Tag Archives: stephen colbert

An Alternative to “Truthiness”

Yesterday I shared a Carl Sandburg poem about truth, titled, “Who Am I?” Today I would like to explore the poem more deeply as Sandburg grasped intricate dimensions of Truth, describing it as “the most elusive captive in the universe.”

Just how can truth be so elusive and how can it be “elusive” if it is already “captive’d” within our heart?  Sandburg believed that we have intrinsic knowledge of the truth in the depths of our inner most being but we have a fear of acknowledging and embracing this Divine gift. “Truth” is frightening to our ego-bound consciousness because She is a process which is disruptive to our shallow, self-serving grasp of her intricacies.  “Truth” is a dynamic process which is catastrophic to our shallow certainties about life. It is very frightening when She begins to penetrate “the small bright circles of our consciousness” (Conrad Aiken) and challenges the “canned” truth that our ego prefers. Therefore, Truth eludes us though She is already in our heart, a “captive” which usually we do not allow to “come out and play” in our life.  But She is always there, nevertheless, nudging us along and encouraging us to let Her in for a visit someday.

And what did Sandburg have in mind when he asserted that Truth disregards “all signs that read, ‘keep off.’”  He realized that Truth, as opposed to what Stephen Colbert described as “truthiness,” is contrary with the self-serving limits that we have created in our life.  If Truth is given access to our heart, it will always confront “Do not trespass” signs marking the areas of life that we don’t want challenged. T.S. Eliot had this in mind when he encouraged us to “live in the breakage, in the collapse of what was believed in as most certain and therefore the fittest for renunciation.”  Sandburg and Eliot were not discouraging having anchor in our heart that affords us existential courage, but saw that the only “anchor” that survives the test of time is the “certainty” of some “thing” that lies beyond the grasp of our finite mind. This is the very Ground of our Being.  The self-serving bromides that we take for truth will never pass the test that this “Ground” presents to us. And on this note a conclude a witticism from a dear pastor of my youth, “Yes, Truth will set you free.  But it’ll first make you miserable.”

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The “Battle for Truth” in the U.S.

The Battle for Truth in the United States continues to amaze me, given that I grew up with the Superman TV series where the Man of Steel was the champion of, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”  Currently we see a daily display of the overt dishonesty of the Trump administration and the Republican Party and watch our nation flounder almost haplessly before this demonic presence. And, I’m not surprised that the “truth-telling” does not come from within the establishment.

I just stumbled across timely wisdom from Vaclav Havel, the former Czechoslovakian writer, playwright, turned political leader who in 1989 led the Velvet Revolution which toppled the Communist regime.  Listen to what he said about how the toppled authoritarian state had manipulated with overt dishonesty:

He states that ideology, “builds a world of appearances trying to pass for reality.”  The oppressive regime “touches people at every step but does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies…the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom…the banning of independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views.  Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything.  It falsifies the past, it falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future.  It pretends to respect human rights.  It pretends to persecute no one.  It pretends to fear nothing.  It pretends to pretend nothing.”

It is no accident that this “truth-telling” in Czechoslovakia came from a voice from the artistic community.  Those within the political establishment are not capable of recognizing the truth, must less proclaiming it.  And those in religious circles are usually ensconced in the echo chamber of religious dogma and have no use for a voice from the outside, such a voice being intrinsically threatening to its established hierarchy.

In my country today it is not the church and certainly not the political establishment who is “speaking truth to power” like those in the arts and entertainment community.  Late night comedians like Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Seth Myers, Samantha Bee and James Cordon are left with the task of vividly painting a picture of how our present “emperor” has no clothes on.  Evangelical and fundamentalist Christian leaders have completely fallen under the spell of Trump and will never dare to admit they have made a mistake.  For, they like Trump, cannot acknowledge making a mistake of the magnitude of the one they are making.  Oh, sure they can trot out a canned spiel of being “a sinner saved by God’s grace” but it is another thing to have to stare face to face with how your ego has led you to pledge your troth to the embodiment of everything that is anti-thetical to the cause of Christ.

ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are: 

https://wordpress.com/stats/day/literarylew.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

 

Do Trailer Parks Cause Tornadoes?

I really miss David Letterman though his most able replacement, Stephen Colbert is brilliant!  Letterman was wry, bizarre, and even weird and in his early years even more so than later.  One quip from the early years has stuck with me because it put a dimension of reality on the table that I’d like to “cuss and discuss” today:  “Trailer parks cause tornadoes.”

He dropped this bizarre witticism probably 25 years ago when I was just beginning to stumble into some faint grasp of the time/space continuum and its offspring causation.  Even today I don’t “understand” it because time/space and cause/effect bring one right into the guts of life…if one dares to go there.  Or perhaps I should say, if one is foolish enough to go there!

And, like the whole of life, there is no “understanding” of it.  It is part of the mystery of life.  But my faint grasp of this phenomena has made me less apt to cast blame and more apt to see my own agency in my life, how that I have had choices where in the past I have thought I did not.  We live in a world of contingency and in any of these daily array of contingent moments we have choices.  Sometimes I make a good one.

Here is an e e cummings poem which is relevant, though the first stanza is beyond my grasp:

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circustent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he picked the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because

 

ADDENDUM–I have diversified this literary effort of mine.  In this blog I plan to focus more on poetry and prose.  Below you will see two other blogs of mine relevant to spirituality and politics which have lain dormant for most of the past five years.  I hope some of you will check them out.  However, the boundaries will not be clear as my focus is very broad and my view of life is very eclectic/inclusive/broad-based.  Yes, at times too much so!

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

Stephen Colbert Comically Looks at Truth

My last post explored the famous question of Pontius Pilate as he presided over the trial of Jesus, “What is truth?”  In this post I brought emphasis to the profundity of the question and the humility and temerity we need to exercise as we ponder the issue.  But in the Stephen Colbert clip provided here, the ephemerality of truth is more clearly…and wittily…explored than I could ever do with mere use of “words.”  Note the self-referentiality that Colbert utilizes in making this epistemological observation and even his awareness of the narcisstic dimension of the enterprise.  Colbert has “self” awareness to a scary degree, the “scariness” mitigated with his ability to laugh at himself in the very enquiry he is making. This quality that Colbert demonstrates nightly…with the help of his talented writers…is the reason we so often find brilliant social commentary with this show which we do not find elsewhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxTDIPi_T-g

Jeb Bush Teaches Me a Lesson

Yes, I was “schooled” by Jeb Bush last night who was a guest on Stephen Colbert’s inaugural late-night talk show.  The brother of former president George W. Bush and son of former president George H. W. Bush is seeking the Republican Party’s nomination and found this occasion to score some points with those of us who love the irony and sarcasm of Stephen Colbert.  When the subject of politics and President Obama came up, he noted that he does not question the President’s motives, pointing out very astutely, “If you question someone’s motives you can’t ever find common ground.”

Well, immediately he explained why he is not the darling of the Republican Party, polling in the bottom tier of candidates right now far behind the darling of the hyper-conservative base of the party, Donald Trump.  The disdain that the Republican have demonstrated for Obama for the whole of his presidency reflects “questionings” of his motivations, a critical stance which stems for their outright disdain of his person.  This disdain has been so obvious, so blatantly egregious that it often has reached the point of comic.  To illustrate, I recently saw a cartoon which illustrated their penchant to blame him for everything, the cartoon posing the question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and Fox News is not there to report it, is it still Obama’s fault?”

We are all “motivated” creatures and in being critical of the motives of others we run the risk of “assuming” that we are not motivated ourselves.  And Bush’s observation indicated that he grasped the notion that when we are trapped in this “embedded thinking,” based on deep-seated fears and insecurities, we cannot even “seek” common ground.  But this applies to all of us, even…cough, cough…ahem, ahem, ”moi.”  Persons like myself, very much on the liberal wing of politics, often have trouble realizing that conservative values have an important place in our life, politically, socially, and culturally.  It is then so easy to find ourselves guilty of the same obnoxious arrogance that we attribute to “them.”

However, I do admit that the current situation with the GOP is beyond the pale.  But the real root of the problem lies only in the hard-core base of the party…those that their own Senate leader once described as “knuckle-draggers”…with most Republicans being quite intelligent and thoughtful.  The real culprit has been the leadership of the party which has routinely capitulated to this “baser element” in their ranks who depend on “low-information” voters without which they could not win anything.

( http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2015/09/09/jeb-bush-stephen-colbert-donald-trump-orig-dlewis.the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert}