There are two words we need to stop using so glibly: “My truth.” While we are free to express our opinions and need to allow others the same, these two words reveal a serious crisis of knowledge in our reactive, subjective social media world. History, philosophy, and science used to be fields of proximate objective inquiry, testing hypothesis, expanding knowledge, and evaluating arguments. And in many places, these and other disciplines admirably contribute to our knowledge.
Sadly, the shriller voices are self-absorbed subjectivists, arguing that being “good” or “moral” is more important than “facts.” What matters are the “narratives” we create or affirm, not the complexities of the data. This is not a Left or Right issue. This subjective and often irrational perspective subverts the public good and the ability of diverse folks to discover the truth of any matter and bring wisdom to real challenges.
We can transform neighborhoods, but not by the D.C. Leviathan parachuting personnel and resources with no understanding of the locale.
We can improve our schools, if we will listen to the facts of 30 years of research and liberate students and teachers from ineffective systems.
We can improve health care, foster new energy sources, open avenues of economic access…if we will learn from the mistakes and successes of the last half century instead of repeating tired mantras.
A young student who claimed to be an, “anarcho-syndicalist” and devotee of Marx, when confronted with the record of history, could find no evidence of his ideas ever working in a sustained and humane way. His refusal to modify his thinking was evident when he declared that the facts are unimportant, and devotion to the ideal is all that matters. The same mindset pervades awful fascist and racist groups on the extreme Right. White supremacy has no place in a pluralistic republic.
Renewing “the pursuit of truth in the company of friends” (my Cowell College UCSC motto – go Slugs!) will require humility, openness, love for neighbor, and constant refinement of thinking. Our dear friend, the late Miriam Self, once said about this, “Sounds too much like work,” Her humor helps us see the point well. As we decide to pursue the truth of any matter, we will still often diverge on both the data and the policies, but if we stay inquisitive, we may find hidden gems of wisdom and principled ways of fostering human flourishing hitherto buried under the noise.
In closing, I want to thank my late dad for making learning an adventure, my many older spiritual mentors modeling humility and inquiry in their eighth and ninth decades, and all of you that love thoughtfulness…thank you!
And above, underneath, and all around is our loving Lord, the Logos, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.