The Prisoner

Within these walls,
Truth lies,
so lonely,
so forgotten.
The guards, Fear, Anger, and Hurt,
patrol beyond the bars,
keeping Truth here
separated from the Self.
The Self, lost and so alone,
seperates itself from others.
It lies beyond the warm embrace
of arms and eyes and bodies
who long to share a moment,
a smile, a sigh.
And so we lie fear-frozen,
immobilized.

In Truth
the door, appearing so rigid and lock-rusted,
is not locked at all.
The key sits untouched within the keyhole.
In fact, there is no key.
In fact, there is no lock.
In reality, there is no door.
In Truth, there is no cell,
no divisions among the Selves,
no bar barriers
to the cellmates on the block,
just illusions, phantom bars,
created by the inmates
to protect their fragile egos
from the vulnerability of the unknown.
And so we remain in our own little confused world
created from experiences of anger and pain.

We must seek Truth.
We can learn to see clearly without eyes,
to trust without hope,
to do without a defined purpose,
to be without the delusion of reason,
to love without a definition of love.

With Truth
we can create meaning from nothing,
break life’s chains,
breathe deeply,
and walk out of this prison of hate.

So what is truth? Jesus, who had deep insight into spiritual matters, said it definitively, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Biding by Christ’s words can be summed up in the Gospel of Matthew, ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…(and) love thy neighbour as thyself’ (22:37-39). Truth cannot be understood by reason alone; it needs to be expressed and understood through the eyes of love. When we act compassionately through lov, we can see the truth clearly.

So what is getting in the way of perceiving the truth? As humans we have the ability to create mind sets, electrochemical neural circuits that form our belief systems, beliefs that are constantly triggered by events coming from our environment. These circuits are wired with powerful emotions created during our most vulnerable experiences. Because these beliefs are essential for our survival, we form a set of biases to protect these beliefs. The first is the belief-bias effect when we accept only the evidence that conforms to our belief, rejecting or ignoring any evidence that does not. The second, confirmation bias, is the strong tendency to search for information or evidence that confirms a belief, while making little or no effort to search for alternate information. The third obstacle is the fallacy of positive instances. It is our tendency to remember uncommon events that seem to confirm our beliefs and forget events that do not.

In effect we each have our own set of truths and biases and that is okay; in fact, it is totally natural and is a large part of what makes us unique. We are also social creatures, and as such, we are constantly involved in group problem solving situations. On the positive side, especially in small group situations, we can each bring a unique set of experiences and beliefs to solve a group problem. On the negative side, when we apply our biases to today’s issues, we get to see how complicated reaching a set of truths can be. The larger the group the greater the stakes and the more complex the problem. In addition we have powerful forces out there who want to feed us misinformation so they can use us tfor economic gain or to satisfy their hunger for power.  However, we also have an out if we wish to take it. It is called compassion.

Through compassion we have the ability to truly listen with respect and awareness of where each member of the group is coming from. The first step is to realize that we have our own biases and set them aside while we listen to the hurts and opinions of others. We let them express their views without judgement; in fact, if we are truly conscious, we will be able to listen even more intently when they express strong emotions realizing that there is some deep-seated issue that may be affecting not only the person but also the overall wellbeing of the group. We try to understand and affirm their opinions and feelings even if we do not agree with them. We realize that there may be an even more important issue that may have to be addressed that is contributing to the present problem. We can then guide the discussion so we can each calmly and compassionately arrive at a solution that each of us can accept.

To do that we have to rely on the best information available. We can turn to science for a clue on how to do that. In scientific study we have developed a method to judge the reliability and validity of a set of scientific data. It is called significance. The accepted level of significance is 95% which mean that there is only one chance in twenty that the results are due to chance. This is significant for two reasons. First we have a reasonable level of confidence that the conclusions are reliable, and secondly, we recognize that chance does exist, and the results may also include some unexpected confounding variables. Sometimes the exploration of these possible variables leads to greater understanding of the problem and improved effectiveness of our intervention. When we are looking at our information, we also have to look at the type of information. Experiments such as the double-blind technique used by pharmaceuticals can make a case for cause and effect; however, this almost always includes the one-in-twenty (or even greater) element of chance. Surveys and questionnaires do not express cause but merely a relationship between two concepts such as the relationship between levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the occurrence of hurricanes or heat waves. This information is not causal; however. this is still valuable information, and when we are group problem solving, we have to rely on the best information that is available to us at the given time while still being cognizant that there may be other factors involved.

In conclusion everyone is entitled to their own beliefs when it comes to personal decision making, but some difficult choices must be made when it involves the beliefs and lives of a very complex and diverse society. There is no absolute truth except the need for compassion.  When we truly respect everyone’s opinions and feelings, we will try to accommodate their ideas without the arrogance of believing that the ideas of the majority are the only possible right ones. We move forward with the logical course supported by the data while trying to accommodate the concerns of everyone in the group. When we look at the information, we search for the underlying truth. In the next four weeks we will try to apply these principles to major issues facing society today.