In the beginning

Breathe in. Do it again — slowly. Enjoy that moment of breath rushing in and filling you up. Take a second just to dwell, to linger, to wait. And when you’re ready, we’ll dive in.

This book is about realities. It is about what is real. You might say it is about truth — if truth is about accurately describing reality. One of the words used by the Ancient Greeks for truth was ἀλήθεια (pronounced aletheia) and it’s that same aletheia which has carried through directly into our modern English word reality.

Sometimes truth is spoken of in terms of being the difference between right and wrong. I’m not sure that is always a helpful distinction. Right and wrong can be descriptive words we use to express value judgments. When we say something is right, we usually mean that something matches up to our experience of reality, including, perhaps, our understanding of morality. If we say something is wrong, we might mean that it doesn’t fit with our view of reality, or align with our moral compass.

But how do we define what is true north? How can we be sure we’re not flying upside down, without trying to identify some tangible reference points beyond ourselves? That search for truth, or reality, really matters — and we’re told somewhere that knowing the truth will set us free.

Or maybe it’s the case that we don’t know the truth, because we can’t handle the truth! Either way, our experience of reality — through the things we see, touch, hear, taste and smell — through the way we talk and the language we use — through how we feel, think and act — weaves a rich tapestry in our minds.

There’s a vibrant, ever changing canvas within us. We might call it knowledge or understanding. When we experience, or learn new things, we compare it with our internal canvas. If it seems to fit with the rest of the picture, we might call it right or good. If it doesn’t, we might call it wrong or bad.

Everyone’s canvas is different. We all experience the vast realms of reality; we explore it, and talk about it, and compare and contrast it. When people have tasted similar aspects of reality, the image in their minds’ eye might be similar. These images won’t be exactly the same, but they do reflect the same reality.

If I were to describe something to you, and it appeared to match up with your own canvas, you might say “Hey, that’s true!”  What you are probably saying is, “That fits with my own experience of reality.”  If it didn’t seem to fit with your own canvas, you might respond “No, that’s not true.”  Again, what you are saying is, “It doesn’t match my experience of reality.”

Some people use these ideas and say that truth is relative. In effect, that simply means that truth depends on your perspective. If you and I stand in two different positions and take a photograph, our images will be different. Those images then become our internal standard or norm, which we use to compare and consider new things or ideas. In this way, no two people share the same canvas, or understanding. In fact, our own canvas is ever changing. Yours has changed whilst you’ve been reading this.

We might be tempted to say, “Well, what’s true for you isn’t true for me.”  That’s probably correct if what we’re saying is “My experience of reality to date is different from yours – so I see, understand and appreciate new things differently. I come to different conclusions because my internal standard – my world view – is different.”

The substance is the same stuff. Whatever we name we give it. If we’ve never tasted it before, we might not like it, but it’s still real.

It just, well, is.

The alternative proposition, that truth itself is relative, a widely espoused view in a post-modern world, can be quite destructive when followed through to it’s logical conclusion. Think about it. Aside from it being logically inconsistent to assert as a universal truth that there are no universal truths, it can also ultimately lead to social incoherence as we doubt the very ground on which we stand, and question the reality of our own self-identity.

Anyone will tell you that healthy relationships are built on trust; that sense of dependability and sure foundation that will not change over time. So it is with truth — not only objectively in the material world do things really exist (even if, at a quantum level, they are barely there), but also, if you will, on a spiritual level, personalities — you and I — really exist.

So the view I have is that when we talk about truth we are talking about trying to accurately describe reality — which is absolute. In doing that I recognise though, that whatever words and language I use to make those descriptions or statements, inevitably they will form a different impression on your own canvas to my own.

I would apologise for this, except I think the differences in perspective and experiences of reality — and the way we talk about this and share it — is one of the exciting things about life.

Each of our own encounters with reality are so limited and narrow in comparison with the great untrammelled and ocean-like depths of the vastness of everything that, if we just happen to have seen glimpses of something similar which allows us to have a shared conversation, that will itself be bordering on the miraculous.

But there is one Person, as real as you or I — if not more so — who went to his death, so the story goes, because he refused to deny the charge of being uniquely related to the Ultimate Reality; the great I AM WHO I AM.

This claim would have been wholly unremarkable, if a little odd and somewhat grandiose, were it not for the fact that not only was he willing to die rather than reject the assertion, but because there are reasonable grounds for believing that he may have risen again after his death — and predicted doing so among his companions.

At least, that’s where the journey of faith has taken me, exploring the real; both history past and spiritual present. So bear with me, as I share with you some of my own snapshots on reality, and hope that you can appreciate and enjoy them as much as I do.

And perhaps you can share yours with me one day.