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“It should be borne in mind, of course, that there is an inevitable discrepancy between the truth of the matter and what one thinks, even about himself.” — Henry Miller

The entire Web site revolves around the quote and asks, “Do you allow for discrepancy?” Some people see no discrepancy between their feelings and ideas and the absolute truths they cherish. This is not commonly recognized as fanaticism, but I think it is — a comforting, empowering, self-inflating fanaticism that many people are loathe to abandon because it feels so good.

Such people proudly cite experience, knowledge or faith to support their ultimate, eternal claims, forgetting that human beings, human institutions, human knowledge, human viewpoints, human values and human judgments are shaped by time, place and culture and influence what we see, think and feel, especially in regards the traditional metaphysical ideas and systems, which cannot be proved or disproved as of this writing.

So, ideas and systems need not be accepted or rejected out of hand. They can be reviewed, studied and weighed, but perhaps only by the few who have given themselves “entirely over to curiosity.”

The person in love with ultimate, absolute truth is like a person, “who wears blue spectacles and insists, in perfect good faith, that the world is blue.” Other people — especially those who make Web sites about belief — don’t categorically deny the possibility of knowledge, gods or truth, they simply don’t know for sure; they’re still wondering.

They realize they’re living “under the influence” of time and place and personal history; they suspect there’s more going on than meets the eye — even in regards themselves — and that truth claims often are exaggerated, unfounded, parochial or nonsensical. Being agnostic across the board, they’re still pondering the big questions. They try to clear their lenses and see the world in its own hues, probably an impossible task but worth the effort.

People in the first group think it’s essential to know “the truth” and hold life-structuring convictions with absolute certainty. People in the second group say, “I don’t know. I am still thinking about it.”

So everything on the Web site comes back to the discrepancies between what we think, what we know and what we believe, and how personal perceptions — and our fallilble judgments — create meaning and establish values. It comes back to the idea that while people may sometimes know the truth, they cannot know that they know it* without some leap of faith, recognized and admitted, unconscious or denied.

The person who understands that he’s made a psychological leap can admit, “This is what I believe and value, though I can't say it’s the truth — and I may change my mind,” while the person who’s denying a leap of faith will insist his beliefs are, “obviously true, now and forever.” He cites “facts” — and being under the influence of something he doesn't recognize, takes no responsibility for his views as his views.

This Web site seeks to help people see their beliefs as their beliefs. Why go to the trouble? Because I believe ...

• admitting such things brings us closer to “the truth of the matter,” whatever that may be — perhaps that the world is more psychological than logical and factual ...

• and because it frees people and spurs their creativity — which is to say, there should be “no prohibited places in all the realms of thought” ...

• and because we judge before we understand, while it’s important that we do just the opposite: life becomes less automatic and more humane ...

• and because I think the world is a better place without fanaticism.

*Or as the poet-philosopher said:

“The gods did not reveal, from the beginning,
All things to us, but in the course of time
Through seeking we may learn and know things better.

“But as for certain truth, no man has known it,
Nor shall he know it, neither of the gods
Nor yet of all the things of which I speak.

“For even if by chance he were to utter
The final truth, he would himself not know it:
For all is but a woven web of guesses.” — Xenophanes


©jonfobes 2005