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Searching for truth in all the wrong places. . .

Susan, the leader of our Wednesday evening online meditation group, selects a variety of short talks for us to listen to prior to our twenty-five minutes of meditation. This past Wednesday, she played a talk from Fr. Laurence Freeman OSB, who is the Director of the World Community For Christian Meditation. 

I had met Fr. Laurence in 2001, while serving as a pastor in London. Over the years, his wisdom of applying contemplative practice to the issues of the day have inspired me. But, I had never heard this particular talk. It has particular resonance during this week when President Biden delivered this year’s State of the Union speech and the pundits have declared after the Super Tuesday results the campaign to see who will be our next President begins in earnest (did it ever really stop).

Fr. Laurence said in this talk, titled, Silence and Truth: “Talking about how silence is the way to find your true self, silence is also the way to release the truth in general. In a noisy world with our minds, ever noisier and estranged from truth, this is an essential and very practical wisdom for our time. The most popular word or phrase according to the Oxford English Dictionary last year was ‘post truth’. . .how little truth there is in circulation and how little respect for truth there is in the people who are trying to communicate with us, whether it’s advertisers or “politicians, sometimes religious leaders as well.”

Most people suffer from information overload. We have bought into the mistaken notion that truth must come from some external source. The problem with that idea, especially in a post truth age, is that most of us are quite selective in what that external source might be. We tend to gravitate to those sources that confirm our ideological perspective and disdain those that are different. That disdain for a differing opinion leads us to discredit or disregard the people who follow a different source. In our hyper-politicized environment it can lead to hatred and even violence. We seem to be sitting on a powder keg of competing sources of information. Tragically, much of what we consume is either a distortion, a fabrication, or, let’s call it for what it is, a lie.

Fr. Laurence continued: “In a noisy world where truth is so easily blocked out and abused, silence is the great defense and the great healer of the wounds imposed by fake news. Truth is universal, it’s nonpartisan it’s not opinionated; it cannot be reduced to statistics.” Jesus spoke of the ‘truth making one free’. Wise words. Untruth, post truth, imprisons us with a narrowly focussed, intolerant, overly opinionated worldview. It is hard to ‘love God and love neighbor’ when we spend much of our time consuming unscrupulous or distorted facts.

Sadly, for many folks, politics has become a form of entertainment. And most of that entertainment comes from following our favorite political pundits on television as they praise our candidate(s) and assail the opposition; more often than not, with varying degrees of hyperbole (I.e. post truth). This is a dangerous form of “entertainment”. 

Fr. Laurence concluded his talk by saying, “watching T.V. is not leisure; it’s entertainment. We may need a little bit of entertainment, we’re not puritans, but we could certainly say that we have overdosed on entertainment. The whole of the American culture has I think been rendered mentally disturbed, literally, by massive doses of nonstop entertainment.”  Ouch!

In this election year, with so much at stake and divisions among citizens at an all time high, we need to rediscover the God-given truth that our Creator placed in each of us. It will require less time consuming post truth information and more time in simple, meditative, contemplative silence. That truth, can indeed make us free.

  

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