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Commitment to Seeking Truth

How do we typically define “truth”? As fact, right?

The problem is that the “truth” changes depending on a person’s point of view. A crime can have multiple witnesses, all of whom saw their own “true” version of the crime. Religions often claim to have the “truth” but strangely enough, their “truth” sometimes conflicts with the “truth” of other religions. Humanity has argued since time began as to who had the “right” God and worshipped in the “right” way.

Deepak Chopra once said, “Walk with those seeking truth. Run from those who think they’ve found it.”

This sermon was first entitled “Commitment to Truth” but that seemed to imply that I (or someone) actually knew the truth to which we need to be committed! So, I changed my sermon title because the more important commitment, is the commitment to seeking truth. I believe it is rarely found all at once, but in pieces throughout our lives. And, often what we once considered truth, as we age, we find wasn’t as solid and stable as we thought.

As Kathleen Singh said, what we need is a commitment to being curious and continuing to ask questions – not just of others, but of ourselves. When kids are young, maybe age three to five, their favorite question is “why?” Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to eat broccoli? Why do birds fly? Why, why, why?

It seems that as we grow up we accumulate answers and then stop asking questions. We get complacent with what we think we know. Singh observes, "It is kind and wise to question our every tacit assumption, so predisposed to impose its view on each new moment. Heck, it’s important that we’re aware that we have assumptions that want to impose themselves on our every encounter, conversation, opinion and judgment.

One author I read this week compared it to learning grammar. We all learned the correct ways to speak and write. We knew how to diagram sentences and what an object, subject, verb, article, and conjunction, was and how to use them. Once they became ingrained in us and we had nothing more to learn, we stopped thinking about it and just did it. It's too bad we seem to have done this about many, many different things in life.

Spending a week with a 21 year-old has the added benefit of reminding me what it was like to be 21. I had a whole lot more answers then. I was more sure of rights and wrongs. I was less understanding and more quick to jump to conclusions. I asked fewer questions of myself and others. Questions like… why do I feel the way I do? Why do I respond the way I do?

Bryn and I had one morning where a few of my questions caused her to shut down. I thought they were innocuous enough, but to her they weren’t. Instead of just fighting it head on, I’m old enough now to want to understand what exactly just happened there. What button did I push? What is she feeling? And in turn looking to see how it makes me feel. What were my intentions in asking the questions?

I tried not to stop at the surface level “truth” that I pissed her off, or she was over-reacting, or she was being moody, and looked for a deeper truth to aid my understanding of the situation. Was I being nosey? Was I overstepping? Was I being critical? Seriously, this was a conscious thought-process for me. I probably don’t do it often enough. For our own health and emotional well-being we need to seek the truth about ourselves.

Our internal assumptions aren’t the only things that keep us from seeking the truth (because we think we’ve already found it). Fear is another.

I know Truth can be a bit scary sometimes. We may see things about ourselves that we don’t want to see. We may come to the conclusion that we’re wrong about something and need to change, maybe even apologize. It is the stronger person who is willing to tackle the questions head on and live with the answers as honestly as possible, and then continue to analyze the new answers!

Author Judy Cannto, in her book Radical Amazement, tells this story.

One of my favorite stories about Albert Einstein (1879-1955) involves what he later called the greatest blunder of his life. Steeped in Newtonian physics, Einstein operated out of the world view that the cosmos was fixed, much like a machine. But while doing the mathematical computations that led him to propose the Special Theory of Relativity, he began to see the sweeping implications of his work. If his calculations were correct – and we now know they are – the universe, rather than being fixed, was expanding in all directions. Implied in this insight was the idea that the expansion was away from a single point from which all matter emanates. Einstein, stunned by the implications of his work and reluctant to offer information that would so radically alter what for centuries had been held as truth, fudged his equations! He changed the numbers in order to maintain a static, fixed universe. It took another mathematician, Alexander Friedmann, to call Einstein on his “mistake.”

 

The author of the Gospel of John puts these words into Jesus’ mouth: “If you live according to my teaching, you really are my disciples; then you’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

What we need to understand about the author of John is that for him, as John Shelby Spong wrote, "Jesus represented a new dimension of humanity a new insight, a new consciousness, a new way of relating to the holy – as one with the Divine. Jesus didn’t call anyone to a new religion, a new righteousness, a new doctrine… he called them to a new way of living – living abundantly! "And this was achieved not by believing in him or his message, but by living his message – a message of love, grace, peace, forgiveness, compassion. These are the deeper Truths of the energy, or spirit that fills the universe. To experience it and live it is to be freed from worry and fear and doubt and illusion.

 After a week hiking in the National Parks, standing on the top of a mountain with a 360 degree view of more mountains, valleys, rivers and waterfalls and all that lived in it, tends to bring clarity. At one point, Bryn said, “I feel so small.” Yet, if you let it, this smallness lifts one out of the small minutiae of everyday life and into a deeper channel.  I stood there recognizing the immensity of all that was around me, knowing that those mountains had been there long before me and would be there long after me. I knew in some ways I was just a blip on the historical timeline, and yet I also knew that I wasn’t separate from everything, but a part of everything. We are all part of the eternal flow of life. In those moments, it seemed so clear again that:

Truth is not found in scripture or churches or temples, or governments or schools.

Truth lies deeper than idols and books, rituals and rules.

Truth lies under the stories we tell ourselves.

Truth is deeper than our fears and purer than our love.

Truth is more simple than we believe, yet we believe it is more complex than we can grasp.

Truth is hard to live because it goes way beyond ego, needs and desire.

Truth is unconcerned with what we want or what we have.

And this is why we fear Truth, strive to create our own Truth, and attempt to control Truth.

We don’t want to be insignificant. We want power, we want to make a mark, leave a legacy. The wounds we carry from betrayal, criticism, lost relationships, estranged family… it is all part of the attempt to control Truth, to feel significant.

The paradox is that when we lean into Truth, accept our insignificance in the grand scheme of things, this is when we find ourselves in the Flow of All That Is. This is when we see the Truth of ourselves underneath the stories we tell ourselves. And suddenly we feel bigger than we ever knew we could be. Here we are set free.

Love & Light!

Kaye