The other day it was told to me that someone of recent note mentioned “known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns”.
I mention this because it is actually a decent paradigm for separating out three kinds of people:
- Absolutists: These people believe there is an absolute truth and that they know it.
- Unknowable Absolutists: These believe believe there is an absolute truth, but they can’t know it, or can’t know all of it.
- Relativists: These people believe there is no absolute truth and that truth is a social construction at best, and a word suitable to redefinition at a person’s whim at worst.
I’m an unknowable absolutist. I believe this is the most psychologically healthy position to take. It gives me strength for my convictions when I believe that they stem from the absolute truth (especially from a part that I happen to be able to know), and tolerance when it comes to issues that I not only don’t know, but can’t know (if I thought I could know, then on those issues, I’d be pressured to go and discover the resolution - which would make me seem obsessed compared with my mild-mannered, although seemingly (to me) amoral relativist neighbor).
Balancing conviction and tolerance is something I’ve always found difficult. Usually I hear “well, I know this is true for me, but what is true for me might not be true for you” from the more “tolerant” Christians that I’ve met. It made no sense to me - I need my truth to be absolute and to be grounded in something greater than I - and greater than social construction. This seemed to me to err on the side of tolerance. There are those who say that if you must err, erring on the side of tolerance would be preferred. I personally prefer to aim for a perfect balance, and don’t want to give up.
On the other side of the fine line between conviction and tolerance is the “hate the sin, love the sinner” attitude that distinguishes people from their actions. But what does it mean to tolerate a person if not to tolerate the free expression of their true self?
Neither of these worked for me. Most of the absolutes that I do think I both know and are universally applicable are simple ones: honesty with others and one’s self, and the golden rule, and the valuing of communication and community and the building of consensus before the few engage in actions that affect the many.
But there are a lot of absolutes that I don’t think I know, nor is it necessary that I know anytime soon. There are two, however, that play into my life. One is that there is a sense that I have of what direction I should go. It only comes to me at certain times. I am not in control of it. It is the source of things like the time I was called an Angel of Mercy as well as TheCoinStory which I continue to cherish. I have been blessed with the gift of discriminating between what the divine tells me and what society tells me, and I know the divine is quiet quite often. But when it speaks to me, I listen. But it only speaks to me on what to do - not on what to believe, or what to tell others to believe. But I’m glad when I listen to it. For me, it is an absolute that that is wise wisdom to follow, when it comes to me.
And here’s where you stop reading this and you say “he’s a psycho - he has voices in his head”. To which I would say - imagination, creative inspiration, dreams, intuition, sixth sense, a “hunch” - are these voices in your head? I just believe I know how to tell apart those that have divine backing and those that don’t. This is a cornerstone of my understanding of my relationship with the divine. I may be a pawn (chess piece) in the divine’s plan, but I feel called to do so - I feel called to “serve the light” - and so when I am told to move a square I move a square, even though I don’t know what the big picture of the board’s status is - even if it means that I sacrifice myself - or my soul .