Thought for the week: Deborah Jane is out of true
Recent issues of the Friend have caused me to think long and hard about Truth, and about what Love requires (Meeting for Sufferings report, 14 February). Martin Schweiger’s letter (7 February) spoke to my condition. For many years I have attempted to follow the advice of Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, on resolving differences: ‘Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.’ But I have found that, when perspectives differ fundamentally, the desire to achieve understanding through words may actually worsen divisions. I wonder if perhaps the problem lies in each of us having our own truth? There may not be one single incontrovertible Truth on which we can agree, despite our best intentions. In the 14 February issue, Clare Scott Booth describes the theme of reconciliation planned for Yearly Meeting Gathering as ‘how we talk through the hard stuff without blowing up’. This is exactly my problem.
My mother, Margaret Watkinson, whom some readers may remember, passed on to me two of her favourite quotes concerning the nature of Truth. The first is from Isaac Penington in 1653 (Quaker faith & practice 27.22): ‘All Truth is a shadow except the last, except the utmost; yet every Truth is true in its kind. It is substance in its own place, though it be but a shadow in another place (for it is but a reflection from an intenser substance); and the shadow is a true shadow, as the substance is a true substance.’
Secondly, AJ Balfour (with most of whose views I profoundly disagree) warns of truths becoming dogma:
Our highest truths are but half-truths;
Think not to settle down for ever in any truth.
Make use of it as a tent in which to pass a summer’s night,
But build no house of it, or it will be your tomb.
When you first have an inkling of its insufficiency
And begin to descry a dim counter-truth looming up beyond,
Then weep not, but give thanks:
It is the Lord’s voice whispering,
“Take up thy bed and walk.”
Neil Morgan (7 February) said: ‘Language and words divide us. Words, somewhat coldly, separate… They define.’ So I think I’m going to try something completely different. Instead of attempting to understand and be understood through words and talking, I’m going to trust in the Light, hold myself and the other person in the Light, accept our differences and wait in silence for a way forward to make itself known. I’m going to try to take Bob Johnson’s advice (14 February) and learn to live with uncertainty.
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