Monday, June 24, 2013

Painting a "True" Picture Is a Communal Process: or, It Takes a Village

I said in a thread over at Mormanity a while ago that I really don't care about how different people choose to frame their understandings of various concepts - that we often say the same general things in different words. I also believe that this happens a lot in religious discussions that get acrimonious and heated - that the people often agree to a larger degree than they disagree, but the way they interpret the other person's words gets in the way of understanding.

With that in mind, there is a post entitled "Many Perspectives; One Truth" over on Silver Rain's blog from a couple of years ago that includes the following thought:

One such moment was in art class. We often sketched still lifes of styrofoam, fruit, random office supplies, etc. After one such session, the instructor had us put all of our sketches up side by side to compare and critique. After we were done, he pointed out that all of the sketches were completely different, though the arrangement we sketched was the same. Even if all of our skills in sketching had been equal, some sketches showed parts of the arrangement that others couldn't see. In some sketches, entire elements of the arrangement were missing because they could not see them. He compared it to truth, and our search for truth.
There is an old saying I've heard in many variations, "There are always three sides: yours, mine, and the truth." When I was going through counseling to start me on the path to recovery, it was pointed out to me a that my perspective was not any less accurate than another. That has been a hard lesson for me to learn.
But, I have begun to see that although there are many perspectives on any given situation (whether you are talking about describing an event or about religious truths), there is only one truth. And while I may not be completely accurate in describing that truth, neither is anyone else. I don't have to take their perspective as somehow more true than my own.

One of my core beliefs is that we have the right and opportunity to find the perspective that makes the most sense to us as individuals - that what works for us can be "true" for us, even if it isn't full and complete "Truth" yet. Sometimes we struggle, as Silver Rain indicates, to accept that "(our) perspective is not any less accurate than another" - but sometimes we struggle just as much to accept that "(another's) perspective is not any less accurate than (ours)."

Don't get me wrong; I'm not a believer in extreme relativism.  However, I believe that the details of our differing perspectives often are less important than the picture we are trying to paint - and that painting a "True" picture is a communal process for three main reasons:

1) I can learn to see that picture more comprehensively AND in greater detail through understanding other perspectives than I can on my own;

2) Others can learn to see that picture more comprehensively AND in greater details through understanding my perspective than they can on their own.

3) The process of learning is an ever cycling evolution of understanding, in which the vision of each and of all is reinforced and strengthened and sharpened continually as individual AND communal perspectives are changed (line upon line, precept upon precept) by the constant interaction of differing paradigms.

Remove me from the group, and I suffer - but no less so than the group suffers from my departure. The sum of the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts, individually AND communally - and I love to see and help others see more clearly and comprehensively.

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