“Did you forget that men prefer peace and even death to having to choose between good and evil?” – from the play, The Grand Inquisitor
The “2% truth” holds that every opinion we have possesses 2% of the truth. No one is completely wrong – OR – completely right. A full 98% is un-determinable except by consensus. And not that “consensus” gets it right. Consensus merely reflects the popularity of the opinion. “A lie told long enough becomes the truth.” This cynical adage illustrates both our need for consensus and the difficulty we have in obtaining one. Coordinated response is impossible with too much disparity. Yet, we are often at a loss when trying to confirm either our opinion or the opinion of others.
And, for better or worse, we live in the age of relativism. We accept the idea that a diversity of opinion serves everyone’s needs. Why? Because it keeps alternative perspectives alive. And that, in turn, allows for a greater range of expression.
Freedom finds its greatest blessing, not in selecting any ONE truth, but in choosing to live “as if” some strongly held belief is true. And the magic embedded within that – “as if” – comes from our learning more about ourselves and about our being large enough to include others.
Here’s an example: Daniel must make a decision. He acted on behalf of his friend, Michael, who then did something unexpected. Michael reconsidered the importance of what he was trying to achieve.
Daniel supported Michael 100%. He cleared his schedule – just to work with Michael. So Daniel felt angry, betrayed, and baffled.
- The 2% truth that Daniel clung to was that Michael was looking for HIS support and would not undercut him – without getting his opinion first.
- The 2% truth that Michael clung to was that decisions about how much energy and effort could be judged individually.
The high dream which Michael and Daniel shared now seemed impossible to achieve. They were of two minds about the work and each one felt terrible. They were, after all, friends.
And here’s where truth’s un-determinable 98% comes in.
Once Daniel and Michael discover and accept the “2% truth,” they make room to explore the remaining 98% — assuming that neither one is right or wrong. Individually, the 2% truth is both necessary and insufficient. It is necessary because genuine communication and sharing could not happen without it AND it is insufficient because any shared acceptance must be larger than either person’s opinion.
By approaching the situation “as if” their opinions were true – Daniel and Michael can examine what was at stake for them individually. Michael felt the work was wasn’t working. It was NOT going where he expected. Daniel admitted to problems, but he still felt the work was worthwhile — simply because they were learning things together.
To accept the loss of their work’s high dream, Daniel and Michael needed to become re-acquainted. They were no longer the same people. And, while disappointment is inevitable, it’s not altogether unbearable. Once they find a way to be large enough to include the other, a new spirit of compromise can enter the relationship. They can learn to embody something new.
And besides … what’s confirmation, really ? A personal belief? A sense of validation? A shared regard that supports individual value? To be honest, confirmation is the mystery of the un-determinable 98%. Confirmation is not really ours to choose. It arises, unknowingly, from the situation itself.
Dostoevsky’s Inquisitor remarks to a Christ-like figure “Did you forget that men prefer peace and even death to having to choose between good and evil?” The question is a red-herring. Conviction and confirmation run together hand-in-glove. So it’s less about “good” and “evil” — than about offering and sharing support with mutuality.
Men prefer peace and even death to having to their convictions overturned. And our highest dreams arise — unknowingly from the situation itself — and not from any of our opinions about it.
Thanks for listening!