then I want you to step forward in freedom, recognizing that They are not Right, either. This truth-seeking is a lifetime practice, a path to right relationship with the world. It is not a task of choosing among (limited, partial) competing stories, each of which claims to be The Way. It is a recognition that you carry part of the story of the universe in your embodiment, and that each person and being that you daily encounter is also carrying a part of the story of the universe. Together we are keepers of the storylines.

Fool’s Errand 2: Beginner’s Mind

It is not to be said that I claim that nothing is true. I am a scientist, a philosopher, and a storyteller. I demand that my worldviews have some correspondence with my observed reality. Here are my limitations: I experience my interior world as though I have free will, and I experience a world “out there” as though it actually exists. I cannot seriously entertain worldviews that deny either of those claims.

That leaves me a wide range of possibility. I suggest this as a liberatory practice: when encountering something new, set aside, for a moment, your existing models. Don’t start with judgment. Approach with curiosity. What is the nature of this story? What questions does it purport to answer? What does it make possible in the world? What does it make impossible? I promise you, this is not just intellectually lazy. It is a way of engaging with truth claims that allows for possibility. It is challenging to engage with ideas as neither right nor wrong, but partial, particularly those which demand that you cease to exist, or that claim their right to extinguish your thoughts. I do not ask you to accept all ideas as equally valid… but don’t be so quick to reject, or to react from your existing models.

Approach with beginners mind: If I didn’t already “know” all that I know, how would that change things? Let it become a compassion practice…

And breathe.