Sunday, May 30, 2010

What is Truth

I've long believed that reality is relative.  Simply put, when I say reality is relative I mean that no two people experience the same version of reality.  For each person, his or her reality is a combination of sensory input, context, past experiences, interpretation, and probably countless other factors.  These all contribute to a person's perception, which is his or her experience of reality. 

What are the implications of having as many different versions of reality as there are people to experience them?  I'm sure there are many but one in particular is this: If reality is relative there really is no Truth (with a capital "T").  Now I know there are many who would disagree, particularly in America where truth is that which can be demonstrated via the scientific method.  Yet there are those who do not accept science as the keeper of truth.  There are those who flatly reject even those facts which have been rigorously tested and repeatedly verified by scientific research.

Aristotle proposed a theory of truth centuries ago called the Correspondence Theory of Truth.  The theory states that something is true if it accurately describes the world.  According to this theory there is a truth-bearer - the person making the original claim - and a truth-maker - the entity that verifies the correspondence between the truth-bearer's statement and real-world conditions.  Before the truth-maker can verify the accuracy of the truth-bearer's statement, however, one must first establish the precise meaning of the statement in question.  For example, "grass is green" is true if what is meant is that grass appears green to the average viewer under normal conditions.  However, "grass is green" is false if what is meant is that "green" is an inherent property of grass (because the green appearance of grass is created by light conditions, neural receptors in the eyes of the viewer, etc.).  Truth can only be determined after meaning has been established.

And perhaps that's a big part of what truth is - shared meaning.  After all, members of a given culture or religious group often share beliefs about what is true.  The more people who believe something is true the "truer" it seems to become.  Think about the Salem witch trials.  A large group of people became convinced that there were witches among them.  Whether there really were witches among them (truth) was irrelevant.  Enough people believed it and these so called witches were burned at the stake.

To a certain degree I think truth exists in the eye of the beholder.  What is true for one person may not be true for another.  That's not to say that there are no facts -- I just think it might be more difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction than is commonly assumed.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


It's important for people to have goals.  Goals motivate us to work hard.  The possibility of achieving a desired goal makes the future a promising place.  Goals provide direction and guide action.  They help to establish a sense of purpose and thus make life more meaningful.

It is useful to define goals clearly so that we understand what we're working towards and we know when we've achieved it.  It is possible, however, to be too specific.  It's important to leave room for flexibility.  If a person has a highly specific goal then there is only one acceptable outcome.  Success is narrowly defined.  This can cause people to pass up on other opportunities for growth that might also lead to a sense of achievement and personal fulfillment.

It is also important not to focus too intently on a given goal.  If all of our efforts are focused on achieving one specific outcome we are likely to miss potential opportunities that present themselves.  While it is important to focus on our goals in life it is equally important to be present and to participate fully in the world around us.  If we achieve a desired goal only to realize that we've missed out on life then what have we really gained?

Sunday, May 16, 2010


There are many different types and levels of risk.  Some of us are very comfortable taking risks and may even find it exciting or motivating.  Most of us, however, are a little less comfortable with risk.  The higher the level of risk the less comfortable most of us become.

It's virtually impossible to go through life avoiding risk altogether; it would also probably make for a pretty boring existence.  I wonder though, what most of us would do if given a choice between a somewhat risky option or an option with no risk involved.  Many of us would choose the no-risk selection in order to avoid the discomfort, anxiety, and uncertainty associated with risk.  Risk is uncomfortable.  Most of us tend to avoid feeling uncomfortable whenever possible.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable.  The problem occurs when we are so "addicted" to comfort that we refuse to follow any path or pursue any change that would take us out of our comfort zone. When we make choices in life based solely upon what's comfortable for us we miss out on opportunities for growth and are prevented from reaching our full potential.

The majority of us would agree that life is most meaningful when we are growing as individuals.  If we cling to comfort at all costs we become stagnant.  It's important to realize that while risk creates discomfort it's also essential for growth.  No one enjoys feeling uncomfortable but we can tolerate it.  If we can challenge ourselves to take risks in spite of the unpleasant emotions evoked we will find that the potential gains are well worth it.  Even when we take a risk that doesn't pan out well we may learn from these situations and apply the information to our future endeavors.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Finances and Getting Ahead

My boyfriend and I were recently having a discussion and it became apparent that our philosophies on the subject were fundamentally different.  I started a second job a few weeks ago and was complaining to him that I really don't like it and want to quit.  He stated that the second job is a way for me to "get ahead" and to "better myself."  He explained that I shouldn't be satisfied making the amount of money I'm making at my current job - it's really just enough to make ends meet with a little left over - and there's no significant raise or promotion in my near future.  He said that it's important in life to constantly be working to better yourself.  He proposed that for me, bettering myself includes becoming more financially stable.  That means I need to make more money.  Hence, the second job.

Now I'm all for bettering oneself but I also strongly believe that we should learn to be happy as we are and with what we have.  I went to college to do what I do for a living.  I knew I was never going to be rich when I chose to go into this profession.  I don't feel like I should have to work a second job that I don't like in the name of "bettering myself."  Why can't it be enough to make what I make, save what I can save, and enjoy whatever I can afford to enjoy?

This is one area where my boyfriend and I have agreed to disagree.  As for the second job -- I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to quit.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Change is an inevitable part of life.  Nothing in life is permanent.  Everything changes.  For most of us -- regardless of whether the change is good or bad -- change causes stress.  Why is this?  Why should we feel stressed about something that happens constantly and repeatedly over the course of our lives?  I've been giving this a lot of thought recently and have come up with a few ideas.

I believe that resistance to change creates stress (suffering).  Even if you're not actively doing anything to prevent the change from taking place you might be resisting it internally.  In your mind you might be wishing that things would stay the same or you might be having difficulty accepting that things are now different.  This internal resistance puts you at odds with what's happening in the outside world.  This conflict between internal and external creates tension.

Change is often accompanied by uncertainty, particularly during periods of transition.  The outcome of a given change might not be known.  While the change is being implemented and before any results have been produced there is a period of uncertainty.  Many people have trouble tolerating uncertainty.  We often fear the unknown.  When we are faced with uncertainty but are unable to tolerate it we become anxious.

Another reason change can be stressful is because often it requires us to do something to adapt.  That is to say that one change might require us to make additional changes in our behaviors in order to re-establish equilibrium.  The changes we need to make in order to adapt might not be readily apparent.  We might need to brainstorm or problem solve in order to identify how to adjust our actions so that they make sense given the change in circumstances.

Change is stressful for all these reasons and probably others.  The challenge for me -- and for all of us -- is to learn to approach change with equanimity.

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