The Perfects and The Truths
During one of my classes my professor quoted some famous guy, unfortunately I don’t remember the name or the exact words; but what he said was close to this-
‘There is no perfect truth. No research can reach the perfect truth. A research is complete only when the findings can be proved false. No research is the end’ (it’s not even paraphrasing really, just what I remember)
When I first heard this in class my first reaction was subtlety displayed shock. It went against many things I believed in. How could you say that ‘truth’ doesn’t exist, or more importantly that it’s impossible to reach it? It means every effort I, you, every other human being, and our species takes towards knowledge; is in vain. And then suddenly it dawned on me, what the person really meant.
Let’s take an example. An impeccable research has reached a certain conclusion, which is not only widely accepted but it is verifiable as well. That conclusion then becomes a certain benchmark in its field. And then what happens? We start thinking theirs is nothing beyond it, that this is the truth and it always has been the truth and will always be the truth. And then something comes along, that shakes the foundations of that solid conclusion- another discovery or invention.
This is something that keeps happening from time to time in the scientific world. I would say that this constant rejection and re-invention of truth is the reason why science is science. This spirit of curiosity, never taking anything at face value, of always trying to experiment, trying to find mistakes, and the attempts to falsify claims; that is the human spirit.
When we invented the wheel, in a way we were falsifying the belief that humans can’t travel faster. When telephones were invented, Bell negated claims that it’s impossible to keep in touch so easily. When someone breaks a lock or a computer code, better ones come up. The Olympic records are another example of the same manifestation of the human spirit.
But there are times when we forget to question, when we take things for granted, when we are not curious, and the biggest sphere of our life where we do that is religion. Any religion. We take it on its face value, worse still; we are convinced there is no truth beyond what is written in our respective sacred texts. Further, we think we have a patent to the truth, because ‘my religion is better than yours’.
This puts me in a dilemma. So here I am thinking out loud.
What is truth? It’s a concept or an idea. We know that everything in and around us is energy in some form. Then ‘the’ or any truth, concept or idea has to be energy in some form. We also know that energy can be transferred, and ideas spread like viruses, they only need a host to develop in. They are like embryos that need to be conceived, the only difference being that once conceived it can be spread at any level, and the next person(s) can develop it further. They die only when they are not shared or not given the form of matter, i.e. not put down somewhere. And when this idea changes hands or is simply put down on a piece of paper, it develops, it changes. And just as change of people and circumstances change a person even if it’s minutely, truth also changes. The only way it can’t change is when it’s in a vacuum, but I don’t think that’s really possible.
There’s another angle to this- our perception. Each one of us has a different perception, the difference can be so small that we don’t even experience or realise it, but it’s there. And this would additionally mean that any truth, when it comes in contact with us, changes itself, and us. So it’s different for all of us, even if infinitesimally so. I guess that’s why Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said :
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
Finally, whatever truth was written in our sacred texts, or anywhere, at any point, is not only changing, but different for all of us.
Conclusion? Progress in any form can only happen if we retain our curiosity, if we dare to question, and we have the courage to accept the change that comes, howsoever radical that is.
Much in the same way there is no perfection, and we can never achieve it, because there is always something better. Both ‘truth’ and ‘perfect’ are constants. And one of the central rules of the universe is.
“There is only one constant: Change.”
Thus, change should never be feared, because it represents the journey you and I have undertaken, and the journey of humankind, which still has a long way ahead of it.