How will we ever identify truth, when we remain unwilling to venture forth and be willing to falter along the way?
By Lucy Woods
I think strawberry milk is atrocious. Perhaps you’re thinking: “Yeah, it’s gross,” or “That’s stupid. I love a good glass of strawberry milk.” While it may be a stretch to compare preconceived notions about milk to the polarization of thought, how often will we dismiss another person’s perspective simply because they contradict our own? In a world of technological inundation, political unrest, and religious hypocrisy, our desire to be understood overshadows our ability to understand. Often our biases and fears fuel those limitations to see truth or to understand another’s personal truth: “How could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?” (Plato) In works such as 1984 by George Orwell, Tartuffe by Moliere, and Allegory of a Cave by Plato,it remains evident that these variations of close mindedness are prominent.
To understand others, we must humble ourselves enough to know we may be wrong. How is it possible to reevaluate our perspectives when we find comfort in them? Worse yet, if we allow prideful ideas to permeate them? The renowned comedy, Tartuffe, illustrates an instance such as this, when pride can overrule truth. The protagonist, Orgon, has been blinded by his devotion to the antagonist, Tartuffe. Despite Orgon’s family’s attempt to prove Tartuffe’s guilt, Orgon chooses not to believe them: “He’d see the worst and swear it wasn’t true” (Moliere). Instead, Orgon continues to idolize Tartuffe, and this eventually leads to Orgon’s downfall. That very pride and inability to humble ourselves polarizes us; the world consists of more than our personal truths. We must seek to understand and resist allowing self-imposed, mental constraints to govern us: “They can only see in front of them, being prevented by the chains from turning their heads around” (Plato). Currently, these “chains” are not so much metal shackles: they present themselves through the role of pride, social media, and the inability to recognize and appreciate differences. Upon continual adoption of these “shackles,” we are no longer able to assess truth; instead we are weighted down by our comfort in naivety.
Our naivety, founded in our prejudices and preconceived notions, stems from our incomparable upbringings. Because of this, just as someone may believe something is wrong, you may counter that it is right. We cannot afford submission to our prejudices; we must collectively show strength and fearlessness in our pursuit of truth. However, in 1984 the destruction of the individual is prominent, and fear is the leading factor: “The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual” (Orwell). The Party in 1984 exposes the fears of party members and uses fear to fester into an overwhelmingly submissive community. Prejudices often stem from our aversions which manipulate our capacity to fail. There is an exceptional amount of strength in the fearless ability of failure. Furthermore, those fears and existing preconceptions may provide comfort: “There is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question” (O’Connor). Granted, while knowledge may at times be a burden, misinformation is far more detrimental. We seek to see those with opposing perspectives as individuals who have been misguided as opposed to an enemy.
While fear interacts with our ability to discern truth, our desire for acceptance clouds our genuineness. That exact question of truth influences and challenges what we present or what we hide from others. We control the lens from which we are seen, or alternatively, we attempt to: “Some wise man said that words were given to us to conceal our thoughts” (Nash). The poem “Golly How Truth Will Out,” by Ogden Nash, provides a satirical approach to the concealment of thought as previously stated. Nash later says, “I don’t believe a person will ever set the world on fire, unless they are a capable liar.” In saying this, it is evident that our ingenuity is not only natural for us, but also socially accepted. This lens of perception influences anything from our online presence to the way we present ourselves. Those misleading appearances often perpetuate a world of disconnection: “Will they defeat him gently, or leave him hurled on the green, his rags and wounds still hidden under the great breastplate?” (Rich). The poem that this quote originates from, “The Knight,” represents the concealment of ourselves, which is symbolized through the knight’s “great breastplate.” The “rags and wounds” symbolize our true selves, which we so earnestly desire to veil. Despite our desire for connection, the masks, “breastplates,” or pieces of armor we adopt to conceal ourselves deeply further ourselves from it. As a result, our desire to please, and consequently conform, is the dismissal of humanity itself.
How will we ever identify truth, when we remain unwilling to venture forth and be willing to falter along the way? Our ability to do so will allow us to understand each other comprehensively. Whether it be our prejudices, pride, or upbringings, it will take the courage of humility to reevaluate the canon of thought. If we can humble ourselves enough to reevaluate our own perspectives, we may perpetuate a world of understanding, not one of blame.
- Moliere, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. Tartuffe: Tartuffe and Other Plays. Signet Classics, 2007: 249-328.
- Nash, Ogden. “Golly How Truth Will Out.” I Wouldn’t Have Missed It: Selected Poems of Ogden Nash, Little Brown & Company, 1 September 1975.
- O’Connor, Flannery. “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.” Literary Cavalcade, 2001: 22-28.
- Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classics, 1950: 235.
- Plato. Republic. Simon and Schuster, 2010.
- Rich, Adrienne. The Knight. W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
- Vassallo, Salvatore. “Armor – Limatola.” Flickr. 2 December 2016.