Questions vs. Answers

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Truth Serum.” You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?

A long time ago I was a hot-looking younger teacher, but not as young as I looked. I knew my students at the international school always wanted to know how old I was. The question rustled through the classroom on the first and second days. I heard them talk about it outside of class. Finally I made a second-day-of-class moment every term where they could ask me anything they wanted to. Invariably, the first question amounted to “How old are you?”

The answer wasn’t very interesting. It destroyed the titillating uncertainty that had buoyed their spirits for a little while. This was a point in my lecture. What is more interesting, a question or an answer? That stimulated debate that got them to speak English and the consensus, usually, was that questions are more interesting than answers.

Of course, there are people in my past that I would really have liked answers from. My mom, for one. Learning ten or so years AFTER her death that she was an alcoholic wasn’t that useful to me. It would have been more useful to know it sooner so I wouldn’t have thought her manic rages and sadism were really and truly justifiably directed at me, the incarnation of evil. Still, I don’t think in the grand scheme it would have made much difference. She would still have been her. The important thing is that ultimately I learned the truth.

The “truth will out.” Sooner or later it raises its shining white head in the dark places, but even when it’s right there in the room, we have many stragedies for ignoring it. I don’t know if I knew, on some level, about my mom and simply denied my knowledge or if I really didn’t know. I think I really didn’t know. Denial is a coping stragedy and sooner or later we emerge into the light of day there, too, and see what’s in front of us. Of course early man could NOT outrun the sabre toothed tiger, but if he didn’t TRY to run away he’d have no chance at all. Believing he could escape led him to try, and in trying he had a greater chance of escape than if he had just stood there, accepting the truth that the cat was faster. Who knows? Maybe the cat wouldn’t see an uplifted tree root or the gods might smite him on the way.

In all the years I taught critical thinking, the question of the truth was a huge area of dispute among my students and between them and me. Mostly they had grown up in a subjectivist world in which truth was “personal.” I had spent some time in that world, too, but it was tremendously liberating to me to understand that truth is NOT personal. Beliefs are personal. The truth is out there (ha ha) waiting to be discovered and little by little human beings have made progress toward the truth. The search for truth is the motive behind scientific inquiry; truth is the desired object of curiosity. I love that. I find it very beautiful.

Recognizing the difference between beliefs and truth is important. If people did this they might stop fighting each other over the spelling of the word God. Maybe they could all stop for a moment and say, “Dude, fact is, I can’t prove there is or is not a God. I believe there is a God and that He watches out for me. I believe he gave me these rules to live by. What about you? Have you experienced something similar?”

And the other guy could say, “That’s interesting. I also cannot prove or disprove there is a God. I also believe He watches out for me. I have some rules, too. Do you think they might be similar to yours?”

And maybe then the two sides would sit down and compare their rules, find them almost identical and then begin talking — not about the spelling of the word God — but about what they could do together to fulfill the world predicated by those rules.

I live in a place where most people are religious, most are Christian. I think organized religion is difficult because of human nature and I deal with the question of God in my own way. As Goethe said, “I’m not un-Christian. I’m not anti-Christian. I’m simply NOT Christian.” Maybe, as I have, Goethe found one single thread running through all the world’s faiths and decided the boundaries were fake. I have no idea. I gave atheism a shot a few years ago and it is definitely not for me and I decided I was happier living with the question than without.

My town — which had big aspirations at one point — is filled with BEAUTIFUL churches and I love that. There is a corner on which there are three churches, all large, brick or stone, stained glass windows. The membership of churches here is very small which makes sense as the population is small. Yesterday I took my walker, bath bench, etc. to the First Christian Church. They keep a closet of medical equipment for people who need it. I met the pastor’s wife. She was one of those women who is truly “infused with the spirit.” She’s a sparkling, tiny, elderly angel who loves God. We talked a bit about why I’m not getting the surgery and she agreed with my decision. She said, “It’s good God spoke to you and let you know.”

I answered (and I truly believe this) “Well, he has his eye on me.”

She said, “It’s incredible how he can have his eye on all of us and we barely see anyone.”

I answered, “That’s why he’s God.” She was stunned — and delighted — by my response, but that is the point, that is the reason behind that giant eye-ball in Masonic emblems, in paintings in old churches, in Egyptian mythology — EVERYWHERE — is God’s all-seeing eye.

I was so impressed by her that I went home and checked out her church. I looked up the history of the Christian Church — I learned that its formal name is Disciples in Christ. I learned that they originated in the US in the 19th century and their basic rationale for existing is to bring all Christian faiths together. The irony, of course, is that they suffered a serious schism and broke into three denominations…

And that seems to be the truth about people. Three churches on one intersection. And the truth? Well, for me it comes down to a closet of medical equipment for people in need and that woman’s beatific gentleness and faith. Always a question.

Chiesa Santa Anastasia, Verona -- could be a model for this beautiful church in Monte Vista CO

Chiesa Santa Anastasia, Verona — could be a model for this beautiful church in Monte Vista CO

6 thoughts on “Questions vs. Answers

  1. I lean toward metaphysics nowadays. Metaphysics as taught by Emmet Fox. The only thing I CAN prove is that organized religions were invented in order to prey on the fears of man . . . and provide employment opportunities for the village idiot.

  2. I love this post. Insightful and profound. Pretty much the way I believe. I love beautiful churches. They seem healing and inspirational- why, I have no idea.

  3. Show me a church and I will show you my camera. i was once Church of England, then I was something like pentecostal (they had a good Sunday school), I lived with a muslim family for two years and married a Swiss Reform church guy which was about as reform church as I am Church of England. I live in a roman catholic area of Switzerland, but looking at the cemetery, everyone goes to the same place eventually and so where do I stand? Nowhere, I am tolerant of all religions (my niece is buddist), find the study very interesting, but don’t put me in a group, because it won’t work. The truth? Who knows.

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