Truth: for the Empathetic

Truth is objective, and I am its object.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.     Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3

I am going with Shakespeare on this one. I was married a little over thirteen years when I first told my wife that I loved her. I do not recommend this, but then I do not teach by example. At least not as far as love is concerned. I do teach by example as far as truth is concerned. At least I try.

Immanuel Kant is another hardliner on truth. He "argues that it would be a crime to lie to a would-be murderer even to save an innocent life." Many have argued that Kant is as dumb as I am for suggesting such a thing. I can assure you that Kant is not as dumb as I am.

At about fifteen I took a class called Geometry. One of the things it did was change my view about true and false. Fifty five years later I still struggle with true or false questions, and true or false tests. Geometrical thinking is like a disease, and I got it bad during that second year of High School. There is no cure, so I still have it. So how does a second year high school class change your life? A simple example will demonstrate the problem. Here it is: 4 + 4 = 8.

Is that statement true or false? In Algebra class it is a true statement, but in Geometry class it is false. This is because in Geometry for a proposition to be true, it must be true in every circumstance, while in Algebra it need be true in only one circumstance, especially if this one circumstance is the default. (That is; the one normally to be expected). Meanwhile back in Geometry class, I can think of several instances where our question is not true. In the numbering systems for base 5, base 6, and base 7 it is not true. These systems do not even contain the number 8. It is a meaningless symbol to them. This means, I generally get a different answer to our sample question than almost everyone else.

Now back to that first twelve years of marriage. My reluctance to say "I love you" to someone had nothing to do with the difference between Algebraic truth and Geometric truth. It had to do with love. I was perfectly willing to consider love to be an Algebraic problem. Feelings are the sort of things that change all the time. There will be times when 1 + 1 = 0, or even some number less than zero. But that does not mean there is not love.

Toward the end of that first twelve years there died a young man who was looking for truth, but looking in all the wrong places, a young man who did not know the meaning of love, and would not speak of things he did not know. About that same time there emerged an ignorant child. A child who eventually resumed a search for truth, but was now looking in better places.

So I have learned why Shakespeare says "to thine own self be true." I have learned why Kant says to always be honest. I have learned how, and when, and why, to say "I love you." I don't always do it. I am confident that I do not do it often enough, but I do know that I never need be alone again, and that there will always be love.

The older I get, the more I know about love, and the less I know about everything else. That is the way it works when we insist on following the truth. About love, I cannot tell you more. It is a geometrical truth, about which we can only speak in Algebraic terms. Thus I will confine my remarks to those things about which I know less and less as time goes by. There are plenty of them, and this is a place where I can learn. Perhaps a place where all can learn. A place where we might find a few more things about the truth.

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