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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ramblings, Truth, and truth

In an attempt to keep a regular blog schedule, here I am yet again, sitting down to write. The only problem is that I'm not quite sure what I want to talk about. I've had a number of different topics go through my mind in the last week, but at this point I feel tired enough that none of them seem worth pursuing. So, in classic Ty fashion, I will ramble until something coherent comes out. ;)

I've been reading the ebook "Gay Mormons?" which was edited by Brent Kirby. It's been an interesting read, and it has really opened up my mind to how diversely other gay men and women, LDS and not, have experienced and come to terms with their sexuality. Even though I had to break my stereotypical understandings to allow myself to accept my orientation, I have still gone about looking for commonalities in everyone's coming out process, as if I can validate my own experiences by matching them with others. That way my feelings will be real and legitimate, not just a bout of confusion over which sex I like more.

But I've been realizing that even among those who are "gay" there are so many people with different experiences, different ranges of emotions and attractions, and so perhaps even the label "gay" is a bit of a generalization. It leads me to wonder what kind of world it would be if instead of trying to fit everyone into a little box with a label on it, saying "This is Ty. He's gay." we were able to simply say to ourselves "This is Ty. He loves Steve."

Reading through these stories has led me to review my own past and really take a good look at it. It has surprised me how obvious my attraction to guys was, at least from this perspective. I can't believe I didn't see it earlier. There was one guy in junior high that I really liked, and now I can see that it was a total crush. Today I still share the same opinion of the guy: totally cute and a very sweet guy. But now I can see it for what it is.

People have written in this book that when they came out, many people knew and were simply waiting for them to do so. It makes me wonder how many people know about me. Do the cousins I grew up with have any idea? Or were they all just as blinded as my parents to see what they wanted to see?

Another thing that has really been sinking in these past few weeks is the understanding of what other guys truly feel for girls. Growing up, I really never questioned if I liked girls or not, because I had no idea how other guys felt. Sure, I liked them, but I never really got why we kept having to have talks in priesthood lessons about respecting women. What I assumed was my more natural self-control and spirituality was in fact simply a lack of attraction. It wasn't hard for me to respect women, because I had no desires pushing me to do otherwise. It has been an entirely new experience trying to learn to respect men the way my friends were taught to respect women.

But it has really been dawning on me how strongly other guys must feel for girls. Really, they must feel the same powerful urges that I feel for men, but toward girls. I examine them, sometimes, looking to see what it is what guys must really be drawn to. Certainly I can respect and appreciate their beauty, but I just don't feel the same draw that I feel toward the many gorgeous guys on campus.

Another thing that has been on my mind lately as I have read these experiences of others is the legitimacy, or supposed legitimacy, that nearly everyone seems to feel they have to their own views and claims. Let me elaborate. In one chapter of this book, a man tells about his journey through different religions, eventually arriving at the LDS church, before coming to terms with his attractions. He writes an official coming out letter to his mother, which is returned by an emotionless declaration against his life situation, and ultimately, against him if he doesn't change like she wants him to.

At one point, though, she talks about how he "walked away from God" when he left their baptist faith and eventually joined the LDS church. From a mormon view, we find this to be pure lack of understanding. She is in a degree of ignorance, we would say. But the terms she uses to describe it are exactly those that someone in the LDS faith would use to describe their own child leaving the path planned for him or her.

Ultimately, they both believe they are on the side of Truth, with a capital T. They have God's knowledge, and their child walked away from it. In the world of religion, politics, philosophy, science, psychology, and many other realms this battles of "Truths" can be found. The ironic part is that to each and every one of those people, their "Truth" is legitimate, and feels that way. So how can true Truth be found?

This is where my psychology class comes into play again. I wrote on the ideas from this class a bit last week, and it continues to be a real brain-tingling course. My professor introduced the idea of dualism to the class this week, explaining that it is the primary view of the world right now. Dualism as it pertains to this context is the idea that there are two distinct sides of the world that never merge: a subjective view, which is the personal opinionated (and thus "imperfect") view we each have of the world, and an objective view, which is truth as it really is. In our modern society, we tend to cling to objective truth, which we often think we have, or we swing the other way, believing that because we each view the world through our own personal lenses we can never find objective truth, and thus the only truth we have is the truth we see, and thus truth is completely relative.

My professor then described another view, stressing that both these are purely views, and neither is necessarily the way things actually are. This other view is an experiential view, which includes objectivity and subjectivity, but stresses that they can never be separated. They believe in a subjective objectivity. So perhaps there is an ultimate truth, but it cannot be separated from our subjective views on the world. Thus our subjectivity is based on objectivity. They are one. Never can we have pure objective truth. It won't happen. But ultimately, for those favoring experientialism, it doesn't matter. What matters is the union between the subjective and objective worlds.

I thought about this in reference to religion, faith, God, and sexuality. Ironically, my professor explained all this in the context of view of "time" (linear time is actually only a point of view of time, not reality), but the ideas translate across topics seamlessly.

Ultimately, there can be an ultimate truth. God's truth, if you will (but considering the similarities LDS doctrine places between man and God, even God's objectivity could be called into question. But once again, that's not necessarily a bad thing.). God gives this truth to man, but immediately upon reception by an individual, a people, or a prophet for the church, that truth is placed in a subjectively objective light. We see only a subjective (think personal interpretation or "lens") view of the objective truth. Complete and objectively true obedience to that truth then becomes impossible.

This led me to think that the only obedience God can expect is obedience to the truths we subjectively see. But that leads pretty quickly into a "truth is relative" realm that is purely dualism. So I tried to back out of that. When I approached my professor to discuss this with him, he really stressed that ultimately I kept falling into the trap of separating objectivity and subjectivity. But according to the experiential view, they are one.

As we discussed the implications for religious truth, he led my terminology toward the term interpretation, which is all we have to go off of here in this world. These interpretations can differ widely from person to person. But he cited Einstein and his theory of relativity, in which two people with two literal points of view (one in motion and one not) view the same event differently, but are actually both correct. Translating that across to our lives, two points of view can then actually be correct. But once again, we are leading ourselves toward relative truth.

His point was that, in the case of Einstein's theory, two people have differing points of view of an actual event that happens, but both views are actually legitimate. Both interpretations are actually legitimate. It's not that they have two subjective views of an objective occurance that can never actually be known. They have two different interpretations of an event, both of which are accurate descriptions of what happened. They are both truth, just different interpretations of it. But ultimately, for an experientialist, it's the meaning behind it that really matters.

I hope some of this is making sense. If not, I truly apologize. But this led me to a few conclusions. 1) No one can claim "God's Truth," as we defined it earlier, because they are not God, and have only personal interpretations.

2) Talking with my professor, we came to the conclusion that the best thing we can do is to gather as many different interpretations from different people as we can, sifting through them and trying to garnish what knowledge we can, and then making our decisions based on what we can find. Ultimately, we must search for truth where ever it may be found, examining many different interpretations, even those who disagree with us, to see what we can find.

3) This includes, as my professor noted and I readily agreed, that we maintain a healthy skepticism about our own churches and our own faiths. To get into a position of "I have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" is surely a set up for our own fall and hinders us from investigating all the interpretations that are out there in the world, actually keeping us from gaining the knowledge we need to make educated choices.

And 4) ultimately, none of us will ever grasp pure, objective truth. And even if we could, we would fail in living it. Thus enters the vital role of a Savior, one who knows us, our thoughts, our interpretations, and the choices that came from them. Judgment, then, will be done by One who knows us intimately, and can truly know where our hearts lie.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but this leads me to believe that it is severely wrong to say that I in my situation must abandon any truth (note the little t) that I have found through my examination of other's interpretations, and cling once again to the "Ultimate Truth" that someone claims they have. To stop questioning is to stop gaining truth, to stop learning, and to cease nearing the throne of God.

In my search I have found that the things I was taught about homosexuality were not reality, at least, they were not consistent with others' interpretations of the world, especially my own. The ideas set forth by the cultural mormonism on God, faith, and human sexuality appear to me to be rigid and unwilling to consider anything else that may shed greater light on the reality of things. I cannot claim ever again that I have Truth. I have none. No one has any. But I can get close to the truths that really matter.

I had a professor freshman year that said the human obsession with big-T Truth was a recent thing. In the past, humans have been more concerned with little-t truth, which deals with meaning, more than accurate fact. It seems to me, then, that when we talk of truth, we actually talk of the meanings that resonate with our souls. It is truth, rather than Truth, that has the power to change human beings, to heal broken hearts, and to bring one closer to God. What good is Ultimate Truth if it does not connect with the human soul? It has no purpose, being devoid of meaning. It is the little-t truths that rest next to our hearts that have true power, and that will bring us back to the throne of God.

It is with this understanding, then, that I endeavor to consider all the interpretations of as many people as I can find, both liberal and conservative, atheist and zealot, both gay and straight. By listening to these interpretations, gathering knowledge and finding consistencies, especially the ones that ring true to my soul, I hope to base my life on experiential truths that may be near to the truths that reside at the throne of God. It is my hope that if I do this sincerely enough, with an open heart and an open mind, I will be guided by a force greater than myself, and will eventually be led home.

And that is, I believe, what God was hoping for from the beginning.


Rob said...

Wow that is quite a tour of Ty's brain. Some really good insights though, especially the bit about true omniscient views of truth being impossible for anyone. Best we can do is what looks most right to us and produces the best results.

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