Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What is Truth?

The often heard "rags to riches" tale can also be applied to the achievements of Korea after liberation from Japan and the Korean War. Among the leaders in many endeavors, Korea has recently joined, according to the Catholic Kyeongyang Magazine, the 20-50 Club, the 7th country with a population over 50 million and an average national income surpassing $20,000. It is quite an achievement, but though much has been gained, much has been lost, says the priest-writer, believing there is more joy for what we have gained than sadness for what we have lost. He quotes the words of Jeff Dickson's Paradox of Our Times to illustrate this dichotomy that infects, he believes, our modern societies.     

The paradox of our time in history is that
We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers;
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less.
We buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgment;
More experts, but more problems;
More medicine, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life.
We've added years to life, not life to years.
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We've conquered outer space, but not inner space.
We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We've split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We have higher incomes, but lower morals.
We've become long on quantity, but short on quality.


Summarizing the words from the article, the writer divides historical time into the ancient age, the middle ages, and the present age, with a definite pattern of thinking and acting in each one of these time periods. The focus, he says, during each of these periods was always on attaining a better understanding of truth, goodness and beauty.

The ancients inquired, with their philosophies, about the universe and the laws of nature. During the middle ages, inquiry swung to the study of metaphysics and, with God the center of interest, sought to prove the existence of the God they couldn't see. Learning was principally occupied with theology, philosophy, law and medicine.

However, with the pain of life and what was seen as the unreasonableness of death, there was a desire for a more personal God that would be more helpful to humanity. The advances of science and the breakdown of the traditional ways of seeing the world and ourselves have brought us into modern times, where humanity has supplanted God at the center of our lives. The industrial revolution and the division of labor accelerated the advancement to modern times, which ushered in contemporary ideas such as communism, democracy, materialism, modernism and postmodernism.

The influences on society have been many, including more emphasis on individualism, pluralism, multiculturalism, relativism.  Traditional concerns on what's important in life have been left behind, replaced with an interest in originality and individualism. Much has improved, with our knowledge greatly expanded, the writer admits, but more has been lost, he says, when the clear distinctions between goodness and evil, justice and injustice are no longer being made. It does require more vigilance on our part, he cautions, as we seek guidance on how to live our lives.

With this type of thinking, he believes everything can be true or untrue. In the past the search for "Being" was at the center of the search for truth; today the search has shifted to "Existence." The author uses the words of Benedict, the last pope, while still a professor in Germany, to emphasize the importance of understanding the dangers of relativism: "In the middle ages all being was true, but modern thinking has changed this to all we make is true, and this will be changed to whatever we will make is true."

The importance of what we think about truth cannot be overstated, says the writer. The way we see it will determine how we live our faith life.

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