Truth, Fact, and Meaning

The things we are most certain of mean the least to us.  The things that mean the most to us, we are least certain of.  The difference is between fact and truth.  We are certain of facts, we believe truths.  A chemical redox equation can be duplicated anywhere, any time, and the results will be the same.  A redox equation is fact.  But does it mean anything to us how may electrons switch valences?  Of course, the batteries that depend on redox equations power our cars and cell phones, and they matter a great deal to us.  But the certainty of the equation itself doesn’t matter much to me.  On the other hand, the fact that there are eternal consequences to the way I live now matters a great deal to me.  The truth that there is a loving Creator watching over me, leading me, guiding me towards eternally lasting happiness matters a great deal to me.  But the existence of God is a belief, not a provable fact.  The reality of eternal life is also a belief, not a provable fact.

I grew up in a family that thought only science was truth.  Even art was devalued.  Math, engineering, chemistry, mechanics–these were the things that mattered.  These were the things they called truth.  The meaning a person finds in a poem, was not considered truth.  In fact, it wasn’t considered at all.  In the Turgenev novel I’m reading, the nihilist Bazarov deprecates belief, the arts, and aristocratic values.  He believes in nothing.  This abandonment of belief thrusts him into science.  He thinks that only science is certain.

But there is much truth in poems, like Robert Frost’s The Mending Wall.  “Something there is that does not love a wall.”  There is a feeling in us that wants connection among fellow humans and doesn’t love walls that come between us.  But Frost is an artist, not a scientist.  I don’t think it can be proven that there is a human antipathy to walls that come between us.  But I agree with Frost.  I believe he is correct.  The Mending Wall means more to me than the existence of quarks.  Quarks can be proved, Frosts truths can’t.  Neither can God’s love for humanity, nor the reality of afterlife.  But even if the things that matter most to me can’t be proven, my life is more fulfilling when I act upon the truths I believe.  I don’t see how science can direct me to a full and fulfilling life, even if the facts it discovers are provable.  The things that matter most to humans are not provable; the things that are provable hold least meaning to us.

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A WELL-LOVED LIFE

I treasure the measure allotted me, perhaps
Because I have known
Want and bitterness
Admittedly, self-imposed pursuant to
Higher education want and bitterness and isolation
The currency I’m currently earning renders
Me middle-class, statistically, actuarially, actually, without apology
I can buy my heart’s desire, for my
Wants and happiness
Are within grasp of my middle-class
Earning;–yearning not for all the world:
Some art, a guitar, travel to distant parts
On occasion; means for an artistic avocation
Wants and happiness
Gifts of a middle-class
Earning—living out my learning
Through a life well-lived, well loved life

Moments that Make Us Who We Are

I remember that electric slow dance
As I do our trips together
Moments I remember that make us who we are:
Your anger when I left you while I explored Chichen-Itza
The mystic glowing lake we paddled on together that Puerto Rico night
All those airplanes landing in the midnight sky over Miami as we drove home from Key West
Looking up at the base and down from the cliff at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump
Family, and the luxury resort at Saint Lucia
These are moments that make us who we are
Family dinners on holidays
My growing intelligence as I talk with you
The splash cymbal in the Blind Faith song our finger punctuates, listening to my iPod on the road
Sunday lunches out after I preach
Talk late at night
These are moments that make us what we are

SLOW DANCING AT THE BLUES BAR

Feeling electric

Current

Generated by you, us, moving

That slow dance to the blues band

Your head resting on

My heart

Beating

Moving

To the music

Feeling

More than hearing

The music

You

Touching me

Slow dancing

Electric current

Turned on

Electric

The music

Moving

On the dance floor

Those moments, moving

Afterward

Days pass

Remembering

We are not the same, now

The Wheel of Fortune

Blown away by the blues licks of

John Watkins–he played with

Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Willie Dixon

Played with

Here he is in a blues bar in my small city

Played with

I think of Darryl, my friend, he played

Arenas with Frank Zappa, Earl Klugh

Now eking out a living playing cruise ships

Played with

Played

The wheel turns–turns for all of us

A wheel in a wheel, in a wheel

There is a big wheel turning the world

We each of us turn in our small wheel

I was up–oh, I was up

My wheel spun off the axle and crashed

Oh, I crashed

It wasn’t a matter of riding high and falling low

I crashed

The big wheel swung me up onto my feet again

The beneficent big wheel

I’ve been riding it upward for years

And my small wheel is turning me towards prosperity

I’m not expecting it to crash

But who does?

 

Epistemology and What Words Are

Words are created by people;

They help us function.

Words have meaning only when

Our experience meshes with the origin

Of any given word.

Then there is the consideration

Of experience.

To Locke, experience is

Inner and outer.

The motions of our soul are inner.

The world we all share is outer.

Words created to mediate what is inner

Confront what is outer.

When they coincide,

We call it truth.

A preponderance of words from what is inner

That don’t coincide with words from what is outer

Is what we call a lie.

Linguistic processes affirm the art of epistemology.

And there is what we call truth.

For those who care.

Pygmalion and the Artist’s Love Affairs

When I first heard the myth of Pygmalion, I took it literally.  I thought it was about a sculptor who made a statue of a beautiful woman.  She was so beautiful that he fell in love with her.  Pygmalion (the sculptor) implored the gods to bring his statue to life, so that he could have a life with his creation.  I first thought that the sculpture being a beautiful woman was what caused Pygmalion to fall in love with her.  I read the story differently now.

An artist falls in love with each creation that comes out well.  Deeply in love.  I have some songs of my own which I love deeply.  I listen to them with enraptured delight.  I have certain poems that I feel the same about.  Now a poem or a song can’t come to life.  But that doesn’t change the love affair that the musician or poet enters into with these creations.

There is, of course the matter of public’s reaction to an artist’s creations.  That would be more like a parent’s feelings about her or his children.  And that would be a different myth.

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