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Bharath Vallabha's picture

tao and truth

Paul, thank you for a very thought provoking post. I agree with you that Truth, Reality and God (TRG) are hopeless if they are meant to be set in stone things which we are supposed to simply follow. On this picture, life is like one of those color within the line exercises; we discover what TRG are and then basically spend our life trying to make it fit what TRG tell us. On this picture, living basically means consulting the rule book and doing what it says. No doubt this is a very prevelent view of TRG, but one which I think is not satisfying. Adhering to TRG in this sense makes life boring and frustrating (since one is always not quite being true to TRG), and it makes interactions with others violent and negative (since one wants to make others abide by one’s view of TRG).

It seems to me that what you decry as Truth is what I meant by TRUTH. Every argument you give against Truth here is I think addressed to Truth conceived as TRUTH; it is truth as something dead, frozen, limiting and constraining; a single snap shot of the world from a given perspective which is presumed to be the overall picture of reality. I agree whole-heartedly with you that nothing which is meant to play this policing role in our lives is needed. It doesn’t matter what hallowed history an idea has or how many people believe it or how fantastic it sometimes makes us feel or what fears of meaninglessness it might save us from – we should abandon any idea when we become more concerned with its preservation instead of our own transformation. And I see your post as showing that it is better to embrace the unknown and the formless instead of embracing a known form out of fear or habit.

I am inclined to think, and am staring to believe, that what you mean by the Tao is what I mean by Truth. In what you seek to let go of, I see nothing of what I cherish as Truth and God. And in what you seek to embrace as openness to stories, I see what resonates with me as the openness to the Truth. The other day I said to you that I have a hard time saying the words “there is no truth” because that felt to me like giving up the core of what I hold dear. Now I feel this less so, since perhaps you and I have not been meaning the same thing by Truth. I can now say, even happily say, “there is no Truth”. And I feel some freedom in not feeling beholden to just the word “Truth” or even the historical positions of realism and theism. For what I think of as the Truth is beyond words and arguments and traditions, and cannot be pinned down long enough to structure one’s life unreflectively around it.

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