by Nathan Arel
A few months ago, a very close friendship of mine ended because of an argument. I have accepted this fact but what still flusters me about the situation is that the argument was over the plot structure of Portal 2. Of course there were deeper factors at work there, but just the idea that the base subject was video games feels particularly absurd. As with all of our arguments, this contention centered around truth, and not just any old truth, no. This was about “universal truth.” Obviously our opinions on this universal truth differed to the point where no reparations could be made to save the friendship, but I barely escaped with my sanity, so I don’t consider it a total loss.
At this point, I had to ask myself a question that I have known the answer to for years. What is more important than truth? The answer: many, many things.
Some may say, “without truth we cannot act in a rational and moral fashion.” Some may say, “truth is the only path to freedom and justice.” Some may even say, “truth is the juicy sausage God hangs in front of us all that leads us to the gates of heaven.” All these things have some chance of being true and that’s all well, but beyond the omnipresent concern of the purpose of human life, what does truth matter? Truth ended my friendship. It ends marriages. It burns cities to the ground. It gives Congress years of oral constipation. And much of the time this is caused less by hidden truths and more by the debate over truth.
This is simply because truth has no proof of existence.
Facts exist. Facts are states of being. They apply to what things are and what things happen. Truth, as my understanding of the Midwestern version of American English holds, pertains to ideas. Facts pertain to all of those other nouns. When facts are debated, an answer can be found. But when truth is debated, only an agreement can be made.
For example: if we understand the fact that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all human beings and have the capacity to be just as friendly as anyone else, we have accomplished something. Likewise, if we hadn’t spent so much time debating the truths surrounding the existence of God, Christians, Jews, and Muslims may have spent far less time in the past committing genocide on each other.
This does not mean that truth has no purpose. Truth is essential to understanding and belief, religious or otherwise. But it must be known that truth is dangerous. Kind actions require no justification. Kind actions can be taken with a complete lack of reason or rationality, and some would even consider these actions the most generous. But anyone can manipulate truth and use it to justify doing something terrible.
Isn’t that interesting? Cruelty without reason is insanity, but kindness without reason makes people saints.
But my advice has somehow digressed from “how to maintain friendships” to the subject of “existential good and evil”. The only thing you really need to remember is no one needs to agree with a person’s beliefs to be their friends. More importantly, no one should be your enemy just because you disagree with them.
So, if you lose a friend because their view of life is irreconcilable to you, make sure it isn’t you who has the problem.