I was discussing the beauty and rarity of objective truth with a friend just the other day, and I think I stumbled across why it’s become increasingly difficult to find. Something I recently discovered about facts is this: they’re fleeting. Yes, they are objectively true. No, alternative facts are not kernels of truth. (I think they once were, and became something else. Really, alt. facts are more like propagandized, rebranded information.)
I recently read something that made me reconsider my preconceived notion of truth and fact. I think I’ve determined that objective truth is hard to find, much like a good man or woman. Ironically, I think I already knew that time was perpetual for us finite beings. But it somehow took this recognition of fact as transmutable for me to understand time’s constancy.
When I say this, I don’t mean that facts can be changed. I really mean that the relevancy of certain information affects its significance. This is why the truth does not need facts to support it, as much as facts need the truth. In other words, the variables rely on the constant. If anything, determining what that constant is becomes all the more difficult when obfuscated by the buzzing of factual accuracy.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my fair share of fact-checking on topics which require it, such as research papers and any general piece of academia. I especially appreciate an intellectual discourse where I can find something new to learn about (i.e., ethics, philosophy) because of my own ignorance on the topic. It bothers me when people become so encumbered with being the most correct that they ignore the heart of the conversation, the goal of communing in knowledge.
There’s a sort of sanctity in knowing things. Something spiritual exists in the absorption and communication of knowledge. There are testaments to this information exchange; for some, these places are holy.
“It happens to us once or twice in a lifetime to be drunk with some book which probably has some extraordinary relative power to intoxicate us and none other; and having exhausted that cup of enchantment we go groping in libraries all our years afterwards in the hope of being in Paradise again.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Knowledge also has an intoxicating power. When you let it go to your head, it corrupts your reasoning, and potentially your morals. This is why some great people lose their greatness; they treat knowledge, especially certain truths, like dragons do gold. I’ve already written about the truth always emerging, despite efforts to bury it.
If truth is perpetual, it doesn’t matter how long and hard you try to hide it. It will eventually emerge. Facts are truly just tidbits of a greater truth. They do not feed it per se, but instead feed off of it. It’s funny how temporal perception affects the impact of certain types of factual information.
For example, if you admit a wrong immediately after you’ve committed it, people are more likely to forgive and forget, or at least allow you to make amends. On the other hand, if you are forced to admit your wrongdoing, either by circumstance or another person, the forgiveness and opportunity to make amends becomes far less likely. Not only does this apply to your interactions with others, but also in how you see yourself.
Consider this: if you held the objective truth in your mind that you were good at academics, even courses you didn’t enjoy, how would this affect your mentality if you failed in school? I’m speaking from personal experience. I’ve always idolized knowledge, even things I don’t care about at all. I’ve made a pastime of knowing others’ pastimes simply to know new things. Believe me when I say, failure wasn’t an option, let alone a consideration, in all of my formative years as a child.
As an “adult,” I quickly realized that many other things would get in the way of my knowing and learning of things, especially in the future. I tried anyway. I put double servings of school, work, friends, love, and scraps of personal time on an already overflowing plate. And then I went back for more. Not only was I incapable of consuming everything set before me, it actually upset my appetite.
Most days, I’d come home from a hard day at work to find no room left in me for coursework or seeing friends. Sleep and television-bingeing were my go-to for a little while. Of course, this wasn’t healthy and I didn’t keep it up for very long. I ultimately failed three courses within my first attempt at graduate school. Technically, I even “flunked out” of the program altogether.
Do I feel sorry for myself? No. Instead, I’m facing the facts of today. And I’m not a failure of a human being, or even as an academic. Here I sit, typing away at something mildly intellectual, with plans to do actual research for another blog post. It’s not graduate school, but it’s certainly not nothing. I can safely admit that I indeed do not know what I’m doing. But that’s okay. I can still embrace the truth, knowing that I’m not dead yet! My truth is this: I took on too much when I shouldn’t have. I let my pride and fear overrule my sense. I may not have even been in the right program.
The fun part is just beginning. Finding myself again was only the first step.