This morning I picked up Nietzsche's Between Good and Evil from my to-read shelf for my walk to work. I skimmed through the translator's preface, bibliographical note, and actual preface--who knew a book needed so many introductions? Anyway, when I finally got to the meat, Nietzsche asks questions like: What in us really wants "truth"? He talks about the will to truth and the value of that will. As he puts it, "It is a rendezvous, it seems, of questions and question marks."
After about the first page or so, I stopped reading to ask my own (unoriginal) question, what is truth? Nietzsche goes on and on about truth and finding it, but let's presume for a moment that we have some truth, just a sliver of the whole thing, perhaps in a bucket, sloshing around, or maybe even in a nice cardboard box, sealed with masking tape to prevent it from slinking away. That's all well and good, but how do we know that it's actually truth? And once we identify it, what do we do with it?
Is truth something we put under our pillow at night, like a child's tooth? Is it something we sell? That Mr. Janson has quite a bucketful of truth, I've heard. Excellent investment. Does it simply make us feel good? Does it show others our greatness? Does it make the world a better place? (And how do we define better? We'll need another bucket.) Our understanding of truth guides our actions, but can't good things happen with a false understanding of the world? Sometimes an increase in truth causes an increase in harm. Or does that violate the definition of truth? In essence, what role should truth play in our lives?
The struggle for truth is the journey through what we have been taught, with our mind as a compass. The hope is that when we reach the summit, we will be able to look back and say "There was beauty in my struggle. I am glad I am here." This journey features our heart--our feelings, be they nurture or nature--against our mind, the part of us we see as logical or rational. If that's not complicated enough, the set to this play is also crucial--we live in a physical world and exist as embodied individuals.
Does any of it matter? Well, it certainly matters in that lots of people think (or feel) that it matters. I'm starting to feel that the endless nitpicking and banter doesn't matter...that it doesn't help discover truth. I've found that truth is more experiential, that is that the embodiment is more important than I had previously realized. (I know that there are many people with severely limited bodies, but that doesn't mean that their physical experiences are any less valid.) Let me give you an example.
I've seen lots of violets all over the place recently. Their existence is truth; my seeing them is truth; my writing about them in this post is truth. Why does it matter? Acknowledging the truthfulness or reality of things or experiences amplifies my experience of their beauty. And why does beauty matter? It's my drug. Less crudely, my experiencing real beauty, the development of my inner light, is the driving force in my life. But then, what is real beauty? I know it when I feel it, which makes me an irrational beast.