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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
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HISTORY IN THE SERVICE OF TRUTH

THERE IS AN AGE long saying that we cannot go back to yesterday. This saying has for a long time served as a dogmatic truth. In reality, this is actually a half truth. We always travel to the past, engage the past in a dialogue and make use of the past in shaping the future. Part of the journey to yesterday is a journey into our memory as a storehouse of past events. This storehouse is necessary for knowledge, idea and execution. Without this storehouse, we cannot move into the future; we will always be trapped in the present. In this way, our memory becomes a source of history.

Our memory can be either oral or written in its transmission, and in either case, it is called tradition – a kind of handing on. When written it is either a history or a chronicle. While chronicle engages in a strict sequential record of events, history concentrates on the interpretation of events. Behind history is an explanation of causes and effects justified by history itself and correlation with other disciplines. This is where history assumes a beautiful flavour. Every history presents itself from a perspective or an angle – hence it is always subjective in approach and outlook. However, the subjective nature of history does not destroy its objectivity; in history there is always an interplay of objectivity and subjectivity.  

At both objective and subjective poles of history are facts presented, and these facts are sacred and should be viewed and treated as such. Hence, the saying, sacred things ought to be treated sacred. Facts are not manufactured; they are discovered. They are not edited but are presented. Our interpretation of facts can be edited and that is when it has to do with the subjective dimension of it. In pursuit of an ambiguous fact, a subjective path could also be towed and the result presented either in a categorical or probable form depending on the level of certainty attained. This is the task of historians and when they are faithful to it, they are in the service of truth. Not only historians, we all are called to be in the service of truth in our own capacities. While mental reservation is allowed in some cases especially before one who does not have license to a particular truth sometimes we hide the truth because it inconveniences us and wounds our ego. We frustrate the search for truth because we believe that it will destroy the status quo. In a scientific community, truth is sometimes found not in correspondence with facts but on the lips of the powerful. A story of violence is usually told from the narrative angle of the victor. In this way the victim becomes the offender. But truth edited to the point that it resembles anything but the truth itself is truth murdered. Truth murdered is destiny destroyed. All hands must be on deck in this rescue mission of saving the truth.

Sometime ago, this revolution started raising its head when the authority of showcased traditions started being questioned. In the words of Elizabeth Candy Stanton, "I am in the sunset of life, and I feel it to be my special mission to tell people what they are not prepared to hear." That was in the 19th Century. Till today, truth has always been sacrificed at the altar of ego.

We all are products of the past. The past contributed in shaping our identity. No history is golden. No past is perfect. But behind every history is the God of life guiding events in his providence. No matter how bad or gloomy, every history could be interpreted as a holy history because of this aspect of the role of the divine agent. In our interpretation of our past therefore, we are not meant to remove what was there that we desire not and to replace it with what we desire that was not there. If we do it, then we cannot properly learn from the past. History edited is history repeated. It is our task to study the history as it is. In this study we ask why there are some dark spots on the canvas of our past. This study helps us to avoid those dark spots in our story of today and of tomorrow. But this improvement will not be possible if we do not have an adequate grasp of our past.

We live in a world where truth has suffered a terrible blow. Ours is one where documents are forged and unjust structures dogmatically worshipped. Questioning the status quo makes one not only a heretic but also an agent of doom. This makes mess of the whole situation. Truth suffocates and is buried because she is always naked. The world of today prefers an edited truth to a naked one. Falsehood is eulogised because truth inconveniences and wounds the ego. But the truth remains that, truth, no matter how hurtful and inconveniencing it is, is also a healing balm. Only truth will serve as a strong foundation for our future by helping us to walk in transparency and avoid the dark spots of our history. It demands courage, sacrifice and revolution. Only the strong and courageous are called to this crusade. Those who distort history are destroying the earth. They should read and meditate on Rev.11:18.

 


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