Philosophy · Short stories

A quartet of words to define truth

A tiny alley called Jack Kerouac Alley separated the bookstore and the bar. Their favorite spot in the bar was the row of tables on the top floor next to the large glass window that overlooked the alley. As they sat at one of those tables and sipped over some pinot noir from the nearby Napa Valley, they went back to the same conversation that they had been having over wine and beer and coffee and whatnot for years- what is truth. During the beginning years of his doctoral research, Ary considered hard sciences like physics as the only way to know the truth, but Polo always opined that soft sciences and humanities also searched for the truth, the only difference being that in the latter case the truth was less well defined. Gradually through all the guitar sessions and the poetry readings and the philosophy discussions, Ary started endorsing Polo’s views. Someday Ary wanted to write a novel with all the details of that transformation.

“I think I can define truth now with a series of words. I don’t think it can be defined with only one word”, Ary said, with a combination of excitement and calmness in his tone. He had realized that the tone in which a word was uttered mattered as much as the word itself in bringing out the essence of the word. So he wanted his tone to reflect his current peace of mind as he considered it to be largely related to his realization of the truth. Yet he couldn’t hide his excitement about sharing his wisdom with Polo. She was his best friend after all and over the years, he had enjoyed sharing every little secret with her.

“Interesting! Go on”, Polo replied.

“Well, since only living beings like us can ask the question ‘what is truth’ life is one of the words. That’s a given. The next word is death. All life comes to an end. Death is as absolute as life. Then comes love. Love holds all life forms together and makes an otherwise meaningless life beautiful. Next comes beauty. Keats says ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’, but I don’t think beauty alone is truth but is definitely a big part of it.”

“What about sex?”

“That is included in both love and beauty. A large part of love experienced by us is sexual love. Similarly, a large part of the beauty that we admire is ultimately sexual.” Ary refrained from citing the beauty of Polo’s face as an example, though he knew he had her face in mind all along while coming up with all these deep statements. Their relationship was blissfully platonic and Polo always wanted to keep it that way, but Ary had been wishing otherwise of late. The mild turbulence in his otherwise calm mind because of that issue probably meant that the absolute truth still eluded him.

“So life, death, love and beauty- together they define truth?”, Polo asked, impressed.

“I think so”, Ary said.


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