"What is truth?"

Whilst writing something about my complete oeuvre of poetry, for the corresponding website http://www.michaelholmepoetry.com, which is one of three in my web trilogy; I answered the obvious, or even inescapable question, “Why I wrote poetry?” Part of my summary said -

“The work is currently done, though I hope in time I'll both learn and share much more about life (of course.) Maybe I'll get to learn a totally new form of communication, beyond succinct words, perhaps with the greatest propensity for clarity, diversity in its reception, and maximum size of that reception. I do not think I’m describing music. I do not think it implies a god. It definitely requires discovery, and open-mindedness helps to facilitate that.”

The reason words are necessarily not it, indeed words of wisdom so to speak, is because they are either understood or not. Therefore, if you understand them, you had already learned that part of life. And you gained nothing other than further validation. And if you do not understand them, you point-blank gain nothing.

Therefore, faced with such logic, my non-fiction book, “I am”, published in 2020, makes clear the point that words of wisdom, can only strengthen pre-existing similar lessons. Just like Hermann Hesse said, and I myself often like to share, “wisdom cannot be imparted…” However, common thought patterns arrived at in isolation, by multiple, and independent thinkers, become increasingly valid. That is because they can make valuable words more valuable, popular, and attractive to more people. At that point, people outside of having had a realisation, or direct life experience, might begin to accept things at face value; specifically, ideas that are initially unclear.

Naturally, this is where faith and trust enter. That might require a whole book to fully discuss. However, rather than having had a direct life experience, if we accept certain ideas may be valuable, and allow them or their potential, to form part of our mindset, because we have primed our brain to such thoughts and/or possibilities, we might begin to automatically look for evidence of their reality. It is almost like the psychological mechanism of “confirmation bias.” For example, a badly depressed person might be convinced they are despicable; when of course they are not, but even really unconnected things, will, in their mind, dictate that they are an awful person. A previous mental attitude may have been totally blind, in one way or another.


Independent discovery, that further validates and strengthens any valuable age-old wisdoms, should be shared. A strengthening by validation of what appears useful, is a good thing.

Jesus taught in two ways: firstly, through his own acted out life attitudes and behaviours, and secondly by telling parables. The parables were based on words, rather than actions, and required an interpretation. They were less immediate than any spontaneous outcomes triggered by his unwavering character traits. Unsurprisingly then, Jesus’ parables were mostly short, simple, picturesque stories. Once heard, even a longer and more detailed one, like the “The parable of the Lost Son” - Luke 15:11-32, was/is memorable, and could be recalled with much accuracy for the benefit of others.

Pure music speaks to some people; that is, instrumental music, and if voice is involved, it should have no meaning as such. Such music may give the listener a chill or a shiver, a sadness, or joy, etc. And due to having these feelings, a connection is made to our perceived truth of living, and/or our life: i.e., reality. If taken further, even in visual art, where I personally feel less tangible feelings, excitement apparently exists. For example, I once heard a fine artist suggest outdoor painting, or en plein air work, can be exciting to the point of adrenaline release. I found it hard to accept that the fairly sedentary daubing and brushing of paint on a canvas can initiated the “fight or flight” mechanism; however, it further illustrates how people equate the production of feelings with a truth or an actuality.

Some say, “only love is real,” such as Carole King; adding “everything else is illusion.” The feeling that people attribute to love, is truth, and ironically, Jesus said the greatest love of all, was to “lay down one’s life for one’s friends” - John 15:13. Surely that terminates your feelings, in particular your love and your reality? The sacrifice of your life: the highest love, is perhaps paradoxically, the anti-feeling…

And interestingly, people switch their life affirming feelings off, when they are in times and places of extreme; such as being trapped in counties with very harsh regimes, or being in active warzones, or in much more smaller scale situations such as modern-day slavery, and perhaps the smallest nightmare scenario of all, that of being trapped in an abusive and violent domestic setting.


Furthermore, and significantly, when you consider the experiences of people with serious mental illnesses (SMIs), for example the delusional and exaggerating effects of severe mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression, both are part of a mood continuum from wellness to unwellness, and you realise that we are all amidst this spectrum. We change positions on it, and whether one has an SMI diagnosis or not, or even a milder issue, all such thoughts above should make us question the veracity of what our feelings are suggesting, and that our logical and intellectual sides should be given more credit, but do we have the courage for that, especially when some people say to us [take the easy option and] follow your instincts…!

Arts are experienced differently between each individual person. Their colourful randomness precludes the crystalisation of any universal truth. At least not in any objective measure, but conversely, by taking the scientific truth of “acceleration due to gravity”; whether you are an apple, a boulder, a log, a person, or in fact anything that is not like a feather, then Galileo’s demonstration in the late 1500s, can be called a unifying truth.


The mathematical fact that two plus two equals four, can, just like the reality of the effects of gravity, be visually proven. However, both of these rules, and those similar, whether they are physically and/or mathematically based, are definitely not what you would expect a sage, a guru, an elder, an avatar, a prophet, a messiah, a psychic, a mystic, a tarot reader, or perhaps a tribal chief, to reveal. The fact is, they offer no such thing as truths, because even when a person has strived towards individuality, and therefore reacted against the pull of group memberships, the mental make-up of everyone is different. Whilst people might have many strong similarities, or overlaps, our brains are not binary in nature: galaxies of on and off switches. We cannot download one and upload another (similar to what is seen in the science fiction film, “Total Recall”, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.)


Truth is the opposite of everything that makes up the world of feelings. Many people look for truth outside of the world. Or they call it nature, because we think nature “is what it is” and it does not plot scheme and calculate. We dislike the cold and cruel intellect. We might insist that a god exists, and that god is outside of this horrible and confusing world. He/she/it is supernatural. But isn’t the opposite case just as reasonable a position to hold: the non-theist one? After all, people kill one another because of clashes of theist beliefs.


My “I am” book suggests we should try to have no identities at all, or realistically, an absolute minimum. In fact, the conclusion of that kind of a tack, might be what some call nihilism (in full or perhaps in a lesser part.) Furthermore, we are so mentally complex, mostly unrelated to each other, and alone; or in the least bit we are distinct, and it is very accurate to say we are individual biological entities (joined by sexual intercourse more than anything), and we accept a mathematical scrutiny, if one is applicable, and the laws of physics, whilst having a chemical constitution.


The last descriptor allows an amazing truth. We know atoms can be split, but in less dramatic ways, changes of the heavier carbon isotope, carbon 14, enables the dating of organic matter. Carbon 14 gradually becomes carbon 12, by radioactive decay. Because both isotopes have a regular, initial relative abundance in nature, then by having the ratio of the amount of decaying C14 atoms to non-decaying C12 ones in a sample, and the C14 half-life, we can calculate the age of our actual, present day carbon. Of course, this description outlines the method we call carbon dating.


Mass, matter, and stored energies remain constant, even when atoms break down, and larger ones patently and infamously become atoms of totally different elements (c.f. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, 1945); they only change or convert. The first law of thermodynamics, or in its equivalent form of the law of conservation of energy, says -

“the total energy of an isolated system remains constant; it is said to be conserved over time.”

This is a reliable truth. This IS truth. And significance follows from our tiny time span of years, in which we have experienced consciousness, and/or suffering, because when that is placed relative to the endless time, that our energy will and has been “morphing." Precisely what does it amount to? Our atoms are an endless energy: tangible ones that people hug, exothermic derived heat in our breath that steams up a cold window; even the increasing potential energy we create by climbing a tower, to verify Galileo, when we have no objects to drop but us. Energy is everything. It is THE truth.

(C) Michael John Holme, 2021, All rights reserved.