There Is No Truth Without Beauty

There Is No Truth Without Beauty December 11, 2018

“That’s what the truth teaches. Emotion has nothing to do with it. Who cares if you like it or not. You just have to accept the cold, hard facts. Don’t be a snowflake. Toughen up.”

Such is the dark, ugly mentality of so many of us when we talk about the nature of the truth. There is, of course, some validity to such statements. The truth does not depend upon us and our emotional attachment to it – however, the truth is good and beautiful, and so by its nature, it will be attractive and we will desire and love it when we come to see and understand it. Cold, hard facts, such as we find in mathematics, are derivative of the truth, but they are not themselves the truth. The truth transcends mere facts, for the truth is the comprehensive integral reality as it is – even if and the only way we receive it is through an approximate, relative form which presents to us that reality in a way we can understand it.

The truth is good. The truth is beautiful. Whatever is ugly and undesirable by nature cannot be the truth. We desire what is good and beautiful. We innately know that what is true must be desirable, must be beautiful, must be attractive, which is how and why we know something is wrong when what we are presented as the truth does not find itself integrated with the good and beautiful. This is not to say whatever we find attractive and desirable is the truth, because beauty, like goodness, can come to us in many relative forms, some more detached from its proper union with the truth than others. Beauty can be faked, and so we can become attracted to an illusion. Beauty can be something of mere appearance, while the substance behind that appearance being anything but beautiful. True beauty is harmonious inside and out, but we, unable to discern the whole, will find ourselves attracted to that which we can engage and so can be led astray by shams. Nonetheless, whatever is attractive, whatever possesses some good within itself, no matter how little, in that extent it contains an element of the truth and this explains how and why it is attractive to us. That is, external beauty follows with and presents to us some element of the truth to us, something which we can hold to and praise. But as it is not holistic, as the fullness of the truth is withheld from it, such beauty remains ephemeral, and will one day no longer attract us once its potential has been exhausted.

Emotions can be unstable.  We can be happy one moment, sad the next. We might not know why we feel what we feel. We might have some sort of chemical imbalance which affects our moods. But, despite all the problems we face when we rely upon our emotions alone, we realize that they serve a purpose in our life. We seek to be happy, and whatever seems to make us happy, we are more likely to receive, whether or not it is good for us, because we know what is good for us, what is true, should also make us happy. Nonetheless, because of their instability, relying upon emotions alone to discern what is true is dangerous, for emotions by themselves cannot truly measure facts. Relying upon emotions, we can easily confuse fact with fiction. But this does not mean emotions should have no place in our search for the truth. Even facts are not the best measure of the truth in and of themselves. For the truth transcends mere facts; the truth integrates them and establishes their proper relations with each other, providing meaning to such facts. Facts cannot do that for themselves, and so a fact cut away from the integral unity of the truth can be very lopsided, and if used as a hermeneutic to discern the truth, because it lacks many elements of the truth itself, a fact can lead us from the truth itself. While it is a fact dogs are animals, if we interpret animals to be soulless machines, we will quickly be led to all kinds of wrong conclusions about dogs, thinking they are incapable of reason or proper emotions.

When the truth is cut up and dissected, what we have as a result is not the truth, and so cold, hard facts, by their nature, are not to be seen as the truth. They have to be properly integrated together, and even then, without prudence, without wisdom in engaging them and discerning the meaning behind such facts, we will not have the truth itself, though we will claim we do and so perpetuate falsehood by doing so.

Knowledge without love is not really truth. Knowing some fact is not the same as knowing the truth. It should not be surprising, therefore, that we will have some sort of emotional response to truth presented without love. Some will find the beauty in the presentation and will approve of what they have been told; others, however, will discern the lack of love, and see what is presented as ugly, leading to utter disgust. The response should not be, “But the truth is the truth, despite what you feel.” For, while there might be elements of the truth contained in something that leads to utter disgust, what is presented by someone who has accumulated such knowledge will not be the truth. This should not surprise us, for just as evil acts rely upon some disordered understanding and engagement of the good, so falsehood will contain elements of the truth, perhaps many of them, while leaving behind those qualities necessary for it to be properly representative of the truth.

We should be restless until we find ourselves resting in the fullness of the truth.  That is what St. Augustine understood when he said to God, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Our heart is full of desires. The desires are good. The truth should come to fulfill our desires, to satisfy us fully. What does not yet satisfy shows is not yet the fullness of the truth. There is no truth without such satisfaction being offered to us. To have all knowledge and no love is to have nothing; there is no truth in such knowledge, though the knowledge can point to and be used to lead us to the truth if we let it. We must pursue the truth in love, for love alone is credible, love alone is the foundation by which we find the truth. This is because God, who is love, is also the truth. Now, of course, love is not to be seen merely as an emotion, but with love will come emotion. We will find peace and joy, we will indeed be happy, when we find the truth in love. If we are not yet happy, we are not yet there (though hopefully we are on our way).

“But emotions can deceive us.”  Certainly, as we become attached to various inordinate pleasures, we can become emotionally attached to them. But when are attached to them in this manner,  we  we are not at rest. The pleasures are fleeting, and our desires are never truly satisfied. But just like emotions, cold, hard facts taken out of context can be used to deceive. Few who speak against engaging the emotions consider how easily they are led astray by their emotionless pursuit of knowledge. Emotions, just like our intellect, can deceive us; but this does not mean we should deny either of them their proper role in our lives. When we feel something is off, we do not feel emotionally involved; we need to discern why that is and correct it. If we are unwilling to listen to our emotions, we can be easily trapped by falsehood; if we rely upon them alone, of course, we can also be trapped by a different kind of falsehood. Yet, as pride comes before the fall, and the accumulation of knowledge puffs us up, it is better to seek after the truth by looking for beauty and goodness, allowing ourselves to be emotionally affected by beauty and goodness, than it is to look for the cold hard facts alone. For we will never find rest in the pursuit of knowledge; we will only find rest when our hearts are satisfied by love. As truth, goodness and beauty are one, so we need to integrate our hearts and minds together, so that together, we can find the absolute truth which truly satisfies us with its enchanting beauty.


[IMG=The Adoration of the Lamb by Jan van Eyck [Public domain] via WikimediaCommons]

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