“On truth as a personal compass and means of changing the world” as a title already sounds somewhat philosophical. A topic that seems evasive as its subject. What does it even mean? And, what is truth, anyway. Many philosophers and normal people since the beginning of humanity have wrestled with what truth is. No doubt some people have asked and will ask, “What is truth?”.
Some do this to defend something. There are also those whose questioning is genuine. They want to define truth. Have clear lines and descriptors for its confines. In some ways we can define truth, and in other ways we know in our hearts of hearts when we betray it. All of us know truth.
When we are certain about it and it is violate, all of our being revolts. Sometimes anger is the unscripted reaction. When truth about who are and our world, present or preferred, is held personally any perceived attack on it is synonymous with an attack on ourselves. Often this becomes fuel for some action.
(What we believe is) Truth is often at the centre of conflict. When two or more people (genuinely) believe that what they know and act on is truth, conflict ensues. Sometimes, all parties are right. At other times one party is right and the other wrong. Saying that all parties might be partially right wouldn’t be superfluous; it is most appropriate here.
Our commitment must be to truth. It is its pursuit as a personal compass and cornerstone to a greater world. Our other commitment must be to humility and courage. Humility to admit when we’re wrong and to be measured when we declare and live out (our) truth. Courage to confront ourselves and the lies we (can) tell ourselves. Courage, also, to confront lies and injustice in our immediate world and beyond.
This is what I think Chimamanda advocates in her talk at Harvard. I must admit there’s possibility that I might have also projected, inferred or appropriated her words. I will say, though, that everything I’ve written thus far (thanks for reading) is my reflection on truth as a personal compass and means for changing the world. I feel Chimamanda has helped articulate it.
Some of Chimamanda’s words remind me of the ones my grandmother said to my siblings and I with, “Love one another and never lie.” Truth and love. Now, there’s a thing. Loving people and truth.
Now, we will have moments we dispute truth. This is a fact of what some call the ‘post-truth era’. But there are times of real clarity–when truth is in no way elusive. In those times, especially, may we have the courage to give ourselves wholly to acting on what truth demands.
Thanks Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi for your honesty and speaking with compelling clarity.
Here’s to a love, humility, courage and truth. Cheers.
Also published on Medium.