True and Learning

February 02, 2021

True is an interesting word. Especially in the ways it is used. One of the most telling ways of usage of the word is when we say that a person ‘took her aim truly’ The Greek word ‘harmartia’ is the word used in the gospels which English Bibles translates as ‘sin’. The word ‘harmartia’ actually refers to “having missed the mark”. For one to take one’s aim truly then is to aim not to miss the mark.

To be true to a person then, is always to be aiming for the mark which is not to be missed, always to be hit, so that one is always without having to acknowledge a reproach in one’s heart for having broken faith with the person.

True then is a very special word. For us to bandy it, and say casually, “that’s not true’, perhaps using it as a lever or as a threat or a chastisement; this tends to whittle away at its pristine meaning of “staying with hitting the mark for the sake of others and in one’s heart’.

There’s that jingle in the drama Hamlet:

“Doubt that the sun doth move

Doubt that the stars are fire

Doubt truth to be a liar

But never doubt I love”

That’s a very beautiful illustration of the tenacity and durability-to-everlasting of love. Note that the items to be doubted over and before Hamlet’s love (for Ophelia) are in fact almost immutably true things. The sun doth move; the stars are fire; Truth is not a liar. And Hamlet’s love for Ophelia likewise he is saying is immutably true likewise.

It is true because it is love, and it is not some shade or infatuation or as that Beatles song goes:

“My tears are falling like rain from the sky

Is it for her or myself that I cry?”

It is the bona fide item Hamlet says. (Of course he in fact spurns that love and Ophelia; but our concern is not with romantic love for a spouse or partner, our concern is with that love which is associated existentially and cosmologically with truth, and so the arguments pertain therefore)

One hears often a little glibly said – like a mantra or half an echo, that “God is Love”. Keats, the poet famously crooned

‘Beauty is truth and truth beauty;

And that is all you know and need to know on earth”

Keats equated absolutely, no qualifiers, Truth with Beauty. Many of these, and like equations, are made using big and often nebulous words in their usage, words such as truth beauty love, and so on. Often these throwaway equations are made so that they act to devalue the currency of the words themselves equated. Unintentionally so perhaps, but just as too much hyperbole quells the appetite for the item hypostasised, so too these equations can have similar effects. (That dreadful tag tagged onto huge sentiments as a mockery …..’and world peace’ is such a deliberate dragging through the mud of pearls by swine)

But these concepts Love, Truth, Beauty, is there any way they can be equally synonymous? It think so. Just as the romantic movie weepy, say when Sidney Carton goes to the scaffold, wrings the heart and stirs the highest of noble feeling in us, we perceive a beauty in his act, and we perceive it since it is associated with that truth to his plighted love, by his altruistic and sacrificial death for the sake of others, for his loved ones. Truth and Beauty. Sidney Carton is true and beautiful in what he does because he loves, and he does what he does for the sake of that love, unqualified, – the ultimate abnegation, self-sacrifice.

Love, Truth, Beauty.

And who might be the major, the most beautiful, truthful, and loving, model for such an act as does Sidney Carton? Who above all people, all created things, brings this trio of cognate qualities indivisibly together fast and solid and ubiquitously universally so?

I won’t spoil it by being crass and going on with what is the obvious answer. True?

Learning is a word that is used in ways which at the least imply and at the most demonstrate particular attitudes, extraneous to the dictionary concept of learning, and its use at these times does so with sufficient force, often subliminally psychologically-speaking, so as to implant relationships, outlooks, and stances, which are not always wholesome, and more usually are implanted in the learner.

In common instances of college, school, training, and so on, the relationship between learner and tutor is almost always inherently an unequal one. Not necessarily is it a relationship of dependence, of say the learner upon the tutor, but is, can be, or it can lead to dependencies, in the way that perhaps psychoanalysis sessions can do so between an anchor therapist and an adrift patient.

Such teaching/learning relationships tend to assume the teacher to be the source of knowledge and the pupil to be the focus towards which that knowledge is being imparted. There is often furthermore a discrepancy in age and a discrepancy in life experience between tutor and pupil.

Any and all of these contribute to the relationship being unequal; and unequal in all ways one sided as against the other; that is to say there are no elements in the relationship in which the pupil is senior over the tutor, nor perhaps any in which parties are equally weighted between them. All this, in our society, is the way we do things, is normality.

Thus the tutor has a degree of power over the pupil. The old adage – knowledge is power – applies. But further; knowledge of having knowledge also applies; as well as knowledge of the pupil lacking knowledge also applies. Understanding that the field is open as to what to teach and as to how to teach it, what to emphasise what to omit what to detail and what to skip over, is obvious to the tutor in many cases. Opportunity taken by a tutor to couch learning in a way close to the heart of the tutor, maybe with an aim to make the pupil an acolyte or a steadfast in the causes which the tutor espouses; this is the temptation, even perhaps in some blind cases it is seen as being, assumed to be, a necessary approach because the tutor’s belief is that the truth is with him the tutor.

So one temptation.

Whenever extraneous concerns are attached to learning, being items such as charges levied for tutoring, or care for teaching reputation, or aiming to gain greater custom that will grow a teaching enterprise, or again the tutor having masters overseeing who must be appeased and kept amiable; or the simple personal feelings a tutor has for or against any pupil – all of these and probably several more items are indifferent adjuncts to the learning relationship as a learning relationship, and in the learning, and are items which work their sways of influence in various directions which are not pertinent to the learning ideal itself.

Each of these adjunct extraneous items are or can become temptations, normally to tutors. When a tutoring business is on the cusp of failing for instance, certain items might creep into the learning sessions – sales of textbooks at higher than usual prices, cutting corners on learning sessions that reduce costs for sessions, surreptitious raising of prices for lessons – and so on. This scenario was merely an illustration of my drift here.

The thread that all temptations in this area have in common is that of abuse of that power in the unequal relationship which is allowed to the senior party, the tutor. Companies and Institutions are bigger than any single person and often are bigger than fair sized groups of persons – another inherently unequal relationship between the two parties. So when these entities offer learning or training under their aegises; their power, and so their freedom to abuse it, and their temptations to abuse it, is manifestly much larger, and quite often much more is at stake in these areas for a Company or an Institution than for a sole person.

Training being a practical occupation, in that the persons being trained are to go out into the world and to use what they have learned, so that if what they have learned is incorrect, it will show up in the works of their hands to be so. Their items they make will not work, or will not suit the purposes for which they were made.

Learning is a more diffuse and more nebulous approach to imbibing information. Learning involves opinion and a higher level choice of approach, of broader consequence, but again much more diffusely so, and concerns also what is often a more abstract problem; all this as against that choice and consequence a training course might necessitate.

I think I need to example this.

A person training to be an airline mechanic working on maintaining planes in the air gets a pretty tight idea instilled as to what is right and acceptable to do, to work by, and were there to be an error it could give disastrous consequences, but local. A plane might crash and lives be lost. The crash nonetheless is delimited by its very local circumstances.

A politician having been tutored in high level theory, having made a choice of principles and of any pet policies, will whenever the opportunity occurs use those principles and put in place those policies. The consequences of having taken these opportunities may well often be extremely broad and diffuse, possibly, probably permeating throughout a society or an economy; but they may also be widely catastrophic in their eventual effects on the whole people being governed.

The aircraft mechanic is able to be pinpointed easily and punished severely for say his negligence or error; whereas there is far too much spillage able to be assumed and appealed to, and allegedly made between the cup and the lip, for a politician to have to stand up and take the heat for those principles and policies having been implemented. As a general rule then I am claiming on the strength of my one example here that there is then less accountability for making large but abstract errors and large but abstract negligence, than there is for localised and practical and so more intense errors etc being made.

Remember the mechanic was trained; the politician we say was educated; he learned.

So, in general, it is important, and of a different order, what we learn as against what we train up as being. Much more crucial is what we believe in our hearts and minds than what we repair for a living. And learning is the place where into our hearts and minds knowledge is poured so as for us to be able to become a good judge and to make good broad and consequential decisions.

But freedom is a necessary requirement for us to make our decisions by. The greater freedom in which we make our decisions the greater our personal responsibility and liability for those decisions we take on, and this is because those decisions taken under freedom are moreso our decisions than might be those taken under the aegis and influence say of a mentor or a tutor.

Coming to this level of freedom upon which to make decisions is a life’s work. This is because ridding oneself of extraneous influences, secret agendas, concerns about reputation, and the very difficult to let go of a need to make ends meet – all these bear down hard upon the power in knowledge so as to be able there to distort and temporise with our decisions in the use of that knowledge.

Some pupils never want to be anything else but a pupil – there is the phenomenon for instance of the ‘perpetual student’ who finds it hard to make the adjustment back into society after a degree course has been taken – this person is emblematic of many of our taught, inculcated, needs to hold onto role models, paradigm people, saws and instances we stand by simply because we always have done so - like the shopper whose ‘parents always shopped there’ and so on.

Being in tow with other people, or with items, which one feels are ‘senior’ in the course of making one’s life decisions is in fact a away of avoiding making them. There is present a level of deflection of responsibility onto others in such decisions made. So that one can ‘shoot the messenger’ should they fall flat on their faces.

Besides these things, any such temporiser is still living in the world of mutability, the toils of the things of the world, in the shape of things such as human authority. In making life decisions and in making many more types of decision, there is only one authority – but no, you are not alone – you have a guide, a person:

When you are brought before synagogues, rulers, and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say. For at that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say.”

Look into yourself, your heart. If your heart is true it will be the ultimate guide to your decisions and to what they should be, because then your heart is with Christ, and you are free in the service of Him, and your learning is going well and like humility remains endless.