When the discriminated discriminate


I just read this piece from Thought Catalogue, “The Queer Community has to Stop Being Transphobic” and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of the author.

I used to be a transphobic gay man.
….
“I know I’m supposed to get it because I’m gay,” I said, “but I just don’t understand the whole trans* thing at all. It makes me feel so weird.”

That’s exactly how I felt. You would think that being gay would make it easier to understand what being trans is like, but on the contrary, I think it made it harder.

I would think to myself, yeah, I can totally understand not wanting to follow these stupid gender norms that society sticks by. I can understand being a girl and preferring to do guy things, preferring to wear guys clothes. I can even relate to the feeling of wanting to be a guy, or be more guy-like in appearance. Yet it’s because I could identify with all that so closely, I couldn’t understand why they needed to go one more step to actually become the other gender.

I mean, I would ideally prefer it too, if I were taller, more muscular, more masculine… but I can accept that this is how I was born, this is my body. I can learn to accept my body for its good points and ‘bad’ points, why can’t they? Don’t they realize that being a girl doesn’t mean you need to follow society’s stupid rules for girls? You can still wear pants, you can still do whatever you want to do. Why should the physical body matter so much? 

Why should it matter so much indeed.
To throw the question back at myself: why should clothes matter so much? Surely clothes matter even less than your body. Surely a colour would matter less. Surely… all these little stereotypically girl activities and accessories… what’s the big deal? Why can’t you just accept them? They are just things.

And yet I would feel so uncomfortable and out of place in a dress. Like a fish out of water. I wouldn’t feel like myself. Probably as uncomfortable as an average guy would be, if he were forced to wear a dress. Okay, admittedly slightly less since I’ve inevitably been ‘forced’ to wear dresses in my life time.

The other day I watched ‘These Ears Have Walls 2‘. It follows three separate story lines about lesbian couples, in different time periods, all set in the same house.

The first story was thoroughly depressing and the last story was positively uplifting and happifying (helllo Ellen Degeneres and Sharon Stone!). It’s really heartening to see just how far we’ve come and how different things are (in some places), from 1961 to 2001. But it was the second story, set in 1972, that was the most intriguing and thought provoking to me.

(spoilers!)

The story focusses on Linda, a young student who shares the house with a few friends, all lesbians. They are also part of a feminist group, but are being kicked out as the group doesn’t want to be associated with or thought of by others as a ‘lesbian group’ and want to be taken seriously as feminist.

The interesting tension comes when the friends go to a dyke bar and are disappointed and disapproving of how the lesbians in the bar fulfill traditional butch and femme roles. Linda, however, is charmed by and falls for Amy, a butch in a shirt and tie who rides a motorbike. Despite Linda’s efforts to get her friends to be accepting and open, they continually make fun of Amy.

It feels so ironic to me when people turn into exactly what they are fighting against. Like anti-gay religious people claiming that they are all about love, acceptance, forgiveness. This case is worse than that though; you’re clearly part of the same outcasted group, and yet you still discriminated against each other?

It reminds of that that scene from the L Word when the main L Word characters make fun of Moria for being ‘butch’ and for categorizing lesbians into those traditional roles. As though that’s something backward and old fashioned, something to be laughed at. Shouldn’t being part of the same out-casted group be enough to make you realize that how you are treating them is exactly the way you don’t want others treating you?

Yet I can still see both sides of the story. The girls dislike Amy because they see her, and  butch lesbians, as part of the problem. Here they are fighting for equal rights for women, for girl power and the empowerment of all things feminine. And here there are these females who are, bizarrely and counter-productively apparently trying to be men. Why buy into the idea that a suit and tie and masculinity means power, means control? Why think that you have to be the ‘male’ in the relationship and buy the drinks and make the moves and buy the flowers? All that chauvinism is exactly what they’re fighting against and they don’t want people from their own ‘ranks’ undermining their position.

On the other hand, Amy is just like them– she knows who she is and she accepts herself and will not lie or back down about who she is, even if she knows that it will make life difficult for her. She stands up for her own truth, just as they stand up for theirs.

The ugliest moment was when the girls made fun of her to her face, tried to mess up her neatly gelled back hair, and forced her to put on a girly top. Trying to ‘free’ her from her ‘self imposed’ restrictive masculine persona when in fact what they were doing were forcing Amy into their own box.

In another scene from the L word, Max (formerly Moria) tells Jenny, “If you think men are the enemy, then you and I have a problem.” Yes, men, or masculinity, aren’t the enemy, even for feminist. The enemy is bigotry, the enemy is oppression. The enemy is forcing your truths down someone else’s throat, forcing other people into your boxes, because you are more comfortable with that.

The truth always looks slightly different from different angles.

For me, trans* is difficult to understand because, my biological sex doesn’t matter as much. It’s not a core part of my identity– I honestly think that I would feel as comfortable in a male body as I do in my female body. To me, the expression of my gender and the expression of my sexual orientation is much more important than my biological sex. I am all for blurring the gender lines and androgyny.

I dare say this wouldn’t be the case for most people– if you find the thought of having the body of a member of the opposite sex weird and disturbing, then I dare say you can understanding how a trans person feels even more than I do. And if I wanted to understand, I can easily translate their experience into something I can relate to.

As humans, we are so incredibly diverse and the way we experience things can be so different. It can be such a leap to try and understand something that is so foreign to you it have never even occurred to you and you don’t know how to even start thinking about it. Yet, underneath all that, I really believe that all of our fundamental experiences are exactly the same. We are all human. It just takes you to make the effort to listen with openness and translate someone else’s problem into something you can relate to.

We are all human.

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Pretend till it’s true


Sometimes you can only to do much. Sometimes, you can only bring yourself up to such a point. Then you have no choice but to cover up that last distance by pretending. You know: smoke your way through; just wing it; make do the best you can; put on your game face. Pretend you know what you’re doing. Pretend that everything is fine, is great! Act confident, act happy, even though you’re not. And soon enough, even you’ll start buying it. Tell people “I’m fine!” enough times, act the part of ‘fine’ enough times and it’ll become a habit, a ritual. You’ll forget you were ‘pretending’. That’s when you realize that you’re no longer pretending.

Did you know that when you force yourself to smile, your mood improves?

Sometimes, lies can become truth and reality. Sometimes, you have to change from the outside in…

 

Dreams and Reality


Nothing like dreaming about her all night to make me remember how much i miss her. I had already forgotten, already started to forget. (Or at least, had gotten very good at ignoring it, which is about the same thing.)

C’mon. You know that’s not her. It’s just an amalgamate of memories and imaginings, of memories and wistful thinking. That’s not her. It’s not her you miss.

Keep feeding yourself a lie, and eventually you’ll start to believe it too.

C’mon! Which is the lie here? When your reality tears and what you thought was truth turns out not to be truth, what you reconstruct over that torn reality… the new painting you paint over it to make sense of the mess it has become… that’s not the lie.

How do you know? Lies and truth depend on context. Truth is relative.

One man’s meat, another man’s poison


I remember once, in the earlier part of our relationship, we had a relatively bad fight. I don’t remember what the fight was about (who ever does?) but it was probably one of the worst ones, because unpleasant and hurtful words were exchanged.

Later on, she called me up crying and apologizing. It must have been the devil, she said. The devil trying to drive us apart, the devil that made her say those horrible things which she didn’t mean.

Strange how now it has become the devil that brought us together in the first place, and God who gave a ‘sign’ that we should be apart.
~

In Julia Sweeney’s ‘Letting go of God’ show (which I shared two entries back), she tells of how she was upset when her mother revealed to her that her birthday was not on September 10th as she had thought all along, but on October 10th. This made her (then a young teenage girl) upset mainly because she had a huge virgo poster on her wall, and read her horoscope every week (which was so totally her!!) and now this meant she wasn’t a virgo but a libra?! So she went into town to buy the libra poster and started reading the libra horoscope… which, to her amazement, was ALSO soooo totallllyyy her!!
~

I have this group of good friends and most of us are Terry Pratchett fans. We don’t see each other that often (because half of us are always overseas and half of the other half are always uncontactably busy) and we do pretty different things in terms of study, work and how we spend our leisure time. But we’re good friends nonetheless, and enjoy each other’s company when we do get together. Somehow, we’re mostly on similar wavelengths, similar intellectual levels (alternating between talking about medical terms and rainbows, yes.) and have s similar sense of humour.

Yet we found out recently that one within our midst didn’t like Terry Pratchett! What was there not to like, we wondered? His writing is funny, witty, smart and has all kinds of references to real world events and realities… it seems exactly like something she’d like too!

Well, it’s just one of those things I suppose.

It’s like when you hear a song, or watch a movie, or see a painting and you think OMG THAT IS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER!!!!! and other people are just, ‘…meh.’ and you really for the life of you can’t understand HOW THEY CAN NOT THINK IT’S AWESOME.

Well, it’s just one of those things.
People are different. They see things differently.
And we’ve learnt to accept that, even if we still think, at the back of our head, “HOW IN THE WORLD CAN ANYONE NOT LOVE THIS?”
~

I’ve blogged about this before, the subjectivity of words, the subjectivity of perception. The thing out there in the world only holds half the meaning. The other half happens inside your own head.

There are subjective truths, and objective truths.

Subjective truths may be true for you, but not for other people. It may be true at certain times, under certain circumstances but not others. It may be true depending on your mood, on your interpretation, on your perceptions. And while we can all champion our subjective truths, we should not have problems when people disagree with them. It’s different for them, then. It’s just one of those things. The song speaks to me in one way, speaks to you in another, and doesn’t speak to someone else at all. And there’s no conflict. Neither me, you, him nor the writer of the song should be upset at these differences. There IS no ‘right’ interpretation. That’s art, your input and participation is half the process.

Objective truth on the other hand, should deal with something that is more out in the world than in your head. Objective truth should be something verifiable– anyone and everyone who goes to check should come away with the same answer. They should agree. And if you don’t agree on the objective truth, then that’s where we have a problem because it means someone is right, and sone one is wrong. The views are mutually exclusive.

Actually, the real problems come about when people mistake subjective truth for objective truth. When they insist that people who don’t agree with their subjective truths are wrong. When they think that because it feels true for them, it must be true for all and anyone who doesn’t think so is wrong.

Based on how religion is experienced, based on how there are so many kinds of religion, based on how there are so many different interpretations and understandings… don’t all arrows point to religion being more of a subjective truth than an objective one? How else can you explain the incredibly varied responses to the same journey (search for meaning and god), to the same activities (prayer, meditation, going to places of worship) to the same religion (Christianity and it’s many branches, cults and denominations), to the same books (sacred texts), to the same words, even? How can you claim your own answer as objective truth when it’s plain that so many have come away with so many different answers, over and over and over again?

Swim against the current, run against the wind.


Stay strong, stay true.

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of series 6 of this UK television drama Waterloo Road, which centres around a school and it’s students and teachers.

One of the larger story arcs that has been taking place involved one of the teachers, Francesca, getting involved with a student, Jonah. Since it is not just taboo but illegal for a teacher to ‘take advantage’ of a student in this way, you can imagine there was a lot of sneaking around, being paranoid and alternating between ‘I/we can’t do this. It’s wrong. It’s too difficult, too risky. It’s not possible.” and “It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. I love you and all’s fine as long as we have each other.” All this cumulated in ep19 and 20 with (SPOILER ALERT!) them being found out, Francesca being suspended and charged along with pending imprisonment, and then the two of them running away to get married (before being arrested and brought back). Makes for great TV drama indeed!

The whole thing could easily parallel a closeted gay relationship; constantly watching your back and being afraid of being found out; the way you act around each other in public, a necessary facade; the lies that come with keeping a secret; and huge secrets, even from those closest to you; the conviction that you’ll be ostracised and worse if anyone knew; knowing that no one will understand; all that negativity, risk and adverse concequences being offset by the joy you feel when you’re together…

To be honest, most of the arc made me really dislike both characters, possibly precisely because I could see myself in a similar situation so easily. They were being retarded and brainless! Too careless and impulsive and immature! C’mon guys, it’s hard but not impossible! Can’t you sacrifice some short term pleasures for the long term happiness!?

At the very first signs of it, when Francesca was still trying to stop it from even starting, and then stop it from progressing… To me she didn’t try nearly hard enough. Later on, when they were well into it; Acting so suspicious, doing really stupid/risky things, not taking enough or proper precautions, and not planning or talking about things seriously… why couldn’t they have kept it a secret until Jonah graduated? Like I said, it’s difficult, (in the sense of being mentally and emotionally draining,) but not impossible, (like I cannot NOT speak to you during school hours.) I’ve been there! …or maybe I haven’t, since we didn’t share a working/schooling physical space and weren’t closeted with most mutual friends.

But these last two episodes really brought me over to their side. What was once blind, stupid impulsiveness has become an inspiration: If i were in a similar situation, with hostility and disapproval on all fronts with no sign of respite in sight, would I be so brave to continue to stand firm for what I believe in, and do what I think is right?

To lose your family, your friends, your job, your community, you life and still stand strong?

At least they can get married. Part of me thought. Even if gay people were to run off to some other country to get married, that piece of paper would have absolutely no power back home. We’d still have absolutely nothing. And in time, when the scandal has blown over, they will become just any other couple, blending in. They can rebuild. Gay will always be gay, and will always stand out. 

What would you do? What would I do? Would I be willing to give up my family, my home and friends if it came down to it, for the person I love? Would “giving up” your family, home and friends even be the ‘Right’ decision to make?

Here’s my stab at it:

You’re not ‘giving up’ anything. You’re merely standing by what you believe in, you’re merely staying true to yourself. And if, because of that, other people fall away, that’s hardly your doing, your choice, nor your fault. And if they should, in time, change their minds about accepting who you are, you’d more than welcome them back with open arms. The only ‘giving up’ would be if you gave up on your dreams, your beliefs, your values and yourself.

The only choice you should be making is to stand by what you believe in, and to stay true to yourself. Leave judging and rejecting of people to someone else, that’s not your choice to make.
—-

I guess this is the follow up to my Charles and Erik post that I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time, but hadn’t truly reached the conclusion in my mind and heart. I knew where it was heading all along; It just took me a while to get there. Am I there yet? Maybe I still have a little way to go… maybe we’ll always have a little way to go. You always have something to better, something to work towards. That’s life.

To recap my entry, I was envisioning Charles Xavier as someone holding a belief (presumably the Right one): that mutants should ultimately live in harmony with humans ie humans are friends, and Erick (Magneto) holding a differing belief (presumably the Wrong one): that mutants and humans can’t be in harmony ie humans are the enemy. And these differing beliefs, while not directly pitting them against each other, were different and serious enough to change them from friends to enemies. And I wondered where such a line would be drawn? What kind of differing beliefs would make turning against a friend justifiable, and inevitable?

Specifically, I was using this fictitious example to help me think about these these differing beliefs: homosexually is morally wrong / homosexuality is NOT morally wrong; religious beliefs in general.

Soon after I wrote the post, a friend pointed this out to me: If i insist on alienating or cutting ties with people who think homosexuality is Wrong, I would have turned into Magneto. It’s not, as I was envisioning, Xavier vs Magneto representing pro-gay and anti-gay. But rather, mutants as homosexuals, humans as heterosexuals and Magneto the one who has turned evil, hating all humans for the evil deeds of a few. So the right answer, according to X-Men? Be Charles, and not lose hope. Be Charles, and reach out even to the ones kicking you down. Be Charles, for how else would humans be able to know that mutants aren’t all bad?

And I also realized: neither Charles nor Eric ever rejects each other? They never said, “You’re not with me? Then you’re against me. From this day forth you are my sworn enemy and I hate your guts and nothing will change that.” Wasn’t it more like, “Friend, join me. No? Well, I’m sorry, friend, I have to go. But the invitation stands.”? Being ‘enemies’ only as a technicality of finding themselves on opposite sides.

Well, I’m not an X-men fanboy or fanatic, so forgive me if I’m straying from canon and projecting my own ideas onto the characters.

But… the lesson never seems to change does it? Be a Gandhi. Be a Jesus (ok tbh I’m still feeling slightly sore about Jesus/christianity). Be a Charles.

That is… hold on to what you know is true. Stand up for what you know is right. And most of all, love and accept everyone. Leave the judging and rejecting to the one who has all the answers (or thinks he has all the answers, anyway.)

Free Will: Articles and Some Thoughts


I came across this special issue by the Chronicle of Higher Education dealing with the question “Is Free Will an Illusion?” It features 6 short essays on the topic. Pretty interesting, give it a read!

I’ve been vaguely fascinated by the topic of free will for some time. I found myself, through my own random musings, being lead more in the direction of determinism, or denying free will, which at first alarmed me because such a position felt so counter-intuitive; surely most people would reject such a position as ridiculous. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found, upon reading up more on the subject, that this was actually a pretty common position amongst those who have explored these issues!

My thoughts on free will started from thinking about religion and belief. To me, free will was religion’s ‘trump card’, the reason why suffering exists, why God cannot simply pluck us out of disasters, and essentially why I’m going to hell: because I choose to reject God.

I argued that no one chooses that. No one would ever say, “Yes, I know God is my Creator, I know he is Truth and I know the consequence of rejecting Him. But in accordance to my right to free will, I can choose to reject Him, and I do.” No body chooses to reject the truth.

I’ve heard some arguments from the religious about why God doesn’t just reveal himself to all that run as such: If God were to do that then people would be forced to believe in Him, but God wants us to come to Him of our own free will.

So… knowledge eliminates free will but ignorance allows it??

When you say, “I don’t believe in God.”, it hardly feels like a choice. Given my background, the way I approach problems, all that I know and I that I’ve read up till today… couldchoose to say instead, “I believe in God.’? No. The reason why I don’t believe in God is that the concept doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t believe in God, at least not right now knowing and having experienced all that I have. Just take the case of those who deconvert– they certainly didn’t choose to lose their faith, and often times they really, really, really want to keep believing, but found that they couldn’t do it anymore.

I also wondered about when a decision counts as a choice.

If you’re ignorant and have no knowledge–say you’re given three blank doors with no clues as to which contains the prize– is it an exercise of free will when you pick one?

Or when you’re in possession of a lot of information about two different options– say you have to pick between two types of medical procedures– is it an exercise of free will when you weigh all the pros and cons and pick which one you think is best? But given the information that you had, and coming to the conclusion of which looked like the better option, could you have not picked that option?

Maybe free will and true choice only exist when there are no right or wrong implications to the choice, that is, when it is a subjective choice. For example, choosing between vanilla or chocolate ice-cream. Seems I could easily choose one or the other freely. But then again… that’s determined by some sort of internal bias– chocolate tastes better to me, or I’ve subconsciously come to prefer chocolate because there’s a subconscious, cultural implication that vanilla is for girls and sissies. If you hate durian or classical music, can you really choose to love them?

All just preliminary thoughts on a very complex issue. Hope to continue reading more and thinking more about it. :) :)

Although I’m not sure I fully support his dating analogy, the basic message is the same: it’s not a choice and no one chooses to reject God.

Silence and Apathy


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

I really like this entry, Sword and Shield. Especially the first paragraph, which I identify with a lot.

“I was never one to worry. I was never one to be concerned. I didn’t even have goals, dreams or aspirations. I just went with the flow, happy to get by.”

That was me, too. I was carefree, pretty easy going (or you could say ‘apathetic’) about most things. Let bygones be bygones. There were Issues that I was concerned about and obvious ‘wrongs’ in the world that I wished would be righted, of course. But for most part I assumed the world would get on with it, that these wrongs would surely be righted in time, no excessive worrying needed on my part.

The one thing that riled me up was usually conservation issues, because as I learnt more from my classes, it became apparent how ignorant the majority of the population are to these issue, how completely blind they are to that fact that these things truly matter, that there weren’t lofty ideals but a life and death reality, of mankind, our planet and all living things.

It was very different for me for idealogical issues. Those I tended to shrug my shoulders and trot out the excuse of my ignorance.

Perhaps the worst were those issues I WAS sure about, but never thought to take a stand on. Because I assumed that the world and society would get along fine. That, however slowly, society was always marching in the direction of progress. You can’t rush these things, just wait.

Obviously as a gay person I have to know all about its taboo nature in society; I necessarily have to face, it if not everyday, then at least pretty often, right?

And yet somehow I still remained blind. I was frustrated by the inconveniences in my life, but not outraged by any injustice. I would happily go for the occasional LGBT-related event, but do little more then smile from the sidelines. I accepted it. I saw it as something that was merely social taboo, not the fault of any one or anything, but just convention. Just the way it’s always been. And a way that is changing, slowly but surely.

Most people my age have no problems at all with it, I thought. It mostly only the older generation who are more conservative, more set in their views and who have little contact of any kind with the LGBT world. All they know of them are the occasional stereotype falsehoods portrayed in the media. In other words, the problem will slowly but surely fade away as there is greater exposure and education regarding LGBT issues.

Recently, it has come as a great blow to me to realize– to really realize– that quite a few of my close friends do think it is an ‘abomination’, that I am an ‘abomination’. Not that I didn’t ‘know’ of their disapproval, I just never thought about it, and the full meaning of it never sunk in. To be honest, I just didn’t care.

I was ‘tolerant’ and ‘accepting’, I ‘respected’ other people’s beliefs. What they thought and believe is their business, as long as they’re not standing in my way. And despite my friends obviously breaking my stereotype of being ‘old, ignorant and uneducated’, I still viewed LGBT rights in the world as something inevitable that was coming soon, that there was nothing but out-dated thinking standing in the way, and mostly due to inertia.

When they tell me that…they’ve in fact never searched into this issue at all (despite holding their unwavering views about it), and despite having known me and my orientation for so many years… I feel like a failure. In all these years, I’ve never caused them to even wonder about or question their position.

I suppose that ends now. Silence and apathy can be as deadly as hate and ignorance. Social change only happens because people dare to ask for it. The least I can do is make sure that people in my circle have access and exposure to the other side of the coin, that I help to disseminate the voice of this social movement.

Gandhi: Merely human. But also so much more.


I just finished watching the 3-hour, 1982 biographical film ‘Gandhi’.

Reading about Gandhi and watching that film really leaves one awe-struck. And inspired, so inspired. You’re just speechless that a person like that can really exist, especially in a world like ours. Yet… it also finds me in two minds about him and his beliefs.

There’s this part of me — the cynical, jaded part; the part that likes to think itself a realist — that thinks, are you for real? Sure, his message is inspiring but… is that really the best way to do things? Maybe some things are worth fighting for. Maybe if they had fought–physically fought– in the right way, it wouldn’t have taken so long to achieve their goals. And maybe the factors for such methods just happened to be right in those situations…maybe trying to bring them elsewhere– the holocaust for example– would have resulted in even worse harm and atrocities! I mean, you can’t stand up for your principles by saying ‘I’m willing to die for this cause!’ when that’s exactly what the enemy wants? Hitler wasn’t interested in keeping Jews oppressed, he just wanted them exterminated!

And… it just seems naive to think you can have no conflict all the time. Fighting seems so… ingrained. People seem primed to fight, especially in the face of injustice. Wouldn’t it seem wiser? more practical? to take that fact into consideration and work around it or try to prevent it rather than just tell them not to fight and expect them to obey?

He also has this quote about how history reads like it’s all fighting, but in reality fights are just interruptions from peace. Its just that only the fights tend to get recorded. In truth, peace is the default.

Yet too often, it really seems the other way around. That conflict is a core part of us and our society. Just the way the world works.

The parts depicting the riots and beatings and killings made me feel all that. And I cried at how evil man can be and wondered how those people could live with themselves.

Still, the idealistic part of me really wants to believe it. It echos his sentiment that love and truth always wins out in the end. It argues that it’s not this kind of thinking that’s too idealistic, it’s the world that’s too cynical and jaded. If everyone could see the truth in such statements and lived their life by them… it would work

And still, he’s only human. He has no magic answers. He just sticks to the simple truths that he does know.

“There is no such thing as “Gandhism,” and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems…The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow. I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

Regardless of what you think of his methods, you have to respect and admire him for being able to stay so true to his principles and not lose hope in love and truth. How did he do it? How did he not get angry, discouraged and jaded at the stupidity and evilness of men? He saw it all first hand and he never lost hope.

Hears to hoping that I, and all of us, can be just a little bit more like him. The world could be a much better place.

God, Gandhi and Ultimate Truth


Is there an Ultimate Truth? Truth with a capital ‘T’?

I feel that… an Ultimate Truth, if it existed, would have to be something deeply intertwined with the fabric of the universe, the fabric of reality. This Truth would have be intrinsically in the world, a part of the world. And the world has to be intrinsically that Truth.

Anything that claims to be true but stands apart from everything else cannot be truth, but mere delusion.

If truth is necessarily based on and based in reality, an Ultimate Truth would have to be based on and in all of reality.

Some say God is Truth.

They say that He is in the very fabric of the universe. When they look within themselves and at the world around them, they can’t help but see His hand in their hearts, in their lives, in the world.

I say that may be true for you, but for many others it’s not true at all.
There are people who see no such thing at all, all their lives.
There are people who peer at the world and into their hearts and see the opposite (ie that there is no god).
There are people who see the hand of different Gods.
There are people who, the harder they stared, the more God vanished from reality.

If God were the Ultimate Truth and in the very fabric of the universe, you would be able to find Him just by seeking, searching and exploring our reality, be it the physical reality, our mental reality or (most likely) a combination of the two. You wouldn’t need sacred texts. You wouldn’t need missionaries or evangelicals, at least not in the strongest sense of those words. The Truth should speak for itself, even if it takes some time to be heard.

“Divine knowledge is not borrowed from books. It has to be realized in oneself. Books are at best an aid, often even a hindrance. ” – Mahatma Gandhi

Texts may act like a textbooks and preachers like teachers: at their best they are but a guide to show you the things that are there and more importantly, to teach you how to find them for yourselves. Even if mathematics textbooks did not exist, 1+1 would still = 2. If the bible didn’t exist, how would we know of Jesus and his significance?

An Ultimate Truth, I feel, should be something elegant, something that transcends even as it is firmly grounded in reality. The simplest thing, even as it possess untold layers of complexity. It should unite rather than divide even as it highlights diversity.

Religion and the Gods of today’s major religions don’t feel to me like any sort of an Ultimate Truth.

Religion, the institutions of religion with their hierarchies and rules, the ancient sacred texts and holy rituals feel… too cluttered, too inelegant, too man-made. Religion is an agenda that needs pushing, it doesn’t speak for itself. How can something that is not intrinsic in reality, something that not everyone has the opportunity to discover for themselves, be an Ultimate Truth?

Which is greater, God or Truth?

If God existed, He must surely be Truth as well. If Truth existed, must it definitely be God?

“I have no God to serve but Truth.”
“I am devoted to none but Truth and I owe no discipline to anybody but Truth.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Ghandi is a very strong believer in God (although which God and what kind of God is slightly less clear) and he also says, repeatedly, that Truth is God, and God is Truth. If that is true, than there is no conflict: He is completely devoted to God, which is Truth, and Truth, which is God. But if we were to just suppose for a moment that it might not be true– if we were to, for a moment, separate God from Truth, the above quotes would seem to indicate Truth to be greater of the two.

“For me God and Truth are convertible terms, and if anyone told me that God was a God of untruth or a God of torture, I would decline to worship Him.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If God weren’t true, He would be… worthless. If Truth weren’t God… it would still be invaluable. Truth appears to be greater than God.

“But each (religion), in my judgment, embodies a common motivating force: the desire to uplift man’s life and give it purpose.”

“After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that (1) all religions are true; (2) all religions have some error in them; (3) all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one’s own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

What is this truth that Ghandi saw in all the religions?

What does Ghandi teach? What does Jesus teach? What does Buddha teach? What does any great moral leader that we know of teach?

Love. Humility. Selflessness. Forgiveness. Honesty.
A unity, a one-ness in the world, something unchanging beneath the changing, that unites all, that unites us.
Fearlessness/detachment from worldly cares, from what others think of you.
Acknowledging your own flaws and insignificance while constantly striving to be better, constantly seeking the truth. Constantly striving for that ideal (to be christ-like? to perfection, to truth? to enlightenment?).
Love, above all else.

I’m not sure if there is an Ultimate Truth or what it may be. But if it did exist, I imagine it would be something like love.

So abstract and complex that no words can ever fully capture its essence or adequately describe all it’s nuances.
Yet it is something so simple and foundational that any new-born child can experience it for themselves. Accessible to people of all ages, of all intellects and educational levels, from all cultures and times in history. Something universal that everyone can understand and relate to on such a deep and personal level.

Elegant yet complex; accessible to all yet experienced on an incredibly personal level; Self-evident and speaks for itself; heightens a sense of being unique and special, yet unifies all like nothing else can.

Because Gandhi believed in God, he limited his non-discriminating embrace to religions. I would bring it one step further so say that all these similarities that he sees in religions, all these truths, extend to ALL people. Anyone who is searching, anyone who is striving. And aren’t we all searching for meaning and purpose, all striving to be better people, for better lives?

As he believes that the different teachings of these religions are in fact, at the core, the same and thus all true, I believe that any religious teachings can also be ‘translated’ into non-religious terms, and remain equally true.

Because truth transcends.