A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
When I think of “truths” I have come to recognize there are two types of truths in the world: personal truths and absolute truths.
Personal truths come from lived experiences and are different between people. As I have said in the past, I come from a relatively privileged background and am working to identify those areas of privilege and work with them. I recognize that my lived experience is vastly different than others. I never realized how lucky I was until I started to step outside of my life, get to know students, get to know others and the struggles they have faced. We all have struggles and they create who we are; my struggles are no less valid than anyone else’s in this life but I have come to view mine with the lens of “it could be worse”. Personl truths remind me of this graphic that has been circulating the internet for a few years:
An example of a personal truth for me right now is part of my 2020 goals that I only want to consume alcohol one time a week. This is what my body and my lifestyle needs right now but is it something that is absolute, everyone should only consume alcohol once a week? No. Alcohol is something I have found to affect me negatively if I consume too much or too often. I cannot recover the way I once did, especially when a toddler comes knocking at 6 or 7am whether I like it or not. I have also come to loathe “mommy needs wine” culture and there are many other bloggers who have explained problems with this culture. I do not “need” wine to escape my life. My life is pretty damn great for the most part, do I have stress? Yes. Does my toddler drive me batty as hell some days? Yes. But do I want anyone to think I NEED wine (or alcohol in general) to get away from it? No. I may need a break, I may need the Mr. to step in, I may need to leave the house for a little while. But I especially do not want my toddler to see me “needing” wine to get away from (in her mind because kids are black and white thinkers at her age) her. That is setting her up for all sorts of screwed up adult behavior. I would rather my daughter see me drink alcohol as a normal part of my life and part of balanced behavior that adults partake in when they so choose.
Does my desire to cut back on alcohol NEED to impact anyone else’s relationship with alcohol? No. This is a personal truth. As I have neared my fourth decade I see the things that work for my life to create the balance I need and want so I can live my best life. In the image above, I am seeing a 6 (one consumption of alcohol a week) and someone else is seeing a 9 (more or less than one). And for something like this, that’s completely ok.
The other category I have come to recognize are absolute truths. These are truths that have evidence, backing, context clues and history to explain them.
Taking the original image that circulated the internet, someone edited it to show that sometimes there is a right way to look at a number on the ground. This graphic makes me think about airport runways which are numbered based on their compass headings. If you were attempting to land an aircraft whether that says a six or a nine is important to you and you need to know which number it is actually supposed to be; you might need to look at some context clues to figure out what number it says.
Absolute truths are things that have no room for personal opinon. Some absolute truths are global climate change is real, the earth is round, evolution by natural selection happens, and white privilge exists to name a few. Most of the absolute truths are based in scientific or historical analysis. I believe in the process of science and believe in it’s power to test, identify, and quantify things in the world that were once relegated to magic. Some may think the use of the word “believe” is strange here but in my opinon (personal truth) science is investigated by people. We have our own strengths and weaknesses; with some of those weakneses come bias which can skew scientific knowledge but given time science is always capable of righting itself based on the strengths of the scientific method and the people who implement it.
The beauty of science is that it is never too proud as a community to say “we were wrong, new information says this…” This is how science can correct itself and continue to be a “responsbile” search for answers to questions we can dream up.
Being able to identify personal truths from absolute truths lets me interact with people in different ways. When I can recognize something as a personal truth it allows me to engage with people in different ways because I can hold onto my experience without negating their own version of their personal truth. It can keep me from the “I’m right you’re wrong” argument and allow me to truly listen to them.
Life isn’t always about having the right answer but sometimes we have paths that get to something which approximates the right answer.