Seeking Truth in a Post-Truth World
Where is truth in a post-truth world? In the sea of voices, and in the age of alternative facts, how do we find the truth? How deep must we dive to uncover truth? Perhaps not as deep as we think.
What is truth?
Inside my mind, a thousand voices attempt to puncture my sacred silence. They warn me of what will happen if I do that thing I’ve been contemplating. They steer me away from harmful consequences of certain actions, or towards the desired consequences of other actions, certain in the outcome of any strategy. I hear the murmurs of second guesses and rumination, of “what if” and “what if not.” I hear voices of fear, bravado, daring and defeat.
Each has its support and its reasons. Each comes equipped with reams of evidence. Each voice presents itself as the voice of truth.
This shouting match plays out in our external world too. From social media to street corners, from the neighborhood coffee shop to news sites, it seems that we are living in a time when the truth is not related to reality, but based on volume and persistence. We accept as truth that which barks in the loudest voice without relenting.
What We See and Hear
Look a little closer and you’ll see that both your mind and in your news feed shout loudest with the information that supports our most pronounced beliefs. Or, to be more precise: they reflect back what we think we believe.
Immersed in the noise, we don’t even know what we believe.
What is Truth?
Let’s start with the dictionary definition, from Oxford English Dictionary.
1. The quality or state of being true.
1.1 That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
1.2 A fact or belief that is accepted as true.
Engaging the Voices
I easily fall into the trap of engaging in combative discourse with the voices — both internal and external. As someone who finds comfort in my own strong opinions, as a person who likes to engage in debate, and as a trained attorney, I long believed that this approach was the most direct path to the truth.
Through regular mindfulness and meditation practice I’ve learned to approach this from a softer stance.
Mindful investigation, both internally and externally, requires us to constantly question what we believe to be true.
In the silence of meditation practice, I sit and observe the thoughts. The voices do not silence during meditation. Contrary to popular myth, that is not the goal. I hear the voices, and I do my best to keep them at a distance. I watch and listen as they go by.
I use mindful inquiry to investigate the emotions I feel. I seek to illuminate the stories I’m telling myself, often unconsciously, that evoke those emotions. I probe deeper into the thoughts and beliefs that lie beneath those emotions and stories.
I question their truth.
- What am I believing right now?
- Is this the truth?
- What is something else I might believe instead?
- What if everything I believe to be true is wrong?
Uncovering the Truth
I’ve heard people say that the truth eventually reveals itself, but only after we put in the effort to uncover it. The prevailing view is that truth lives beneath layers of protection. We believe that the burden is on us to strip away those layers: to dig through the rubble and bring the truth to light.
This is a nice theory, but wrong.
Truth is already exposed
Truth is not hidden from us. We need not expend Herculean efforts to dig it out.
Rather, it is we who are buried beneath the rubble. Like gremlins fearful of the light, we shroud our eyes under layers of protection.
Truth is already at the surface, basking in the light.
We don’t see it only because our eyes are closed to it.
You see what you seek.
We don’t seek the truth because it can be ugly or uncomfortable. This goes for our inner truth as well as the external, cultural truth.
We are often unaware of just how much one shapes the other.
Choice and Consequences
We don’t have to open our eyes to the truth, of course. We can choose to live with the energy and emotions of what we currently believe to be true.
We can remain buried and blind to our inner truth, and choose to swim with the tide of beliefs that echo what we already think we believe.
The question is: how well does that is serve us?
Perhaps it is time for us to expose our eyes to the light and see what is in front of us.
You see what you seek.
The truth is already here.
It’s on us to look at it.