It's Time to Participate

It's Time to Participate

Truth. It's a word we use every day. We use it as a measuring stick when watching the news, to qualify our relationships, we even use it to expose 'not truth'. Many are quick to remark that truth is analogous to 'fact' - that which is true is factual. If you sit on that definition even for a few minutes, you start to realise that a definition of truth that reduces truth to only 'facts' fails to encompass so much of life.

Imagine you're sitting in a low light room, in your favourite chair, with enough blanket to keep you warm but not hot. Across from you on a mahogany table is a record player, with a single record dancing around a pin while Claire de Lune emanates not only from the speakers but from every surface in the room. For a moment, you feel as if the entire world is at peace, and even the feelings of elation are eclipsed by a stillness you have not experienced in your entire life.

Think about that for a moment. Is your experience true? Well, as Jordan Peterson would say, it depends on what you mean by "truth". Truth defined by fact is an analogue of 'propositional truth', that is, rationally stated truth. A fact is merely a stated manifestation of propositional truth. Within the Christian tradition, anything denoted as a doctrine is a propositional truth, as it attempts to state belief. But how do you propositionally state your experience with Claire de Lune? What is factually salient that sufficiently represents the peace and stillness you experienced in that room? Moreover, what facts represent the beauty of the music? One might be tempted to parse the music, and deconstruct its whole form to find the facts, as if the beauty is somehow nested within the 12 notes and modal qualities. Survey 100 people on their feelings towards Claire de Lune, and you'll receive 100 unique responses. If truth is only fact, there should be a single response that represents that fact of the beauty of Claire de Lune - but there is not.

Propositional truth is valuable and powerful, but inadequate to inform us about the realities of our world. The most well defined and sophisticated doctrines cannot speak to the 'peace that passes all understanding', in the same way you cannot qualify the beauty of an Orchid. We need a deeper level of analysis, that doesn't seek to elevate truth to the fact of the matter, but to illuminate the very locus of meaning found within the relationship between you and it.

Within cognitive science, the rubric of truth is defined along four levels of analysis, moving from stated to relational: propositional truth, perspectival truth, procedural truth, and participatory truth. Each level of analysis serves a unique purpose in serving our understanding of the world; however, two realities exist in our modern world: modern thinking is often characterised by propositional truth, while everything meaningful to human beings - relationships, poetry, art, music, dance, colour, culture, architecture, beauty etc. - exists at the deepest level of analysis in participatory truth.

This isn't a guest lecture on truth from a cognitive science perspective, this is a cursory reminder that if you are a thinker, if you are passionate about ideas, if you are a believer in God, life is best lived when in participation with the truth. When you embody love, when you keep the Sabbath holy to be near to God, when you feel the beauty of music and art, when you empathise, when you reserve judgment for understanding. Each of these examples requires relationships between you and the world, as is the world is designed.

You are not a propositional being. You are a being called to participate in truth, in meaning, in purpose, at a far deeper level than that which is stated. And the more you resist that reality and relegate your existence to thought, the more disassociated and disconnected you will feel.