Friday, April 15, 2011

Of Words and Truth

My husband and I have a communication problem. The vast majority of what I learn from the world comes through what I hear. Consequently, when I express myself I try to use very precise words in an attempt to be as well understood as possible. My husband, who is slightly deaf, learns more about the world through his senses of touch and sight. He is not as concerned with the precision of his words. Our communication problems stem from the fact that we often use the same words in very different ways--in different contexts with different meanings. This can lead to misunderstandings when we fail to realize we are using different words to promote the same ideas. Ironically, what we think of as truth is usually the same.

I believe communication problems in our world lead to a great deal of fighting and separation. We try to express the truth as we understand it with our limited vocabularies and expect others to exactly understand the concept we are talking about. The point is, human language is limited! Misunderstandings occur when we fail to convey truth through imperfect words.

Look at an orange. You can try to describe an orange to someone who has not seen or experienced one. You could say it is round, orange, and covered with small dimples. You could talk about the softness of the peel, the splatter of the juice as you pull it apart, the sweet-tart taste of the center or the bitter taste of the pith. You could use the best, most precise langauage possible. The person you are describing it all to might have some understanding of what you describe, but until they actually have an orange in front of them they will never know the reality--the truth--of it. Until they actually experience the concept of an orange it holds no real meaning.

Truth is much like the experience of an orange. You can describe it with words you know, and maybe the person who hears it will come away with some increased awareness of the concept and what to look for when it shows up. However, until they actually experience the truth--feel it with their being--they can never truly understand it.

It is ironic that many of us experience the same truth, but because of the words we use to describe our understanding we end up fighting about it. Truth is universal. Words are not. Remember that the next time you assume someone else is wrong in their understanding. Be open to getting to the heart of the matter--to understand the experience they are trying to convey instead of your interpretation of their words. You may find you are much more in sync than you originally thought.

May the truth make you One. May the truth set you free.   

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