Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Do You Mean

Life is the only real counselor, wisdom unfiltered through human experience does not become a part of the moral tissue.

Edith Wharton
In English class, when you learn a new word. you are sometimes required to use the word in a sentence to show that you understand what it means. A writer, in the process of attempting to explain or describe something may have an incomplete sentence and will go looking for the word that accurately says what he wants to say. In both cases the word is only a symbol for an object, an event, an emotion or an idea.

The fascinating thing is that even though there is a precise meaning to the word and a proper context for it to express what it needs to, the word is still open to interpretation depending upon who uses it and who reads it.

"What is Truth?" asked Pontius Pilate. Indeed that is a profound question. He didn't get an answer as far as we know, at least not a direct one. Pilate was an educated man. He probably read the writers of his day, but that didn't give him the wisdom to know what truth is.

When witnesses are sworn in to a court in session they agree to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." The question, what is truth, would be an appropriative one under those circumstances. What one is really swearing to is to tell the "facts." But even that gets muddy. Three people can watch the same event and come up with three different versions of what happened. It's going on right now about the Super Bowl. Was it a fumble, a fumble and recovery or neither one?

I have books and magazines on philosophy and all of them are someone's attempt to answer Pilate's question. Some of them are on the subject of Semantics, a muddy subject if there ever was one. Sentences are pulled apart and meanings challenged until they resemble mathematical formulas. But even under those hyper technological conditions words, and the ideas they express, still have a subjective aspect to them.

The wisdom of great thinkers comes from their own personal struggles to understand and express the truth. And we have the glorious right and freedom to access the wisdom of those struggles, take it back into our primeval caves and chew upon it. And when we have sufficiently held it up to reflect and see in it the light of our successes and failures we can emerge, maybe without the answer to Pilate's question, but, behold, with an improved moral tissue.

To use words takes courage.

DB - The Vagabond

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