Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Truth: An Integral Perspective

Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Palestinians… they all developed amazing narratives and presented facts to prove either their right to this land or the true identity of the aggressor, but how will we know what's true? This post is for the true truth seekers from all sides. Here are 3 kinds of truths we practice:

The first kind of truth is THE truth
. It's the belief that there's only one truth that applies anywhere anytime and can explain everything. Usually that truth resides in a certain interpretation of the Bible/Koran or in some ideology (Communism? Zionism?). That is THE truth and everyone else just didn't realize that yet and we have to help them do it...The people who believe truth to be so, are incapable of truly seeing someone else's perspective because they're completely identified with the weigh of their only truth. Sometimes they have overwhelming excuses that subject all other narratives to theirs. Religious Fanatics belong to this group but not only them. A lot of Israelis, who don't question the local framing of events and take our story as the only possible truth, are in this group. They see Lebanese people as ones who just fail to understand all that we're doing for their sake. Are they blind? Well, to a certain amount, yes. When you stop questioning your thoughts/believes, your blind spots multiply. If you question them it doesn't mean you have to change them, but answers become less black and white. It's the funniest thing to see them arguing in Lebanese blogs with Lebanese people who do the same thing with THEIR truth. It's the conversation of the blind and the deaf. Too often people die in the service of those truths, as their heroes or their necessary sacrifice. It's because of the belief that truth is bigger than life. If you see nothing wrong with all of that, that's fine. I just wish the truth you hold on to doesn't put you in an infinite conflict or consumes your life. In that case, I would suspect it enough to inquire more. Beware of people/ideologies who have a clear asnwer for every quetsion. you've lived long enough on this planet to suspect life ain't that simple.

The Second kind of truth is the Proven Truth. What was proven in scientific methods, what is rational and makes sense, based on facts and well written. The argument style of those people is to quote more facts, but isn't it weird that the other side can argue those facts with other facts, sometimes opposite facts, and you're getting lost in translation? If you insist to pursue the arguments to their core, you might accidentally find yourselves quoting some biblical right or a belief which isn't based on the principals of truth as you perceive it, and than it really becomes a dead end. Did anyone ever convince the other with "his" facts? Both Social and life Sciences have shown that our reality is chaotic and cannot be trusted to provide definite answers (Quantum physics, anyone?). The history we rely on was never an objective science, the Media we see through is biased and digital imaging is being forged, everything sought to be objective turns out to be socially constructed and some say now that even our eye doesn't really see everything there is but only part of reality and what it wants to interpret etc. Are these you weapons, stories who are naturalized as facts? Has anyone come up yet with a scientific test that can prove the truth of one form of interpretation over the other? I'm preparing the Nobel Prize for him.

The third kind of Truth is that there can't be any truth or that it doesn't really matter. Truth is such a relative concept that you don’t bother dealing with it. Sometimes you're called "post modern" or "left wing". It's hard for you to establish a hierarchy between Israeli truth and Lebanese truth and who are you to judge, right? But it seems you ARE guided by some truth/guiding principal. Wouldn't all of you agree that peace and harmony should reside in the universe, between humans and between them and nature, all humans and animals' lives are scared etc.? so you do have a truth, right? The majority of people who are against this war (and wars in general), that magnify the killed civilians– act from this point of view. If you ask them about the Middle East they'll usually say all is awful and got to stop or at best side with the underdog/the suffering side. Facts or context don’t matter really, it's the human and nature suffering they're against. Many people might agree with this view, but although it seems tempting to hold it, it's an impotent view. If your country is attacked would you sit and let it happen because you don’t believe in violence and have compassion to the attackers? sometimes when there's no real truth or moral hierarchy, you have no tools to judge anyone even if everyone feels something's wrong about blowing up a train. This view can be experienced as non-judgmental or all-judgmental, which is what happens when a representative from every human war is trailed for war crimes in Hag. i mean, someone, show me a war that isn't a war crime! the best thing would be to make it illegal to start a war, I'll vote for that. As impossible as it may sound to you, disharmony is a part of harmony; if something's perfect it must include imperfection as well. You isolate what you perceive as "bad" from its natural place in existence. When a tiger eats an antelope you can't scream "it's wrong". Various traditions agree that conditions of friction and stress often are the ones that make us grow, wake us up to evolve beyond them. I think it is worthy to resist wars and violence but please be context picky, because if you have the same solutions for all actions, you're back to truth number 1. You might think your humanistic solution is just better than the one others shoot for and than you're falling into truth number 1's trap again. It's not the content of truth that has to be replaced but the whole structure.

*** So what do I suggest?
The truth doens't put all its eggs in one basket

"A Paradox is merely the Tension between Reality as it is and the way you think it is" (Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in physics)

None of the former perspectives is true but all of them are. Truth is an integral perspective; it can never reside fully in one side and nobody's wrong 100% of the time. This principle exists in Ken Wilber's integral theory as well as in the Jewish Hassidic idea of "holding the paradox", or the Hindu saying that "even a broken clock shows the right time twice a day". (Is there such an idea in Islam, maybe in Sufism?)

If you're a real truth seeker you need to be willing to question the story you grew up on and the facts you have witnessed and listen to more narratives, get a more complex picture. When you reach the point you'll have no definite answer but you can see each side has a point and at the same time identify the potential distortion of it, you're there. I'm trying to do that all week, browsing Lebanese blogs and seeing things from their perspective. It cannot make me change sides since ignoring the fact I am already on my side would be unrealistic as well. But with their help I feel I have less answers and more questions, hence, more truth.

If you assume everything has a point, wouldn't it be worthy to try and see that point? I'll give you an example. I have my own believes about IDF as a moral army, I served in it, I know many of the soldiers since they're normally civilians, and I trust them to be humane. Lately so many people tell me IDF is a bully that I feel compelled to look into those times when it actually is. The truth would be that IDF is both moral and a bully in different situations, I guess. Ironically, taking responsibility for those times you're a bully is what makes you moral. Instead of stereotyping, we should react to each situation in its appropriate way. Usually people tend to bundle things in one package, call it "their political view" and cling to it regardless the circumstances. If one is pro Israel in one attack and anti Israel in the other, he's called "unstable" when he's actually more realistic than all of us.

We all could start this quest for truth by separating facts from interpretations and being careful with semiotics that carries an interpretation (terrorists, freedom fighters, murderers etc.), but most important is to try and see the spark of truth in every thing being said, even if most of it IS twisted, what can you still learn from it? Reading so much anti-Israeli views didn't change my mind and didn’t' change what I know to be true about my country. But it does help me understand that my country suffers from the bitten child syndrome. For generations it has been the persecuted victim, the "other" and now the abused falls into the role of the abuser (although he might live in denial or blame the new victim for the situation), acts like a bully thinking there is no other way/choice. the only other choice is to keep feeding that ancient belief that we will forever be persecuted and trust no one. A lot of healing is needed here and the more we bomb the more it's evident that we need help. i don't believe we'll loose a war since loosing can mean genoicde or ww3, but i believe we're already loosing many things that will force us to work on this healing.

And look at Lebanon, a country of war lords barely scratching its national identity, how united it became when attacked, how thier leadership awoke and its military might even start enforcing order. I truly believe they will come out strong and rebuilt in a healthy way out of this war. I think we should aspire to growth through peace and love but in reality we're not awake enough for it to happen all the time, and sometimes we are forced to see the opportunities that lie in conflict. It doesn't justify any price being paid for it, it's not in terms of reward and punishment, and it's damn worthy to try and change it. but meanwhile, it is reality and we're called to be realistic: instead of standing helpless against what we can't influence, let's start working on its teaching so it won't have to repeat and spell it out for us. lets accept what we can't change and learn from it how to change.

Byron Katie's working assumption is "when you argue with reality you loose, but only 100% of the time". All the trouble we have in the Middle East comes from arguing with reality and than no wonder we don’t trust each other. In Byron Katrie's work truth=reality. If in reality de facto all of us live here, than it's our loss if we argue with that. The only truth starts from accepting this fact. You can't start changing a thing you keep denying. The first step of making a change is accepting the current situation for what it is. Jordan and Egypt, for instance, are doing great since they accepted Middle East reality for what it is and so they have the best chances of helping and pushing to change it if they wish. The reality will most certainly not change with suicide bombers or PM murderers, we'll just find ourselves in the same spot years later after one more round of suffery. Reality won't change if there's a peace process but you blow it up because you want EVRYTHING, not just plain MORE (either Hamas or the Jewish Settlers take care of that stand). And THAT is arguing with reality. They constantly suffer for being reality-control freaks and all of us suffer along.

It is important to see the sparks of truth in their views but also to identify the point it gets twisted, maybe through being linked to another assumption we can break and still keep their core interest?... I long for the time governments will operate this way. Meanwhile, Every time I refresh the news web page a soldier dies, and I just need a break.


Blogger buruburu said...

Excellent article, I stand between number 2 and 3 (above) but lean towards 3. There is no absolute truth. The tragedy in all this situation is that people are dying. I have been touring the blogs today on both sides of the fence and the polarization is getting on my nerves. In my mind there is no black and white in this world, it is all in shades of grey whether we are talking about truth or morality.
The sad thing is, is that people are dying. Children are dying and people are terrorized on both sides of the fence.
You are the first blog that has given me hope today.
I want this all to stop.

2:58 AM  
Anonymous Myrna said...

Everyone wants it(all pain) to stop. Who likes pain and all this horror? I think we can't ever have peace with our neighbors(whomever they may be) unless we work for it.

Everyone is trying to 'figure it out', so much talk to find the right answer to make it go away, to end the pain.

No figuring it out intellectually is going to fix it, only real action, like what Carmel said...start listening to the other people who think so differently. Listening is taking action.

There are so many who get charged from any kind of fighting and then talking about it. Maybe it makes them feel alive. So many people and so many differences.

I'm sure there is big learning in all of this thing called life.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Carmel said...

hi bururburur, thanks. there's a lot of sparks of hope, I'm participating in a forum with Lebanese and Israeli people and i believe this medium and our words who travel faster than war planes will prevail.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Lilu said...

I just wanted to say many thanks, this excellent piece of writing got me back on the sane path, I was getting dragged down the finger pointing for a second there so thanks for reminding me what's important... glad to know you tune in to my blog so thanks for that too :) just wondering what'd you think of the 'silent protest for victims' concept if you've seen it?

oh and if you're looking for more conributors, I'm not Lebanese but I'm usually nice :)

email me if you got any thoughts on the subjects..

5:11 AM  

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