Truth, Reality, and the Authentic Self

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate…. John 18:37-38

Composer and conductor Joseph Curiale once said, “If you’re not living your truth, you’re living a lie.” This is a profoundly glib line. Indeed, to live one’s truth is to live a lie. One only lives in truth when one lives in the world we share together. Yet we are inundated with pretension slogans in the spirit of Curiale’s. Go to Google Images and search “My truth” and you will see what I mean.

Not everything is a construct. God “exists” because human beings do not have the power to transcend death or become angels, and God is, in the final analysis, the projection of a human’s desire to do the things he cannot do or be things he cannot be. One only imagines eternal life. One only wishes to be an angel.

The man would need no God personally if he had the power to construct anything he wished, if he could live forever or become an angel. To be sure, he can construct some things. He may build a church, for example. He may also construct imaginaries—he may construct in the minds of people false realities with the words and phrases he uses. (It will help if he is charismatic or has power at his back.) But he can be anything he wants. Reality limits him.

Jesus before Pilate before his death

That reality limits the man is no reason to despair. Obstacles may be overcome. But they cannot be overcome by pretense. They have to be overcome through ingenuity, through science and technology. Yet, even here, there are obstacles that cannot be transcended (and are therefore not really obstacles but rather essentials and inevitables, such mortality).

Language has many purposes. It can describe reality, organize reality, and manufacture illusions and simulations that appear as reality. But the external world remains real independent of the words and phrases the man uses for any of these purposes. Our minds can make illusions seem real; they cannot make illusions real.

It is an utterly false and, in practice, quite pernicious notion that reduces ontology to epistemology—that is, to confuse what is in the world with what the man thinks or says about the world. Whatever he thinks or says, the man lives in the same reality you and I do, even if he is delusional. He is certainly free to insist that he determines his own reality and that it is valid; but, in a free world, we do not have to live in his reality. We have our reality to live in and we must insist that we free to live in it. And, ultimately, he lives in our reality and, at points in his life, we must force him to.

Not every idea or claim is equal in soundness and validity. Not every claim represents reality or makes logical sense. Not every idea or claim is to be accepted or affirmed. It doesn’t matter what a person believes about himself, or what he says about himself—or what he says about us. What matters is what he does and what he is.

The terrifying thing about the notion that what one claims about the world is “his truth,” as if what is true fundamentally is not also fundamentally true for everyone, and that, to be “inclusive,” “his truth” is to be not merely tolerated but accepted, even embraced, is that we are being asked to dwell in the illusions of others, to affirm “their truths,” affirmations that require that we negate our commitment to the shared truth of our reality—or at least to pretend as if we do and live in bad faith.

Is it not obvious that this is a massive exercise in gas lighting? The man is telling us to doubt our reality—the reality that came before us and will survive us as individuals and collectively. No justice is possible in the world the man wants us to live in. Only tyranny. Human rights evaporates with the claim that each person’s perception of the world is sound and valid. Such an idea is the work of sociopaths.

Indeed, these sociopaths themselves cannot abide by the claim that every idea and practice is sound and valid. If this were true, then we wouldn’t see the corporate state apparatus mobilized to compel a nation to overthrow the reality it knows for the illusions of elites and their functionaries and pawns. We wouldn’t see Antifa thugs beating up women’s rights advocates in a public park.

The truth of authentic life is not the principle that what the man thinks of himself is to be taken as reality, but that one reality must prevail for all of us. Determining which reality to live in is a rather obvious choice since there is only one.

Growing up, I used to hear people say, “The truth shall set you free.” Tragically, there are people who believe that freedom requires escaping truth. Maybe they don’t know that’s what they’re doing because they have been told the value of “their truth.” But that is what they are doing. Why should it be expected of any of us too help the deluded perpetuate their delusions?

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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