Questioning helps uncover truth
Side by Side"Americans Don't Trust Much" headlined Associated Press news on Sept. 17.
Published: September 23, 2010
Published: September 23, 2010
It could be the best tidings we've seen in a long time. The just-released findings of an AP/National Constitution Center poll were summarized: "A majority of Americans today are very confident in-nobody." That takes more of us out of the category of "robots" than some of us would have guessed.
Out of "18 fixtures on the U.S. scene," none have the trust of even half the country.
Among the considerations were the military (highest at 43 percent), business, blogs, Congress, science, and organized religion. Maybe we believe "might makes right."
Then again, though the Democrats control Congress, only 10 percent of them trust it.
Though Republicans press for states' rights, only 10 percent of them trust state governments. Though some 76 percent of Americans claim to be Christians, only 18 percent of the population trust the church. It seems our labels do not define us.
Active doubters fuel philosophy, and philosophers ponder life. Pondering can be costly.
Consider 12th century thinker Peter Abelard, whose doubts threatened church authorities, who, in turn, hired thugs to castrate him. Lost body parts did not prevent Abelard's writing in his treatise called "Yes And No": "For by doubting we come to inquiry, and by inquiry we arrive at truth."
Misplaced trust brings distrust. A few of the 33 trapped Chilean miners are finding that unwanted truth can emerge topside even when you are squeezed 2,257 feet below earth's surface.
Camped out above them, squabbling relatives, mistresses, and illegitimate children, some just learning of the others' existence, scramble for salaries and donations.
As many as three families can be involved in one miner's lies. When he emerges, initial joy may be tempered by the sense of betrayal awaiting him.
Apparently, trust issues don't affect standards for happiness. In Dec. 2009 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a study confirming that pleasant feelings definitely link to objective quality of life measures, such as, climate, crime rates, air quality, and schools.
In Sept. 2010 Gallup surveys say daily happiness rises with annual income up to $75,000 or its cost-of-living equivalent. In money we trust?
The lack of trust evident today can be good if it causes individuals to demand honesty of themselves and others, to be less needy and more self-sufficient.
Descartes, the 17th century philosopher called one of the most original minds of all time, taught a technique of methodical doubt: "At least once in your life...doubt...all things." The 20th century Yiddish writer, Isaac B. Singer, noted that all religious thinkers were doubters.
So, this 21st century attitude of "don't trust anybody" isn't new or necessarily bad. In the 1st century Jesus met "Doubting Thomas'" unbelief with proof: "Unless I see...put my finger in...put my hand...I will not believe it [the resurrection]" (John 20:25).
Observation: There can be situations when there's no time for doubt. That's when an old Hindu prayer comes in: "O God, if you are there, save me, if you can!"
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com