The Truth about Water... and Truth

The highest good is like water.
Water benefits ten thousand beings,
Yet it does not contend.
Nothing under Heaven is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet in attacking the firm and strong,
Nothing is better than water.

Without giving away too much, I think I may share with the uninitiated reader that this quote from the ancient I Ching crops up both at the start and at the end of the novel, The First Days of August.  And in one form or another it also arises several times in the body of the book.  Given that it’s featured so prominently, one might speculate that it holds some importance thematically to the novel as a whole.  One might even ask, “OK, fine, what’s so great about this quote?”

Well, I’d say the answer is really up to the reader.  

As the writer, I can share with you my own thoughts, but I must add that these may not be quite right for any particular reader.  So, please, accept them as only a humble starting point.  As you yourself read the book, likely you will reach your own conclusions.

Taking a step back from the story, you’ll see that in the world of science the behaviors of one or two individuals can have ripple effects that impact many people, even hundreds, thousands, or millions of people.  It is possible for a few twisted individuals to impact science as an institution in a very profound, deep fashion. However, there is no strength greater than the truth.  

And that forces the question, "What is truth?"  My philosopher friends have  built careers upon this question.  Some say there is none, while others define it in terms of what people agree upon, others define it in terms of a Universal Yardstick by which we are perpetually correcting ourselves, and others even define it in terms of the existence of a Supreme Sentient Being and God's Perception of Reality.   Without wading too deeply into these philosophical quagmires, let me voice an opinion, which I hope most may agree with.  

Truth exists beyond all individuals. It is as strong and deep as an ocean. It “… does not contend.”  It has no need to do so. Merely by being itself, it is more vast, strong, and deep than any individual’s striving against it. You cannot move an ocean. Pull your arm through it, and it will merely flow around your arm. You can swim through it, sail across it, dive to its bottom, or wait for it to bend to your will, yet it will not change in its breadth or depth or absolute might.  

Furthermore, it is not simply passive. Similar to the drip of water from the limestone roof of a cave, forming giant hanging stalactites over the centuries, the inexorable progress of truth builds over time. This progress is as slow and steady as the flow of the Colorado River that sculpted the Grand Canyon. Unstoppable.  

For this reason, alignment with truth is the only guarantee for ultimate success. Anything else? That’s a guarantee for ultimate failure.

The I Ching put it well, more than two thousand years ago, “Nothing is better than water.”



Read 898 times Last modified on Monday, 04 January 2016 16:39
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