“Keep the faith and be true to yourself,
never relying on others or chance to determine your life.
Choose and once you have decided, then stick to it to the end.
And, when you do – after you have ceased to exist, you will have created “Truth.””
As I was browsing through our Forum, “The Flowering Way,” I happened to come across some student quoting me. So, I read through it again and it hit a nerve. TRUTH, from the time we can speak we have always asked the question “Why?” That is one question that you can ask and ask and ask and it can never be satisfied. Don’t you remember your three or four year old asking you, why is the sky blue?
Because God made it that way?
Because he likes blue?
Why? Because, OK to tell you the truth, it is the combination of gaseous material which diffracts light into particular frequencies of electromagnetic radiation that is perceived by our retinas as the color blue?
Why? And on, and on, again.
This is what drives most parents crazy. But let us think for a moment. Isn’t that the fundamental question that we need to ask in order to find the truth? Why do our retinas perceive it to be blue? Why couldn’t it be something else? And do all creatures see it as the blue we see or even other people and if they do not, then blue as we know it could not be the Truth. And if that is so, then how can anything we perceive be the Truth. Further, what is ‘blue’ anyways? It is our truth as human beings or truth as it remains convenient, but not the ‘Truth.’
We can continue this epistemological debate and go even further into the philosophy of language and as in Physics, the deeper we go, more the questions we’ll find. So, after couple of decades of questioning everything, I have come to the point where I know I cannot answer all of them and that I will never know the “Truth,” but only functional truths. And, I am at peace with that.
I think that this is the most important realization that one can come to and it is not giving up, it is not being pessimistic, it is not compliance, and it most certainly is not ignorance. It is a realization, a self-actualized knowledge. Truth as in life is in doing, in living, in seeking, it is in the journey. Whether we find the Truth or not is not what is important, but that we seek it. However, somewhere between why is the sky blue and does God exist, if there is a Santa grant me a bike and why has God forsaken me, thinking you are Superman and got to go to graduate school to get a raise, we have lost the sense of wonderment, the fuel which drives our truth-seeking engine, the stuff which makes dreams come true. We lost the belief in the possibility that the impossible can happen and not only happen, but made to happen. In my opinion, Truth is what we make of it. If you say you cannot, then you cannot; if you say you don’t like, you don’t like; if you say you quit, then you quit; if you say I don’t love anymore, then you don’t love anymore; if you say you are done, then you are dead. And what more truth is greater than knowing that if you live there is life and if you die then it is death. I choose to live.
Don’t misunderstand me, you cannot get to this point until you journey. One must be critical. Not just be critical of others and external things, but just as or more so be critical of the ‘self.’ The business of seeking truth is a lonely job, paved with disappoints, disillusionments, heartbreaks, sometimes abandonment (letting go then regretting it by blaming the offender), hopelessness, and many other not so pleasant emotions as one’s foundation starts to shake, crumble and rebuilt. Yes, rebuilt, many times. The question is will you rebuild or will you accept it as is? To me this is a matter of life and death of the soul. Once your whole world view and the truths that you’ve built your paper empire on falls apart, what will you do? And, if your foundation, your core has not turned to ash, then it has not been tested, tried, and criticized. The journey of Truth lies in the rebuilding and this takes all the courage in the world. Who is better off, the bum who wanders for food and lives moment to moment or the person who goes to work everyday to pay their debts? For me truth lies in purpose and purpose rises from the rebuilding of Truth. Each time you rebuild, there will be certain things which will remain and that to me that is Truth and it is up to me to make sure it stays true.
A Hwarang is a truth seeker and a Truth keeper. And, this means to be unafraid – unafraid of being wrong.
Grandmaster Taejoon Lee