It has been a very interesting few weeks around the old homestead. Not only have we been subjected to billboards and news reports of the Rapture happening on May 21 (today, btw) but I have received five telephone calls from five different people ( all members of the same 12 step program to which I belong) with complaints about one specific person. I have had to tell each of them that I no longer work with the person being complained about, as well as suggest they take their complaints about the behavior directly to that person. However, it got me thinking (which is sometimes a good thing) about how we have - as a group - caused ourselves problems by elevating our personal opinions to an almost worshipful status.
How have we done that?
We have made our opinions our 'personal truths'.
I am not sure when it happened exactly but just for fun I am going to blame it all on Oprah Winfrey.
Of course I am not being fair - I know that,so just relax.
I am just having some fun here and thinking outloud. Besides, unlike those who cling tightly to their own thoughts and proclaim those thoughts 'truth', I have no problem saying I have formed opinions over the years based on my gathering of information and my personal experiences. As my education expands, and my experiences change, my opinions may change. Case in point: I used to think religion was man-made and therefore irrelevant. My education has expanded and I now believe that REAL religion is not man made but God ordained - and then roundly mucked up by man over and over and over again.
But I digress.
At some point, during our watching (and loving) of Oprah, we accepted her proclaimation of the 'personal truth' phenomenon. We did not question her; rather, we nodded our heads as she paraded a myriad of feel-good gurus and self-proclaimed mystics (think Marianne Williamson and that weird group that touted The Secret) before us. We bought the books and DVD(s) she held up before our eyes and threw ourselves into the culture of 'finding our personal truths' and 'changing our personal truths' and 'cultivating our authentic selves' and so on and so forth.
Because on the surface, isn't that a wonderful way to pursue happiness? Find out the truth about yourself and then live that truth.
Well, it dawned on me - by reducing truth to something that is relative to each individual, we denigrate the concept to something that really doesn't mean much.
See, it used to be (50 or 60 years ago), that one would form an opinion based on their personal PHILOSOPHY, the FACTS of a situation, and their own EXPERIENCES.
Thus, it would be easy to see how a woman could progress in her maturity. She might embrace a philosophy that is relevant to a 13 year old child, be exposed to facts and experience that is age appropriate to that 13 year old child, and so have an opinion that might be incredibly different from the opinion she holds at 22 or 35 or 55. It was called maturity and growth, and allowed those with more of both to say with love to their children, "I can see why you think I should let you date that really cute 22 year old coffee house musician when you are only 14, but you are not qualified to make that decision so you may be as angry at me as you want but you are NOT getting into a car with that guy".
When I call an opinion 'truth' I am subtly elevating it to the status of something that is unassailable. Because subconciously, I believe, every one of us has deep inside a need for Truth. We are, always, striving towards Truth. That walk, that personal JOURNEY towards an Objective Truth is what can keep us on a path that allows for strength, compassion, moral objectivity and true tolerance. But if I decide, for instance, that all religions are ok simply because a bunch of people practice those religions, I am abdicating my ability to make a decision based on fact, experience and maturity. AND I am saying that all religions are the same - which makes it pretty tough to justify the City of San Francisco trying to outlaw a religious practice like cirmcumcision simply because a small group of people do NOT like it. It also makes it pretty difficult to justify outlawing human sacrifice if a religion believes it is a necessity for salvation.
At some point, I have to make a decision that something is true and something else is false. NOW - does that mean I have the right to stop someone from practicing something I have decided is false?
Circumcision? No. Human Sacrifice? Female Genital Mutilation? Sexual activity with a child under the age of 16?
I guess what I see as the problem with the phrase "personal truth" is not the philosophy behind it - which is, if I understand it correctly, a philosophy that maintains that an individual has found a way to live their life that is neither infringing upon the rights of others, nor causing them deep psychological harm and of which they are willing to accept the consequences (both here and in the hereafter). My objection to it is that it gives the practice of forming opinions a kind of Deification - a personal Deification. It is now MY TRUTH...and that makes it RIGHT and you may not ASSAIL it.
Because I have embraced a philosophy that states Truth is Objective and it is not something but Somebody, I find it easier to look for the compromises in life. Some compromises are going to be necessary for a society of many different philosophies to function properly - for the roads to be maintained and the schools to be funded. But what I do not get, and I never will, is why people believe that being hurtful and hateful is the way to get their points across.
For me, Truth is not 'mine'. Truth belongs to all of us - it is something to share with each other and it is something to which humankind has been reaching out to since our Creation. It is why Holy Mother Church can state with authority that every true expression of a religious idea has an element of truth in it and that the fullness of human searching can be found.
I know I am not the first average woman to think these thoughts and I understand that this is just off the cuff and rambling ideas being expressed here. But now that I am on a spiritual path that embraces Faith AND Reason, I think it is important to put these thoughts down on cyber paper and then share them with others.
I just might learn something!