Sunday, November 19, 2006

So The Truth Is....

This was at least in theory supposed to be a coherent, thoughtful, insightful sort of a post. I don't want to be repetitive, or redundant, or, you know, to say the same thing over and over again in different words. But the fact is, this one is sill percolating, and I think it's going to be for awhile.

Okay, here's the thing. First of all, I'm going to give a little bit of background. I went to a Chabbad elementary school, and my family isn't Chabbad. So from the beginning of my thinking career, I've been trained to not buy everything I was told in school. Or, by anyone for that matter, given the fact that arguing is one of my family's favorite pastimes, and it's difficult to argue and yet agree with people at the same time. (although, being Jewish, we still manage.) It's also where I learned to argue in class in order to focus my attention; and in focusing my attention, I learned to love learning. And Torah. (Chabbad, just for anyone who doesn't know, learn some crazy cool Torah.)
For high school, my mother forbade me going to Chabbad, for various very justified reasons. So I went to a Bais Yaakov, a hashkafa that sees many things sort of the opposite from the way Chabbad sees them. It was kind of a culture shock, spiritually and intellectually. My experiences at this high school were largely enjoyable, mainly because I found a group of similarly minded Zionist-intellectual kofrim, and we stuck together. But again, the only way to focus was to argue, which the school made all too easy for me to do anyway, since I disagreed with them on many many things.
From here I spent two years in a modern orthodox seminary, again very very different from Bais Yaakov, and Chabbad. Here I spent less time arguing in classes and more time formulating foundations for building a life philosophy. Which happened also through arguing but...about different stuff this time. Mostly politics.

Here's the point. I've spent my entire life viewing things from different perspectives, then turning these perspectives on their heads and shaking them for spare change. I'm still not done figuring things out, I don't think there's a point where you're supposed to have figured everything out...but I've been doing some slow slow thinking lately. I've started turning new ideas inside out, and finding that there might be merit in some of them, but after all my experience with turning things inside out here's the only concrete thing that I've discovered; the fact that an idea has merit doesn't make it a whole truth. It makes it a piece of truth. There are lots of pieces of truth all over the place. (I've been collecting them for a collage to put on my wall.) But the fact that you found a new one doesn't mean that everything else you've learned or found before loses any of its truth.

Here's the thing about intellectual honesty. If an individual is being truly, gut honest with themselves, they'll be smart enough to realize that they'll probably never have enough pieces to make a whole picture. Which means that you can't come to a conclusion, because a conclusion is where the search ends, and the search never ends. There wouldn't be a point if it did. I used to think that the ultimate unification of everything in the universe made everything simple. I think now that it means everything is more complicated than we like to give it credit for.

This isn't really meant to be particularly groundbreaking stuff. At least it isn't for me. I guess I just needed to reiterate to remind myself why I never take any idea for granted.


Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

I agree with you about intellectual honesty and I like to phrase it this way. We cannot know absolute truth, but if we are intellectualy honest, we attach a level of beleif to ideas that is comensurate with the level of support or evidence that these ideas have.

I have yet to see this very natural mode of thought represented in orthodox religions, but who knows, the next great religious thinkers are just waiting to be inspired.....

2:59 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

the truth is, this mode of thought is actually expressed, or at least hinted at, in learning, for example, various commentaries on a piece of Torah. how is it that we say that none of them are wrong, and yet some are contradictory? how does that work? bc neither one is a whole truth on its own, rather they are both fragments of the whole cohesive truth, that complete picture that we'll probably never have access to in our lifetime. now, lest you claim that that idea of none of them being wrong is one of those religous fanatic dogmas that make no sense, I'd like to point out that these Rabbanim themselves were very well aware of the fact that they were contradicting each other. and yet they maintained a respect and an appreciation for each other's Torah, even though they viewed the matter from a different angle (and even when they were calling each other names.) bc when you have that perception of truth it's actually a good thing for other people to have an opinion different from your own.

as to attaching belief commesurate with evidence and support...I don't know. someone gave me a good argument for this recently...for those that trust soley in the logical thought processes of the mind ...but why do you trust your logic more than anything else? who's to say that your mind is entirely trustworthy? or at any rate more trustworthy than any of your other faculties...something like that.

in any case,I'm still firmly of the opinion that to not believe in
G-d takes an equal leap of faith to that of those who do believe in G-d. empirical evidence only takes you so far in either direction; and as far as I know (admittedly limited, but still) nothing of science actually disproves His existence any more than it proves it, and that includes evolution. and where that persists in leaving me off, each time I run through this discussion in my head is, well, so what? and I think that's part of the ultimate point too, bc again, if truth were that easy, why would anyone bother at all?

(I feel I may have gotten off topic here; I apologize, but I used your comment as a springboard for further rumination in my personal thought process. thank you for that though.)

5:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home