I am reading yet another book titled “The Four Agreements” (a very good book, by the way) in which the writer Miguel Ruiz posits what he has come to experience as The Truth. I have read many such books over the years. I suppose that, if someone were to do what the scientists call a meta-analysis of these books, there would be consistent themes that would emerge.
Some years ago, I had a recurring dream in which I was in a bookstore, library, etc. searching for THE BOOK that would have all the answers. I would never find that book.
I have obviously sought The Truth in religions. My own Catholic faith has long presented itself as the One True Religion. Yet even at a young age, I would have questions, doubts, and aspects of Catholicism that didn’t work for me. So I would continue to search.
As I approach my 75th year, I have come to realize that, if The Truth is out there, I won’t be finding it, at least not in one place. I may get glimpses or pieces, sometimes through something I read or perhaps some life experience. In a way, I envy those who believe they have a hold of The Truth yet I have come to accept that my path is one of continued seeking. I will continue to read, whether it is the Bible or a Buddhist tome. I will continue to read the likes of Thomas Merton, Annie Dillard Thich Nhat Hahn, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, grateful for “ah ha” moments I might receive.
I have come to see that, the older I get, the more questions I have. Questions such as whether there is a God and, if so, what role does He/She play in our daily lives, our purpose in being here, why bad things happen to good people and so on. This is not fake humility. I really don’t know and so I keep looking!
My searching is not without benefit. Henri Nouwen once wrote that God is so beyond us that all we can hope for is a glimpse of a piece of God. No Truth. Just a hint. So I do not believe that my years of seeking have futile. I believe I have experienced a few hints of The Truth.
I do also believe that there is a danger in believing one has The Truth. It then becomes easier to judge others, since they DON’T have The Truth. What’s worse, as history tells us, it becomes tempting for the holders of the Truth to force their Truth on others or to attempt to eliminate non-believers. At the very least, if we explore alternate beliefs, we run the risk of judgment. I remember doing a presentation to a Church group once. I was talking about the feminine side of God and read the 23rd Psalm, substituting She for every He. I thought it added a poetic dimension but was soundly criticized for such “New Age” thinking. It is a small step for the possessors of Truth to see those who question as not only wrong but dangerous.
I have a page in my journal titled “Things I Believe to Be True”. It’s not a long list.
So I have come to accept that I won’t find The Truth, at least in this world or lifetime. I have also come to accept that perhaps I’m not meant to find the Truth. We seekers, after all, play a vital role in the whole shared spiritual journey we are on.
“What is it you’re looking for?’ someone once asked me. I can ramble about Truth etc. But my real answer comes from a poem written by test pilot John Magee Jr. Mind you, I have never flown an airplane and in fact have no desire to. But his words somehow capture for me the goal of the soaring heights of a spiritual quest;
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds … and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of … wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.