Through A Glass, Darkly
“For now we see through a glass, darkly.”
1 Cor 13:12
Twelve men, good and true, sat around the table, trying to find the truth amidst a flood of clichés. There are three sides to every story, so the saying goes, yours, mine and the truth, but it was their job to find that third side amidst a muddle of exaggerations and half remembered facts.
“If you subscribe to Cartesian philosophy,” he joked, “then the only thing you can ever be sure of is your own existence. I might just be a figment of your imagination, so how can we ever be sure of the truth here?” They all laughed at that, but, if truth be told, it bothered him. He’d been a young man when he’d first become aware of the subjective nature of reality, that there really was no objective truth. How could there be? Two people could recount the same experience in such radically different ways, react to the exact same stimulus in fundamentally opposite terms, that it was impossible not to conclude that one’s experience of reality was intrinsically bound up in one’s own internal reality, and that any search for empirical, objective truth was doomed from the outset.
Even the old adage that you could, at least, trust the evidence of your own eyes was revealed to be quite clearly false to anyone suffering from the common affliction of myopia. From the age of eleven his own eyes had been telling him that the world was an indistinct, blurry mass, and it was only the glasses he’d had to wear every minute of every day since then that refined the world into the sharp, focused picture that everyone else supposedly saw. Who was to say what was real though? Who was to say that the blurred, indistinct masses he saw without his glasses weren’t how the world really was? And that the in-focus world he saw through his spectacles wasn’t the illusion?
Things just got more muddled as he got older. If we could barely agree on an objective definition of the nature of something so concrete as a chair, or a book, or a tree, how could we ever hope to agree on something as ephemeral as love? How do you define an emotion? How do you describe a feeling in empirical, rational, objective terms? How can you ever know that you share an emotion with someone else when you can barely explain to yourself how you feel? Let alone someone else!
So now he and these eleven other people had to figure out who was telling the truth. It sounded so simple when you said it like that. The judge made it sound so straightforward. Yet he wondered if there was really any truth to find. They bandied about words such as “innocence” and “guilt” without ever discussing the nature of an external morality, without ever contemplating its possible source. It was just assumed that certain things were inherently right and wrong.
So they laughed and dismissed the question of the subjective nature of reality without a second thought, and returned to the task at hand…defining reality, and creating the future.