I used to see truth—well, it was more like Truth—as something to be found and protected. It was like a treasure that, after days or weeks or nearly a lifetime of intense searching, was finally found. And then, fiercely protected and defended by the entire treasure-hunting party.
Truth was something that I had the corner market on. Well, me and everyone else within my particular flavor of Christianity that happened to agree with me. Truth was ours. Truth was what everyone else was looking for, in need of, missing out on. Truth was our shiny pile of treasure that we owned the exclusive copyrights to and we’d kick into litigious butt-kicking gear if we even suspected an infraction.
Or at least that’s how I saw it for years.
But lately I’ve been rethinking this whole truth business. A friend of mine recently told me that she believes more and more strongly that all truth is God’s truth. And I agree. I believe that truth and beauty can be found outside of my specific religious affinity and cultural lens and outside of religion altogether, for that matter.
However, it didn’t work this way when I was growing up. I remember once when I was reading the essay “Nature” by Emerson I found a line I liked. Emerson wrote, “In the woods we return to reason and truth.” And maybe it’s thanks to my Pacific Northwest roots, but I’ve always found a walk through the woods to be one of the most comforting, grounding activities that I can do.
I showed the quotation to my mom, but she didn’t feel the same way. “Emerson wasn’t a Christian,” was the factual reply. “He wasn’t really finding Truth in the woods.” Emerson had missed the Truth. It wasn’t Truth that he found when he walked through the woods. My fellow faith-mates and I had all the Truth. We had all the gold. So we could tell that his was fool’s gold without even looking because it wasn’t a part of our stash.
But as I look around the world, thinking about all the many different flavors of religions and ideologies and cultures, I can’t help realizing that, statistically, the chances of me getting everything right aren’t exactly in my favor. There are so many different schisms and ideologies and faith-flavors just within Christianity that even if Christianity were the only place that truth could be found, my chances at having figured it all out are not looking so hot.
Honestly, I think I’d have a much better chance of winning the lottery (even though I’ve never bought a ticket) than having my particular ideological cocktail turn out to be the winning numbers. But I think that’s okay. I’m starting to feel less and less like I care about even buying a ticket to theological lottery. I’m starting to feel more and more okay with I don’t knows. Because I really don’t know.
Maybe it’s not that we have this huge pile of golden Truth all to ourselves. Maybe it doesn’t work like that. Maybe it’s more like glitter.
Glitter is a funny thing. It’s the nightmare of parents, kindergarten teachers, and children’s Sunday school teachers. It clings. It sticks. It stays with you after you’ve taken a shower (or two). And often turns up in the most unlikely and most inconvenient of places (like the tip of your nose when you’re attempting to make a good first impression). It’s a nuisance to adults, and a joy to children. And whether it is magic or the Witchcraft of the Crafting Gods depends entirely on who you ask.
But I lean towards magic, personally.
Maybe truth—beauty, kindness, the things that add meaning to our lives and help us to heal—is like glittering dust that’s been sprinkled everywhere. Maybe none of us has an entire treasure chest that would make a pirate drool. Maybe none of us even has a single golden coin. What if all we really have is glitter?
It sparkles, it shines. But it’s not always easy to spot at first. I’ve gone for an entire day without knowing there was a speck of glitter stuck to my cheek before it happened to hit the light just so and someone else was able to spot it.
Glitter. I think it’s everywhere. This doesn’t mean everyone is right or that every thought is equally valid. In fact, quite the opposite. I think we’re all mostly profoundly and utterly wrong (which, honestly, should make us a little more gracious with our fellow humans). I’m wrong. You’re wrong. They’re wrong. We’re wrong. We’re all wrong. But there’s little bits of glitter in there, too. Tiny sparks, little truths.
There are truths that can lead to us being more humane, more empathetic, and just downright more decent. There are truths about our value and our worth. There are truths that encourage creativity and exploration. There are truths that teach us to be gentle with others, and with ourselves. And these are beautiful and good and truth whether we find them within our familiar cultural context or somewhere else entirely.
Glitter. I find that this allows me to see the beauty of other cultures, the beauty in my own, without feeling like I need to pick a side. I can find a speck of glitter here or there. Even though for the most part each of us is profoundly and utterly incorrect about everything, there are valuable things, beautiful things found all around the globe. There are little bits of goodness and glitter scattered, sprinkled everywhere.
May you find some magic, some glitter, to hold onto in your own life, wherever you may find it.