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Change. It is the perennial sign post of the human condition, and perhaps its eternal marker. We are beset on all sides by change, people change, the weather, the house and the time all constantly change, all slightly different then they were a little while ago, a few second elapsed and a magnitude of change incapable of comprehension to the human mind has occurred. Billions of atomic particles did not exist when you started this paragraph, they will have existed and vanished before you finish this sentence. Babies born, the living have died. Eternal unrelenting change. We are beset by it.

I draw this to your attention, not to remind you again of perhaps how small and uncomprehending a role we play in the vast universe, but to look for its opposite. In a world so beset by change I think it wise to look for what might be termed its constants. There are unchanging things in the world. The quote that of course springs to mind is that nothing is constant but change itself. But I think there are other things, and that to think of our world only in terms of its physical manifestation misses the essential elements of its formation and functioning.

I read a quote that exhorted the reader to believe in right and wrong, to trust and protect, serve and care for other not because they were necessarily true or correct, but because somethings are worth believing in whether they are true or false. It’s assertation made me come up short for a while, because I do agree that sometimes the truth content of a statement should have nothing to do with whether you believe it or not. Sometimes a lie is acceptable because it has the same effect as the truth. There is a Zen koan to the effect, stressing that a lie that has the same effect as the truth, is not a lie and should be treated as the truth.

In my mind though I can see the passionate riposte of the determined warrior of truth. While I’m sure there are many objections to my last paragraph, what primarily seems wrong is that Truth and Right, which are the fundamental axis of any moral compass, should be so interdependent and interrelated. It seemed that they should be clear and crisply defined, but instead that they seem so twisted together. The Truth is Right and the Right thing is True, but are all true things right, and right things true? Can there exist a situation in which doing the right thing involves sacrificing the truth? Or where telling the truth is to do the wrong thing? I strongly suspect that they do exist.

How do you deal with such a situation is hard for me to fathom. My instinct is to sacrifice the truth to the cause of right, in my thinking it seems to me that truth is of secondary importance to doing the right thing, for truth with a wrong outcome is not something that I can accept to be the correct response to a situation. On this line of exposition I would justify the telling of white lies, and the fudged truth to prevent hurt or a wrong occurring, yet this is a position that I find myself shaking my head at and thinking absurd. I find myself once again with more questions then when I started, but perhaps I can place my faith in change. Some day something will change, and I or someone else will have an answer to my questions. I will think and wait. And if I dare it, Hope.



    • behappy
    • Posted June 19, 2005 at 10:35 pm
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    Recently in Australia some professor published an article advocating the use of torture in interrogations under “extreme conditons”, even if the suspect is killed during the process. Many claimed this is unethical.

    Suppose a terrorist has hidden a nuclear device in a city of one million and is later apprehended. Is obtaining the location of the nuclear device through torturing the terrorist justified? Should we “do the wrong thing” in order to find truth, or sacrifice truth to remain in the right, in which case one million innocent people may lose their lives? I would prefer truth over right, though I concede that in less extreme cases the line may be more difficult to draw.

    • Anonymous
    • Posted June 21, 2005 at 12:30 am
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    To me the above example is just about “right” – rather than “truth”.

    The dilemma is “right” to torture the terrorist to save millions of lives, or is it still “wrong”.

    Truth is what IS. I beleive Right and Truth are tied together – Me and Mohammed have had arguments about this point..

    – James

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