Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Life through a truth filter

"Watch out" the friend tried to warn me as we walked.

"Good thing you missed the dog shit" she added.

I checked the soles of the shoes.  Nothing.  All clean.

That literal act of not paying attention to where I was going also serves as a metaphorical and philosophical reminder in life, as this following couplet from the old country advises:
दृष्टिपूतं न्यसेत्पादं पस्त्रपूतं जलं पिबेत् ।
सत्यपूतां वदेद्वाचं मनःपूतं समाचरेत् ॥
- मनुस्मृति
One must set foot only after seeing (cleared after an inspection by the eye).
One must drink water only after passing through a cloth.
One must utter words that pass through the truth filter.
One's actions must pass the conscience test.
Truth filter.
Conscience test.
If only!

Add those two to "love is wise; hatred is foolish" and it feels like a perfect formula for living a good life, right?

Perhaps humans have always behaved in ways such that truth was not a primary concern, and the conscience did not always dictate actions.  After all, if humans had behaved well, then why would they have even thought it was necessary to compose such verses, or draft the Ten Commandments, or ...

Oddly enough, all those structures that were packaged into religions did not make truthful and conscientious humans.  Through the centuries, we humans have been awfully untruthful without worrying about the conscience.  So atrocious is the human trait that we require one testifying under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Apparently we are well aware that we humans, including the believing kind, are capable of telling the truth, but only a partial truth while conveniently omitting certain parts of what would otherwise have been the whole truth!

The disregard for truth and the conscience manifests itself in daily life, in matters trivial and profound alike.  Maybe to be human means that we often step on dogshit.  But, wherein lies the value of such a life?


Ramesh said...

Only you can wax eloquently on philosophy after avoiding steeping on dogpoop.

I would say that conscience is even more important than truth. If we can act such that we can have a clear conscience, that must surely be the greatest gift of life. I do believe that conscience will prick, even the hearts of the Brussels murderers. Somehow we have learnt to ignore conscience, to our great peril.

Sriram Khé said...

I am not so sure about the conscience that pricks. To many of us, the small errors that we intentionally commit apparently don't bother our conscience. Along the continuum are those who commit some huge crimes against humanity. Why should the conscience only prick those who commit the huge errors and not the small ones? What if the "errors" are even seen as evidence of having achieved something big in life?