Either we are lovers of the truth or we are fearers of the truth; very clearly it can only be one or the other! Either we are interested in finding out what the truth is or we are fundamentally disinterested – there is no middle ground here. As might be expected, this basic orientation makes a great deal of difference to what happens in our lives. It makes a truly tremendous amount of difference – what greater difference orientation could there be than this, after all? One way we want in a very deep way to learn what the truth is and the other way we will move heaven and earth to make sure that we DON’T!
This is a very murky business however – it might sound clear-cut and straightforward but it isn’t. It couldn’t be less straightforward. When we are fearers of the truth we don’t go around saying that we are. That would be the honest thing to do and when we are ‘fearers of the truth’ we don’t go around being honest! That’s the very last thing we are going to do. Honesty isn’t really our thing and so what is inevitably going to happen is that we are going to go around claiming to be interested in the truth; we’re going to make a big song and dance about how Totally Devoted to the truth we are. We’re going to put our halos on and shine them up good and proper..
When we are orientated away from the truth and towards the comforting lie then we become very staunch supporter of whatever the local system or structure is. We’re very much inclined to do this because it affords us a way of appearing to be supporting the truth (which is a good image, naturally) whilst actually allowing us to turn our backs very thoroughly on it. This is such a great trick that almost all of us do it! In political terms the phenomenon that we’re talking about here is known as conservatism – conservatism and fear are of course the very same thing. Conservatism is where we collude in dignifying our fear and making a ‘compulsory virtue’ of it.
The local structure (or system) is however never the truth. The truth is never fixed in stone, is never unambiguously defined for all time, whilst the structure always is. Being ‘unambiguously defined’ is how the structure gets to be the structure. We’re not saying that structures aren’t ever helpful – simply that they don’t equal ‘the truth’! They are never more than ‘pragmatically useful responses to a temporary situation’. Structures or systems are never more than tools, in other words, and the thing about tools is that ‘they are only useful when they’re useful’. This is of course just another way of saying that we can happily drop them the moment they cease to be useful.
When we make the temporarily useful tool into the same thing as ‘the truth’ we are switching the natural order of things around entirely, therefore. We are elevating the pragmatically useful tool to the position of being our ‘Lord and Master’ – no longer is the structure or system a ‘pragmatically useful response to the situation’, it is now the now the Universal All-Determining Template by which all things must now be measured in order to determine their worth! All things must now be ‘passed’ by the system as being valid; if they are not found valid (if they are not found worthy) then they will be unceremoniously labelled as ‘errors’ or ‘malfunctions’. Only by praising the system can we survive.
This ‘thing that we do’ whereby we turn the pragmatically (and therefore temporarily) useful response to the situation into an All-Determining Template isn’t itself useful in any way, however. It’s quite the opposite of useful – it’s an utter disaster! Turning the tool or instrument into our ‘Lord and Master’ (or ‘the measure of all things’) is the archetypal disaster. It is ‘the disaster of disasters’. It is the gory gateway into unending conflict and misery.
In another way of course we could say that this device of ours actually IS useful – if it wasn’t useful in some way or other we wouldn’t use it as much as we do, and we use it all the time. This trick of ours is very useful indeed if our aim is to avoid the truth on a permanent basis! If this happens to be our aim then we have stumbled upon a winner…
If we happen to be ‘fearers of the truth’ rather than ‘lovers of the truth’ then this business of treating the pragmatically useful response to the current situation into a rule that must always be obeyed proves to be stunningly effective. It does exactly what we want it to do – it prevents us from ever coming in contact with the truth. And more than this – it validates our avoidance of reality. It provides us with a tame ‘version’ of the truth that will safely take the place of the real thing.
It could be said therefore that the gimmick is serving our needs very well and so we should be happy. The only thing about this however is that it is ‘serving our needs’ by facilitating us in running away from the truth, which is of course serving no one! If we are facilitated in escaping from reality then who is that is being served? Who is benefitting from ‘the trick’? The unreal version of ourselves may feel that it is being benefitted but at whose expense is this happening?
If we can clearly see that there are only two possible orientations that we might take in life – either towards the truth or away from it – then this helps us to cut through an immense amount of obfuscation, an immense amount of bullshit. This insight is however very hard to come by and so usually it is the bullshit that wins out – there is after all an awfully large amount of it going around! It would be one thing if the proportion of those of us who fear the truth roughly matched the proportion of those of us who love the truth but this just isn’t the way things are. As is very obvious once we look into it almost the whole of humanity is to be found in the first camp – who after all is going to deny that almost all of us are in ‘the camp of the fearers’?
We are not philosophers; we are the very antithesis of this – almost to a man (or to a woman) we just want to ‘get on with it’. And what – we may ask – is this ‘it’ that we want to get on with? What is it and why do we want so much to get on with it? This is where the jinx comes in – the moment we ask this question we are of course philosophers and this disqualifies us immediately from the discourse. Being philosophical is simply not ‘the done thing’ – the whole point is not to ask why! Not asking why we are doing what we are doing is the cornerstone upon which the whole edifice is built.
We can of course always give some sort of a superficial (and therefore dismissive) answer as to ‘why’, in much the same way that a beleaguered parent might do when pressed too much by a child who has too many questions. When pressed we will give ‘concrete’ answers – we will point at the established structure and say “That’s why”. We will do this in the very same way that a fundamentalist Christian will point at the relevant line in the Bible; this however isn’t ‘questioning the structure’ – this is using the structure to end all questions.
This is precisely why we love the local structure (or system) so much when we fear the truth – because it enables us to end all questions. It facilitates us in our stone-walling and stone-walling is what we want to do when we are ‘fearers of the truth’. Stone-walling is all we want to do – everything we do is stone-walling of one sort or another. When our kids ask us awkward questions we stone-wall them and then they – in all probability – will go on in time to stone-wall their kids and in this way the time-honoured tradition of ‘stone-walling’ gets perpetuated forever. What we are proud to call ‘our culture’ or ‘our civilization’ is in actuality nothing more than an intricate (and highly efficient) system for preventing anyone from ever getting a glimpse of the truth.
Everything gets concreted over this way. Reality gets concreted over so that there is no more sign of it. Our whole way of life is about concreting over reality – society itself is an exercise in the concretization of reality. This is where our energy goes; this is where our intelligence and resourcefulness goes. Whenever we do stuff so that what we’re doing becomes ‘an end in itself’ then we’re concreting over reality. Whenever we point at the established structure in order to silence all questions we’re concreting over reality, stone-walling reality. And yet – despite all this – reality still always finds a way to break through and when it does it will come in the form of suffering. Just because we fear the truth this doesn’t mean that we’re going to be able to get rid of it! As we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:10, ‘They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.’ We can put everything we’ve got into the concrete reality-denying world we have created for sure, but sooner or later the bank we have invested in is going to go bust….
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.