So let it be written…
Let’s speak about the truth, and nothing but.
So many storm clouds are swirling out there, threatening to conceal it. It’s been so since we were spearing Woolly Mammoths with sticks, I suppose. But at this point in time, when millions of people are ensconcing themselves in self-contained social media echo chambers, and people like Mr. Trump figure it’s OK to try to re-create truth in his own image on Twitter, it feels like night has fallen.
The necessity to always have “fact-checkers” on hand has become a sad mainstay of political election coverage.
So what is truth?
These days, you will often hear people say things like, “She needs to speak her truth,” or “He needs to speak his truth,” or “I need to speak my truth.”
The truth cannot be co-opted, or tailor-made to our own purposes or personal perception of it. It is in essence insoluble, indestructible, and perfectly singular in being, independent of whatever spin or other purpose we might seek to apply to it. In other words, it exists outside of ourselves.
As timeless as the stars, the truth remains constant. It is also purity defined.
That’s why, when we refer to it, we put the article “the” in front of it.
Jesus Christ says “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Fox Mulder, in the X-Files, says “The truth is out there.”
And Colonel Nathan R. Jessup shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Not my truth, not his truth, not our truth, not their truth. The truth. You get the picture.
That’s not to say the truth, while ultimately impervious to human machinations, is not itself subject to relentless attempts at adulteration and attack.
Remembrance Day approaches, or has passed by, depending on when you read this column. In the United States, that’s Memorial Day.
Nothing so badly misuses truth quite like war. During the American Civil War, 1861-65, both sides claimed truth and God’s blessings in their cause as they went about shooting each other in the face with Colt revolvers and eviscerating their brethren with sabres and bayonets.
Strange how we think truth belongs only to us, and not to them, when in fact it is the exclusive property of no one yet governs all. It simply is.
And it wants to be known. Shakespeare writes in the Merchant of Venice that the truth “will out,” and in Measure for Measure, that “Truth is truth to the end of reckoning.”
There is great comfort in that. To deny the truth is a path fraught with peril. Another English author, Kate Atkinson, picks up where Shakespeare left off in her book, Life After Life.
“Truth is truth to the end of reckoning. What was that from? Measure for Measure? But perhaps, truth was asleep until the end of reckoning. There was going to be an awful lot of reckoning when the time came.”
If we all paid more heed to the truth – priceless and indefatigable as it is – rather than imposing our own muddied, muddled and self-serving versions of it, the world would not be in the dire state of confusion it finds itself in today.
So let it be done.