To Live Freely: Part Seventeen

I began this study with a simple objective: to make the case that the only way to live was to live in truth. Right from the beginning I understood that this concept was so fundamental that it would defy definition. It is axiomatic, something that is most often just assumed to be true, unprovable by conventional methods. I tried to make my case even so, approaching the subject in all manner of different ways. It has been a fruitful, if eclectic, enterprise. Not only am I more convinced of the soundness of this principle, I better understand why it is such a difficult thing to prove objectively.

I will help illustrate this as I gave my final observations. Here is the first half of the conclusion to all that I have found.

Realms of Truth)

One of the key things I came to realize through this study was the various realms of truth that we encounter in life. I found myself debating around three separate categories of truth at different times. Each of these categories had different levels of tangibility and effect, yet I observed that each seemed to follow the same pattern. Let us consider them each, one at a time.

First, there is the physical truth. This is the truth of our perceivable, material world. Scientists have long understood that our world is composed of systems and procedures, each reliable and consistent. There are clear rules that govern physics, chemistry, and geology. These rules can be directly observed and measured; that is how we know that they exist. They are true, and they are always true. What is more, these physical truths exist separately from our individual selves. We interact with the physical world, we cause certain of its rules to play out, we harness its systems for our own benefit, but we do not define or override its rules. For all the self-will we possess, we can only employ it within the confines of its laws. The physical truths simply are what they are, and even if all of us ceased to exist and there was no one left to recognize these truths, we are certain that they would continue regardless.

Secondly, there is the truth of a society. This truth is the state that we social beings exist within. It is comprised of all our individual selves, and the relationships that exist between us. It is the sum total of all our thoughts, feelings, words and beliefs, both within ourselves and towards each other. We cannot examine this social state as directly as we can the physical world, but logically we know that it must exist and have a true definition. For we all know that we have our own, personal state of being, and so the amalgamation of all our states must be a real state as well. Our experiences also suggests that this super-state moves by certain patterns and rules. There seem to be certain laws about how individuals, relationships, and societies grow and evolve, and philosophers and psychologists have spent countless years gleaning what nuggets of truth they can from these systems. Interestingly, while these patterns must emerge from us directly, we remain individually ignorant of how we contribute to them. We are like the particles of dust that fall in the physical world, our movements seeming to be individual and arbitrary when examined up close, but when taken as a whole, we see that the mass is subject to forces that underpin the whole. Thus, as with the physical world, the truth of this realm seems to emerge from something greater than the individual. It belongs to the species as a whole, yet it is clearly enmeshed in us as well.

Finally, we have the moral truth. This truth is defined by the laws of how we should govern ourselves. It is the principles that we should hold to, the ways that we can direct our efforts and our attention to harmonize with the thing that we call “good.” This truth is the most mystifying of them all. We cannot see it or measure it. We cannot graph its movements. All of us try to obscure it with our own agendas and selfish desires. And yet, in spite of all this confusion and denial, there still remains the universal conviction that moral truth is a reality. Every civilization has always believed in some form of it. Though we cannot see it, we can feel it. Like the two other realms of truth, we sense that it originates from somewhere outside of ourselves, and we believe in it so concretely that we are sure what is right would remain right, even if there was no one left to practice it. Also, though the moral truth originates outside of ourselves, it is inseparably integrated inside of us as well. It pulls at us, we interact with it, and it even emerges from out of us.

The Need to Follow)

To some degree, we all perceive and accept each of these realms of truth. We all have a basic understanding of the laws of nature, the laws of society, and the laws of morality. We know that we should live in harmony with each of them. We know that there are certain things we just shouldn’t do, because they will cause physical pain, or social rejection, or be immoral. We know that there are other things that we should do, because they will increase our safety and be the most direct means to achieving what we desire. In the physical world, the positive benefits of conducting ourselves according to the laws of gravity can be explicitly observed. In the social world, the benefits of doing to others what we would like to have done to ourselves can be implicitly inferred. In the spiritual world, the benefits of sacrifice to our higher power are intuitively believed.

And yet, in spite of all this knowledge, and inference, and belief, we still try to violate these truths repeatedly! We risk injury just to save a few seconds of time, we try to fool others into giving us what we want, and we try to satiate our base desires when we think God isn’t looking. And even after we are hurt for our defiance of truth, we will still test its limits again and again. There is a part of us that is converted to the truth on a conceptual level, but somewhere between that part and the carrying out of our actions there is another part that is not converted, and it overrides our better senses.

We know the truth, but we are not, ourselves, entirely truthful. As mentioned above, these truths all emanate from outside of ourselves, and so they are foreign objects to us. But at the same time, they also are integrated in our individual existence, and so they are our very own selves as well. This is a strange paradox, and because of it, mankind has ever been a creature perplexed.

I have something to say about what I have learned of how this incongruity is resolved, but I’ve run out of time. I shall take it up tomorrow. See you then.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:21-25

21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company. 

22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.

23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.

24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

The night before Jacob met with his brother he sent all the company over a brook, but he remained behind to wrestle with his feelings in solitude. And what a wrestle it became, going far beyond struggling in prayer, for a physical man appeared and literally strove with Jacob! Honestly, I think it might have done Jacob good to have a sparring partner that he could get out all his frustration and fear with. Fear and trauma do not only lodge themselves in the heart and in the mind, but also in the body, and sometimes physical exertion can be the best therapy for processing those deep emotions.

I also see in this story a clear representation of Jesus atoning for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, too, he poured his heart out to his father, and also he began to strive in the flesh, bleeding from every pore, and also an angel appeared, though this one was to strengthen him in the struggle. And in both Jacob and Jesus’s case the result was triumph and salvation. In Jacob’s case for himself and his family, in Jesus’s case for all mankind.

Calloused Hearts- Matthew 15:32, 34-37

Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.


I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way
And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled
Yesterday I shared about a spiritual retreat where my heart reached its saturation point and had difficulty absorbing any more of God’s love. Spiritual connection is fulfilling, but at the same time it can also be emotionally and physically draining.
And while we seek to “bridle passions” and “master the flesh,” we are not meant to become ascetics, ignoring or abusing our physical forms. Jesus showed a great attentiveness to the capacity of the multitude gathered around him. They came to be spiritually fed and they received that. But the long duration had left them faint and he was sensitive to their need for physical revival, too.
It is a good thing to fast, to make physical sacrifices to embolden the spirit, to seek out spiritual experiences that fill us to the limit on a regular basis. But there is wisdom in resting after we have been filled and letting that rapture settle within us.