Our Own Reality- Proverbs 21:2

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

COMMENTARY

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts
Yesterday we considered the fact that those of us with obscured vision still believe that we see the truth perfectly. It is easy to make the assumption that if other people have wrong views, and our views are different from them, then our views must inherently be right. But that is a logical fallacy.
How then, when our perspective is genuinely clear and correct, do we even know that it is so? How are we to know when we see the truth that we even are doing so?
That is a whole other topic of study worth exploring. For now, though, I’ll settle with the second half of the verse I’ve quoted. We will know that we have finally the right perspective when it is not our own perspective anymore, but His.

The Way That Things Are- Gödel and the Incompleteness Theorem

Kurt Gödel was a logician and mathematician born in the early 20th century. He was a contemporary and friend of Albert Einstein’s, and as influential to the world of logic as Einstein was to the world of Physics.

Gödel’s most famous contribution were his Incompleteness Theorems, which proved that for any system there are truths which cannot be defined by the system itself. There are some things which are true, but which cannot be proven until you utilize outside sources.

Now this is a very crude example meant only as an illustration, but think of it this way: if we have a system called integer numbers (1, 2, 3, 4…) then there are patterns about those integers which do exist, but which we will never be able to discover with integers alone. We will have to add something else, perhaps fractions, in order to prove them. But now we have a new system, one of integers and fractions, and there are new patterns about this larger system which we will never be able to explain until we add something like irrational numbers, and so it goes on.

Now Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem was related to logical and mathematical systems, but they raise a strong philosophical question as well. I have always been baffled that we humans are so arrogant as to believe that we could ever fully understand ourselves. It seems to me that we are much too close to the subject matter to ever find all of the objective truths locked within our souls. I find it far easier to accept that the only complete understanding of myself would have to come from a being that existed in a higher system than our own.

Thus when society decides that truth must be one thing, but God’s word declares that the truth is something else…it frankly is not difficult to for me to side with the unknowable omniscient. Indeed, the fact that God is unknowable gives his argument greater weight to me, not less. If God was comprehensible to me, then there’s no way He’d be great enough to comprehend all of me.

Evolving Your Beliefs- Logic

We use the word “logic” quite a good deal, it is something we strive to live in harmony with. In its original form, “logic” is simply the study of how to make correct inferences from known truths. If A is true, then so is B.

Logic has many different branches of study, including propositional calculus, predicate logic, and modal logic. It has applications to mathematics, computational problems, and even philosophy. Many of our technologies today, such as the modern database, are based upon its principles.

Another way to explain logic is that it is the study of relationships between truths. Take for example the statements “Adam is the father of Seth” and “Seth is the father of Enos.” By these two truths we may logically infer that “Adam is the grandfather of Enos.” In fact, by being given only a smattering of relationship facts, logic can be used to recompile entire family trees, defining numerous relationships between every member.

And all of this works…until a lie is introduced to the system. It has been proven that a single lie can totally break down any logical system. By process of elimination, one can prove or disprove anything. You could simultaneously prove that Adam is the father of Seth, that he is the mother of Seth, that he is no one to Seth, and that Seth is actually his father. And you can also disprove all of those statements, too. In a word, everything becomes “relative.” Where before you could go to a system of truth and find verifiable fact, now all that remains is a shrug of the shoulders and a “maybe.”

This happens to us in our lives as well. Each of us is born with a very simple model of truth. We inherently accept principles of love, faith, and goodness. It is a small core of truth, but it is sufficient. As we go through life we discover new facts, accepting those that seem to fit with our already-establish model, and rejecting those that do not.

However somewhere along the way, each of us will make a mistake. It is very easy to do. Perhaps a trusted authority figure gave us a notion that we accepted without a second thought. So we added a falsehood, but we believed it to be a truth. We may not realize that anything is amiss for a while, but over time, that lie will corrupt our previous associations. We’ll start to notice logical contradictions in our beliefs, and finally we’ll know that our system has become untenable.

Sadly, many will throw the entire thing out at this point. The work of pruning out the lies from the truth seems impossible. They will claim that there never really were any truths to begin with. It can be a hard thing to let go of a misconception about God without letting go of God entirely.

But that is not the only option. Sometimes evolving our beliefs is a matter of going back to basics. We realize that we went astray, so we return to what few facts we really do know: that we are a child of God, that He loves us, that there is such a thing as “good.” It might be a much smaller belief system, but it will be true again. Then, with utmost care, we add back in only the parts that fit with this core.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- Lorem Ipsum

No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but those who pursue pleasure irrationally may encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally toil and pain can procure some great pleasure…
Who would fault a man who chooses pleasure that has no negative consequences, or who avoids any pain which produces no resultant pleasure? On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue.
The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse.

COMMENTARY

Have you ever seen the Lorem Ipsum text? It’s a large collection of altered Latin that starts like this: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua…” You may have come across and not even realized it, you see it is commonly used as a placeholder or background text. If you look closely at a graphic with nonsense text written on a newspaper, then quite possibly this is what was used.
But it’s actually an excerpt from a work by Cicero, and one that is particularly profound. I have given an abbreviated form of the translation up above. Though this is not a work of scripture, I am convinced that there is a simple truth to it. There is nothing wrong in desiring pleasure and avoiding pain…yet only if one has the wisdom to recognize that actions of immediate pleasure sometimes are followed by a worse pain, and moments of immediate pain sometimes are followed by a better pleasure.
Thus one is right to avoid the pain of touching the burning stove, but one is also right to endure the pain of healthy exercise to enjoy a better physical condition. And yet, even knowing that eating too much will be bad for us, we still do it anyway. It is common knowledge today that smoking cigarettes is bad for us, but people still smoke. Our conscience warns against telling lies, but still we lie. Tomorrow let’s examine why this sort of illogic is baked into our very nature, and how God calls us to overcome it.