Truth: the body of real things, events and facts; that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality; a judgement, proposition, idea or belief that is accepted as true.
“We see the world not as it is, but as we are – or as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.” (Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
That is, regardless of the visible “facts” of any given situation, we see what we expect to see, based on our perceptions of reality.
There are some 7.8 billion people walking the earth at this moment. Put any two together, have them witness the same scene, and, even assuming they speak the same native language (there are about 6500), chances are they will describe it differently. Highlight different aspects, completely ignore or be unaware of others. Even though the visible facts seem self-evident. I mean, you’re looking at the same scene, how much more self-evident can one get?
If we cannot agree on what is “self-evident” to the eye, how can we hope to agree on that which is evident only to the mind or the heart and must be expressed with words that are filtered by the sum total of our divergent experiences?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Lovely sentiment that, at the time it was written, was much more limited in scope and application than the all-encompassing words imply. And the country whose shackles begat the defense of said truths…disagreed. As did most if not all the world’s governing powers in their own spheres of socioeconomic inequality. And even many of the peoples who would be subject to the new and improved government to which this declaration sought to give rise did not agree with the very broad and beautiful words that were only words and not truths self-evident to any, quite possibly not even the writers. They sound wonderful. Worthy. I mean, who wouldn’t fight to ensure that ALL MEN had the right to LIVE FREE and with the opportunity to seek happiness? (The other side, apparently.)
The Golden Rule has versions across the world’s major religions so one might consider it self-evident. It is, to paraphrase, treat others as you would wish to be treated. Looking around, though, you would think the actual rule is treat others as you anticipate you will be treated, where one is always anticipating the worst.
Truths, like beliefs and ideas, cannot be seen, so the path to “self-evident” is even murkier than agreeing on what we can actually see with our eyes. Ultimately, we make a choice to believe, to accept ideas and truths…or not. And, far too often, even if we profess certain beliefs, and support generally accepted truths, actions belie our words.
The only self-evident truths that we have no choice but to accept as true? We are born and we will die. Everything else, as we see on a daily basis, is subjective. Relative. Debatable. Based on so many things that are not self-evident.
Truths today, but maybe not tomorrow.