On Being: Experience of: Truth

Music: Chaconne from the Suite in E Flat.
By Gustav Holst. Sequenced by George Pollen.

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Nicholas Gordon

1. When we say that something is true, we mean that it actually is what we say it is, and not otherwise.

2. This sense of actuality, or presence, is utterly commanding, and is what compels the flutter of the heart when one lies.

3. Presence, then, is the source of truth. For although we perceive at one remove, and often falsely, through the senses, we are bathed in presence, knowing well the difference between dream and reality the moment we awake.

4. Presence ought not be confused with the present, which is a construct of consciousness. For whatever we perceive as happening now is not happening now, but has happened at various moments in the past, news of which is just now striking the senses and being processed by the brain.

5. So, for example, we look up at the night sky and see a canopy of stars all twinkling in what seems to be the present. But what we are seeing is one star as it looked two centuries ago next to a galaxy containing billions of stars as it looked two hundred millennia ago, and so on, a history of the universe in simultaneous splendor. Similarly on Earth everything we see as synchronous is asynchronous, though the differences are so miniscule as to be unrecognizable.

6. Presence, on the other hand, is a quality of being, which, although perceived through the senses, is not a construct but compelling evidence of the Other, of which, however, the perceiving self is an indivisible part.

7. Because there is Other, however dimly perceived, there is reward for truth and punishment for falsehood. For the consequences of getting something wrong can be grave indeed. Thus experience teaches us to honor truth, if not in the word, at least in the perception.

8. Since the perceiving self is also a being, what it is and what it perceives are ultimately the same. It has its own compelling presence, its own truth, and so we experience within as well as without the otherness of being in its full strangeness and mystery.


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