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Truth, Perception & the Unknowable


By Anil Raturi 

Morality, Ethics and Legality all depend on the notions of existent Truth. “Sati” was moral once but today it is not so, rather the law prohibits it! Marcus Brutus loved Julius Caesar but considered murdering him with the Senators of Rome an ethical necessity! Today, such an assassination would be considered not only an act of murder but also that of treason! As Society and Culture mutates, so do its morality and law! It may appear strange but the truth for different times and places can often be different! It can even be different for the same society for different ages! What is Truth? Is there something Absolute about it? How do we perceive it? Galileo was asked to apologise or face legal punishment when he propounded that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not vice versa! He had challenged the established notion of Truth! With his theories, Einstein proved that Newton’s laws of Physics were not the all comprehensive Truth about phenomenon and that there was more to it! Truth seems to keep changing!

Everything is perception? What is Truth? ¬†What is Reality? Is there anything Absolute? – Truth, Reality, untruth, half truth, falsehood…?

Humans are the only creatures on the face of this earth that have the ability to conceive abstractions. Their faculty of intelligence far outstrips all other animals! However, this very potential for rationality, paradoxically seems to limit their understanding of the phenomenon! Imprisoned in the predicament of “Time and Space”, their comprehension breaks down when it dawns on them that “Time and Space” are only concepts of human perception and therefore creation! A stone that has no awareness feels neither “Time” nor “Space”!

As Einstein said, it is a “continuum”, only “Relative”! Nothing is Absolute! It is only how individuals perceive!

Like when we see the horizon on the coast and behold the sea meeting the sky! One may ask: Where is the spot on which the land meets the sky? Nowhere! It is only perception, which is only relative and transitory and can change with time and place! But since there is nothing Absolute, we really cannot know much beyond a certain limit — for it is perhaps “Unknowable”! In “Burnt Norton”, TS Eliot says,

“Time present and time past, Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present, All time is unredeemable.”

Implying that in such a predicament it is sensible for us to look at the live and beautiful flower in front of us rather than regret missing the “rose garden” which may or may not have been there on the road that we did not take!

In such an existential crisis, Albert Camus suggested that, in order to make life worthwhile, humans should continue to gather small experiences of happiness and not wait for windfalls!

He believed that the human longing for meaning in a cognitively irrational world would only be answered with “the silence of the Universe”! Therefore, to make life worthwhile the humans should bring dignity to life and “love limitless”!