The truth shall set you free

by Henrylito D. Tacio

The Bible state it directly, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  

In his book, “Reminiscences,” General Douglas MacArthur – known in the Philippines for his famous quote, “I shall return!” – recalls a classroom experience he had as a West Point cadet.  His class was studying the time-space relationship, which the great genius Albert Einstein later called his “Theory of Relativity.” The text was very complicated and Cadet MacArthur could not figure out what it was all about.   So, he just memorized the pages concerned. 

When he was called upon to recite, he dutifully reeled off almost word for word what the book said.   The instructor looked at him in a puzzled sort of way and inquired, “Do you understand his theory?” It was a bad moment for the young cadet, but he stood upstraight and answered bravely, “No, sir.”  Hearing his answer, everyone in the class seemed to stop breathing.  You could have heard a pin drop. 

The young MacArthur braced himself and waited.  Then, the instructor said very slowly, “Neither do I, Cadet MacArthur.  The class is dismissed.” 

“Truth is generally the best vindication against slander,” wrote American president Abraham in a letter to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.   There is also truth to this statement by Arthur Schopenhauer: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” 

In ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ Oscar Wilde commented, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”  To which Alexander Solzhenitsyn contends, “We do not err because truth is difficult to see.  It is visible at a glance.  We err because this is more comfortable.” 

How right.  In fact, more often than not, people don’t want to hear the truth.  They prefer to listen to fiction.  A noted clergyman was preaching one Sunday and noticed that his congregation was drowsing.  Suddenly, he paused, and then in a very loud voice, related an incident that had no connection whatsoever with his sermon. “I was once visiting a village and came to the house of a farmer,” the clergyman related.  “I stopped for a bit when I saw something stranger than I had ever seen in my life.  There was a sow with a litter of ten little pigs.  She and each of her piglets had a long curved horn growing out their forehead between the ears.” 

At this point, the clergyman stopped his story and ran his eyes over the congregation.  Everybody was wide awake now.  “How strange,” he told the audience.  “A few minutes ago, when I was telling you the truth, you all went to sleep.  But now, when you have heard a whooping lie, you are all wide awake!” 

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” wrote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes novel, “The Sign of Four.”   

Truth shall set us free but it does not always win.  Four frogs were sitting on a tree trunk floating at the edge of a river.  Suddenly, the current started to pull it downstream.  The frogs were thrilled because none had ever sailed before. Minutes later, the first frog spoke, “This is a wonderful log.  It moves as if it were alive.”  Whereupon, the second frog said, “No, my friend, the log is not moving.  The river is.”  To which the third frog disputed, “You’re both wrong.  The movement is strictly in your mind; for without thought nothing can move.” 

The three argued and argued and got nowhere, and so they asked the silent fourth frog what he thought.  “Each of you is right, and none of you is wrong,” the fourth frog explained.  “The movement is in the tree trunk, in the water, and also in your minds.” None of the three frogs wanted to admit that the fourth frog was telling the truth and each of the other frogs believed they were right.  So, the three frogs decided to throw the fourth frog into the river. 

“Truth is tough,” pointed out Oliver Wendell Holmes in ‘The Profesor at the Breakfast Table.’  “It will not break, like a bubble, at a touch, nay, you may kick it all about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.” 

A chemist at Queensland University in Australia pours certain quantities of various elements into a laboratory test tube and then he heats the mixture.  He gets a result and write down a very accurate report of exactly what he did and how he did it.  His discovery is published in a scientific journal in London. 

Now, a British chemist tests this experiment.  He does exactly what the Australian student did and gets the same result.  It simply means that a truth has been discovered, revealed and confirmed. 

It makes no difference if the British scientist tests the university student’s experiment 10 or 20 years later.  Nor does it matter that one chemist is 12,000 miles away from the other.  Neither time nor space have anything to do with the accuracy of a truth – if it is a truth. 

“Truth exists,” someone once said, “only falsehood has to be invented.”  After all, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened,” dismissed Sir Winston Churchill. 

And we should listen to the words of Edith Sitwell: “The public will believe anything, so long as it is not founded on truth.”  According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” 

And what did Mark Twain write in ‘Advice to Youth’?  “The history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” 

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

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