The Whole Truth

January 3, 2010

More from old homework assignments…

Would to God your horizon may broaden every day! The people who bind themselves to systems are those unable to encompass the whole truth and try to catch it by the tail; a system is like the tail of truth, but truth is like a lizard; it leaves its tail in your fingers and runs away knowing full well that it will grow a new one in a twinkling.”  – Ivan Turgenev to Leo Tolstoy (1856)

What Turgenev seems to be saying is that it is possible to understand the whole truth, but only certain people, and those who are unable to grasp the whole truth then turn to systems.  As a person bound to what Turgenev calls a system (religion), I must disagree with his view that not being able to understand everything is a bad, and perhaps stupid, way to live.

I believe, and indeed my entire faith is based on, the fact that the whole truth is never fully known on earth.  It is more important to understand, or at least acknowledge, that one will never understand the whole truth in this life.  The faithful can only strive to learn a bit more each day, and rest in the hope of full truth when one has “finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7.) 

One point that is oft brought up by brilliant people is the idea that it is possible to know everything.  I see where people may fall into this trap when they are brilliant.  I will never have to deal with this problem – every math test I face duly reminds me that I will never know everything.


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