In an age now marked by both facts and alternative facts, our search for truth intensifies. Read nearly any political commentary from the last week or so and what I’m calling “truth fervor” swirls to dizzying heights, and, honestly, for good reason. Objectivity remains the benchmark quality of a truly democratic society; we cannot afford to get rid of facts.
Bias and bend and twist dominate what we all put out into the public sphere. But, like The X-Files taught us, the truth is out there. Objective data exists, facts are real, and truth begins with these. The way we might present the data so often skews one way or another, but we should not ignore what we can know. Once we do, we sacrifice integrity and truthfulness for, well, opinion. And though we all caveat things with, “That’s just my opinion,” at some point we must admit there are good opinions and there are bad opinions. As the saying goes, you are entitled to your opinion, but sometimes your opinion is wrong.
Still, truth goes beyond facts (though not in the direction of alternative facts). Seeking truth means seeking something deeper and more visceral, something that invokes a sense of purpose and urgency. Truth moves past head knowledge toward bones-belief, the experience of something that establishes you. It’s too difficult to put words to the experience of truth, and in one way this proves that truth requires mystery—some level of not knowing or wonder or unspeakable beauty. Facts, no doubt, can (even have to) contribute to truth, but they are not all that make up what is true. An obvious example of this is a good novel: made-up and undeniably true.
So what am I getting at? The opening credits of the second series of HBO’s The Leftovers feature a song by Iris DeMent called “Let the Mystery Be.” The song details different theories on what happens after we die, but ultimately decides to “let the mystery be.” To let the mystery be at first sounds passive, but I think that shortchanges the idea. To let the mystery be is not to leave it alone but to give mystery space to exist, to be, to even happen. When we do that, mystery looks a lot like miracle, and a lot like grace.
Why do you think Jesus so often speaks in parables?
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.