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How Can You Know if You're Wrong?

I sat in a hospital lobby in Israel once, in my early twenties, and passed the time in what I suppose was my big fetish at that age: I got into a philosophical conversation with the people around me. It happens that they were all conservative Jews. I asked them about God. Friendly arguments flew out in every direction, and the time passed with delightful efficiency. But as I had to rise up and go, we agreed on this: We don’t really know. At least not with absolute certainty.

Some people believe in God. Others do not.

Some people believe that humans are inherently evil. Others believe we are inherently good.

Some people believe their mother hates them. Others do not.

Some people believe in Christianity. Others believe in Islam. Others believe in Judaism. Others - believe in others.

Some people believe there are powerful conspiracies running the world, or endeavoring to control it. Others do not. Yet others believe that some of these are real, while others are not.

How can we know?

I’ve racked my brains over this question for most of my life. If I had to choose one thing to KNOW, I may very well choose how to know if I’m right, and how to know if I’m wrong. I feel like if I had that one going for me, the rest would fall into place rather nicely.

I doubt I’ll ever have it that easy. But here is what I do know:

We are not rational beings. We really want to believe that we are, but we are not; we are, in fact, emotional beings. Your guts move so much faster than your brain does. They know what they want right away. And by the time your mind figures out what is going on, your body has already chosen a position, and dug itself in. Our minds are then left with a much more sophisticated task: How to rationalize what we’ve already chosen. And our minds are built to achieve this task, and they always succeed. We come up with amazing explanations for why we deserve a little ice cream every now and then, why it’s ok to stay up late just this once even though we have an important meeting in the morning, and even why it’s ok to philander, among other things.

Our bodies are in control, and our minds are incredible. Ancient philosophers thought they could turn this equation around… but what can I say? At best, they seem to have killed the lovely beauty that was passion; and with it, they have maimed the heart, the joy, and the wonder of this world. Where are we now, two thousand years later? We are starving for love, dried of our emotions, and no closer to the truth than we ever were.

Sadly, we are not really equipped to find the truth. At least not by searching for it directly. To put it simply: We can’t know if we are right or wrong.

But I believe that we are living at the turning point. I really do. Because here is what we can know: We can know how we feel.

Are you afraid? Explore your fear.

Are you angry? Explore your anger.

Are you full of love? Explore your love.

Do you think you have love all figured out? Do you think you are done exploring it? You’re not. That, I guarantee you, is a fact. Love is boundless. It is a moving force, that never stops moving. Explore it, and never stop exploring it. There is always more to love. The day you stop exploring love is the day you give up on being really and truly happy.

Seek to heal yourself on an emotional level, and be an “enlightened being” in the emotional sense.

The challenge is to let go of the rationality, and focus on your feelings. How can you know the difference? It’s actually rather simple: The feelings correspond directly to sensations in your body. Focus on those. The “rationality” is thoughts, which includes words, hearsay, conversations, books, diagrams, websites, and graffiti in the subway station. Let all of that go, and focus on your guts. Ultimately, whether you like it or not, that is what will lead you to the truth.

And will the truth come?

That, sadly, is the real challenge: The challenge of patience, and trust. The sad truth about the truth is that it is passive. It doesn’t come when we believe in it; it becomes apparent when we let go of our beliefs. It is like a sensitive seed: It grows wherever it finds fertile ground. Fertile ground is healthy ground.

Search for truth, and it will elude you.

Explore your emotions, and the truth will find you.

This is the great alchemy of the soul. Good luck, and good journey.

Photo by Ismael Sánchez,


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