“Only fools are positive.”  “You sure about that?” “I’m positive.”
―The Three Stooges

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”
“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
―George Orwell, 1984

Pilate asked Him, “What is truth?” when Jesus stood on trial,
Bearing witness of the Truth to all who heard His voice.
Though philosophy rejected Truth, stood in denial,
Still, the Way, the Truth, the Life allowed mankind our choice.

“What is truth?” though, sounds urbane, superior to law.
Hermeneutics of humility smooths out the field.
I seem more sophisticated, cultured, not bourgeois,
If it’s all a mystery, still hidden, unrevealed.”

So I claim, “There are no absolutes; it’s relative,”
Disregarding that my statement’s antithetical.
My assertion controverts itself (though tentative),
By proclaiming proclamations “theoretical.”

Next I try, “Who really knows what truth is, after all?”
All my friends agree with me; they wisely nod, concur.
Confident in doubt, with inconsistency banal,
Logic cast aside, to diametrics they demur.

How about “There is no right or wrong; it’s in your head!”
Satisfying concept until I’m the one abused.
Then my default is to judge the wrongdoer instead,
Never asking, “Why impose my ‘truth’ on the accused?”

“Well,” I claim, “I make my own reality; it’s true.”
If you counter me on that, I’ll argue all the way.
Think about it, though, because just how can I undo
True belief with skepticism; how will doubt have sway ?

Really, if I don’t have Truth, I don’t have anything.
Two plus two must equal four, or all the rest is void.
If we have no premise to employ linguistic string,
Then our discourse has no point; we’re barely humanoid.

Truth’s the binding to our book, the glue that holds secure
Logic, Reason, plain Consistency, our common ground,
Making possible each conversation to be sure,
Infrastructure of our culture, verity profound.

Then . . .
Let the relativist hush, he has no argument.
Making absolutist claims without the Truth is mad.
Only schizophrenics would attempt to circumvent
Rationale with their subjective unbelieving fad.

Maybe Truth’s “behind the times,” unstylish, square, uncool,
Maybe if I cling to it they’ll call me “Simpleton.”
All I know is Truth, derided, under ridicule
Still is True, and I’ll be its “minority of one.”

Yes, I’ll make that choice to speak the Truth against the tide.
Orwell’s “revolutionary act,” though I’m alone,
Pilate asked Him, “What is truth?” and history replied, . . . that
Truth, though spurned, remains civilization’s Cornerstone.

 

Amy Foreman hails from the southern Arizona desert, where she homesteads with her husband and seven children.  She has enjoyed teaching both English and Music at the college level, but is now focused on home-schooling her children, gardening, farming, and writing. Her blog is theoccasionalcaesura.wordpress.com

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28 Responses

  1. Joseph Tessitore

    Bravo Amy!
    Bravo Jennifer!
    Bravo Evan, for pairing these two exceptional works of art!

    Reply
  2. Father Richard Libby

    This is a well written poem with an important message. Congratulations, Amy!

    Reply
  3. James A. Tweedie

    Amy, Well captured. I have lived out your dialogues many times. As for,

    How about “There is no right or wrong; it’s in your head!

    A seatmate on a trans-Pacific flight once challenged me with that same thought. My response was to ask him, “If I punched you in the nose would that be a good thing or a bad thing?” He answered that it would be a bad thing. I then said, “But what if I think it was a good thing? Does that mean it is a good thing? a bad thing? both a good thing and a bad thing? or does it mean that it is neither good or bad but morally neutral and of no consequence one way or the other?” We ended up talking for four hours. He was a very confused man when he walked off the plane.

    I also was captured by your phrase: “Confident in doubt . . .”

    A trenchant description of far too many people these days for whom the answer to the question, “What is truth?” is simply, “Who knows? And what difference does it make, anyway?”

    Such is the where the path of post-modern deconstructionist thought leads us these days.

    I would enjoy sitting next to you on a long flight. I do not believe that either of us would be confused when we left the plane.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you, James. As it happens, I wrote this in response to a friend I have who happens to be a relativist and socialist. He was disparaging my belief in absolute truth, attacking it with Marxist zeal: my belief was the crutch of a weakling, my opium. My certainty showed my ignorance, for who among us could REALLY know?

      A few moments later, he began ranting about an injustice done to him by an insurance company–even so far as to call it “evil.” That’s when I basically said, “Stop for a minute and think. How can you impose your sense of right or wrong on that company? You yourself just insisted that my core belief in right and wrong–in absolute truth–shows my unenlightened state. Yet, suddenly, you somehow developed your own sense of justice in response to this insurance business. Where did that come from? Suddenly, there’s such a thing as ‘evil’ in this world. How would you know? And furthermore, if there is no absolute truth, then why on earth have you been telling me with absolute certainty that I’m wrong to believe in such a thing?”

      As in your situation, James, this friend left the situation a little perplexed, and even, perhaps, soul-searching. But in the intervening months, surrounded by his other socialist friends, he’s only grown stronger in his absolute belief that there are no absolutes. Their “doublespeak” would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

      Reply
      • Leonard Dabydeen

        Good for you, Amy. Perhaps this ‘friend’ didn’t see it coming before he menacingly attempted to put the finger up for a fight. Only to acquiesce his ‘absolute’ must be fake.

  4. Leo Yankevich

    TATTIE BOGLE

    His world is ochre over which a crow
    at dusk flies home. A bankrupt’s house and barn,
    a field assailed by January snow,
    the river winding like a spinning yarn.

    No human drama in his straw-filled frame,
    as he hangs, facing nature hard at work:
    the lynx in the black thicket hunting game,
    the maelstrom in the icy water’s murk.

    No father comes down from a sunlit cloud
    to save the lemmings headed for the shore.
    There is the smell of raw meat, blood and bone,

    deer fur spewed under oak trees in the wild.
    There is no Pilate, Lazarus, or poor.
    And yet the cross is heavier than stone.

    Leo Yankevich

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Poignantly and beautifully spoken, Leo: the emptiness of the stuffed scarecrow standing “sentinel” on the spent field; the methodical destruction of the deer by the lynx, and the senseless self-destruction of the lemmings, both playing out–under his “watch,” and without God.

      Thank you for contributing this vivid image to the conversation. Your picture is worth a thousand words.

      Reply
      • james A. Tweedie

        Amy and Leo, your two well-struck poems make a nice set, coming at a similar subject from two different and equally effective directions. This is one of the reasons I love this site.

  5. David Paul Behrens

    Reality and Perception

    A concept is but a concept,
    Existing only in the mind.
    All these words are thoughts,
    Belonging to the human kind.

    Nothing exists but for empty space.
    Without eyes, there is no sight.
    The real world we call nature
    Does contain no wrong or right.

    Reality comes in many forms,
    Much more than we can perceive.
    All we know is what we know
    As the words which we conceive.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you for this, David . . . lots of food for thought here. For instance, what part has faith in this mix of reality and perception? Just a question I’m throwing out there.

      If faith, as the Apostle Paul says, is “the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen,” then there must necessarily be a “4th dimension” beyond both reality and our perception of that reality, some outside “truth” through which we experience and perceive the world of matter we inhabit. Once again, I’m struck by the tension between the vast unseen Creator, and the creation, which is bound by the constraints of time and space. How can something only hoped for have “substance?” And how can something “not seen” be used as “evidence?” Those words seem almost a physical impossibility, yet I believe them.

      We live, as you say, knowing “what we know,” but I would posit that we also know something MORE, and that our interaction with that “MORE” is the most important journey we take in this life.

      Reply
      • David Paul Behrens

        Well said, Amy. I have faith in many things, including the unknown.
        Here is one I wrote in 1971, during a period when I was hitchhiking
        around North America, as an adventure:

        Faith On the Road

        Walking along the road one day,
        Watching the cars, rolling away,
        It made feel badly, deep inside.
        Nobody wanted to give me a ride.

        So I stopped by the side of the road
        And sat down on my baggage load.
        Without words, I began to pray.
        All of my sadness, it went away.

        Soon, I forgot all about the cars.
        Instead, I pondered all the stars.
        Just as I was about to give up,
        A car did stop to pick me up.

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you for including that poem from your personal experience, David. Interesting how, when you gave your situation over to God (prayed without words), you stopped focusing on your need. You were able to enjoy the gifts all around you, (‘the stars”) and “all of [your] sadness, it went away.” I think that happens a lot. I love the verse in Philippians that speaks of just this phenomenon:

      “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

      Reply
  6. James A. Tweedie

    Perhaps we were “invented,” too. But even that begs the question, “Who (or what) conjured us up from nothing?” And perhaps words like “mystery,” “god,” “eternity,” and “infinity,” were created–not to invent an idea out of thin air–but to capture the ordinary, common, universal human experience of such things. On the other hand, if I knew what was going to happen to me in the next 30 minutes I might consider the possibility that life “ain’t no mystery.” Failing that, I think I’ll continue to embrace the word as being relevant.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Well put, James. Life is experience, “a posteriori,” but life is also un-empirically metaphysical, “a priori.” Melded together, eternal souls inhabiting material bodies, we both “know” with our senses, and we “know” within ourselves. And the question of which one of those “knowings” came first or which is dominant is a hot topic of debate among philosophers, whose lofty discourses are probably about as lucrative as our conversations on poetry. 😉

      In this dialectic, I bow to the knowledge of the experts, among whom I count my old friend the Apostle Paul, who neatly packaged both necessary and contingent truths about the existence of the Eternal in fewer than two verses:

      ” . . . because that which may be known of God is manifest in them [a priori]; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead [a posteriori]; . . .”

      Reply
  7. David Paul Behrens

    James and Amy, I always enjoy your analysis and commentary. That “mystery” thing was just food for thought. Life, of course, is a mystery, and it is a good thing the word was “invented.” My point was that, like most words, it is a concept which exists only in the human mind. Thank God for concepts, or else this website would not exist.

    Reply
  8. James Sale

    A bold and enjoyable poem, Amy – you tackle difficult philosophical issues with aplomb, and that’s particularly true as I don’t think the quatrain form is ideally suited to discursive debate, and yet you keep my attention. Perhaps it’s the line length that enables you to get that bit extra of thought packed in! Well done.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you, James, for your generous compliment! A “fourteener” does give a little more wiggle room than the tri, tetra, and pentameters I turn to more often . . . 🙂

      Reply
  9. Joan Fullmore

    Thank you Amy for once again the poem of a mystic. Yes there is an eternal Truth that only the low ego can tune into and be inspired by – you are that!!!

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you, Joan, for your kind words! I probably don’t have a very low ego, as far as egos go! But anytime we see ourselves in light of the eternal, we realize how small we are . . .;) Like Pascal said, “The finite is annihilated in the presence of the infinite and becomes pure zero.”

      Reply

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