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A farewell, among other things

Truth is at a premium. We will fight for it. Our actions betray that we hold dear what we believe to be truth. All of humanity has and will wrestle in the aisles of the cosmic Wal-Mart to get hold of that ever-elusive, “while supplies last,” limited-edition truth. We want to be right – we want what we believe to be right; we’ve banked a hell of a lot on it. This fight has been on my mind as I contemplate moving on from UFV, my degree in hand, to pursue a career in education.

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By Sean Evans (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 28, 2012

Black Friday is a snapshot of the insanity that is humanity. Absolute insanity. A quick search on YouTube will yield results of dozens, hundreds of people pushing, screaming, punching, hurling themselves into each other in an effort to get cheap cell phones.

What else are we but the masses of heavy-set Americans, fighting, pushing and throwing each other to guarantee ourselves a piece of what we want.

Truth is at a premium. We will fight for it (as evidenced on the ufvcascade.ca comment sections last week). Our actions betray that we hold dear what we believe to be truth. All of humanity has and will wrestle in the aisles of the cosmic Wal-Mart to get hold of that ever-elusive, “while supplies last,” limited-edition truth. We want to be right – we want what we believe to be right; we’ve banked a hell of a lot on it.

This fight has been on my mind as I contemplate moving on from UFV, my degree in hand, to pursue a career in education.

The fight that I speak of is not necessarily against one another, but against the universe itself. We are told in Astronomy 101 just how massive the universe must be. We walk to our cars late at night after class and look out to the sky, and know just how small we are. It is crippling for a time.

We go to English in the morning and find comfort in the words of Leo Tolstoy (Sorry, Dr. Cameron, LEV Tolstoy); “Where there is life, there is faith” – although that faith may be questioned; how could God be good and tolerate a world in which War and Peace is required reading in the first month of the semester? But psychology in the afternoon tears all that apart when Freud tells us that “religion is the universal neurosis.”

Then, in philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard have their way with us. First, Søren tells us that “if there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great of inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?” Now there’s a question! According to Søren, there must be something eternal beyond the merely temporal.

Friedrich fires back, “the best atheist joke which precisely I could have made: ‘God’s only excuse is that he does not exist’” And later, “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? . . . Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

Then ol’ Burty Russell chimes in; “It does not occur to Nietzsche as possible that a man should genuinely feel universal love, obviously because he himself feels almost universal hatred and fear, which he would feign disguise as lordly indifference. His ‘noble’ man—who is himself in day-dreams—is a being wholly devoid of sympathy, ruthless, cunning, cruel, concerned only with his own power. King Lear, on the verge of madness, says: ‘I will do such things—what they are yet I know not—but they shall be the terror of the earth.’ This is Nietzsche’s philosophy in a nutshell.”

A few of the greatest thinkers in recent history have had their say. They all disagree. They all elbow and push and jostle for position. The cosmic Wal-Mart is loud, frightening, depressing and quite scary at times.

Their ideas were controversial, but they fought for them. They knew that not all of them were right. Reason alone tells us that. The battle is to decide who will be the arbiter of truth. Who gets to decide? Who gets to define truth?

Well, in a sense, you do.

You are the only person who can decide, ultimately, and finally, what your definition of truth is. Woah, you say; what about all that junk about exclusive truth you wrote about a few weeks ago that ruffled so many feathers?

Truth is exclusive. And therefore your decision about what is true matters – if you make the wrong choice, cosmic Wal-Mart is a pretty violent place. The universe will beat you up if you do not live according to what is exclusively true. Just give it a try – climb to the top of the fourth floor in A building and drop your iPhone out the window. Gravity will not forgive you for doubting.

So, ultimately you are the arbiter of truth in your world, but there are consequences (or just sequences).

Now, to bring this full circle: The University of the Fraser Valley, like many other schools, is engaged in a conversation – the same conversation that Leo (Lev), Freud, Søren, Friedrich and ol’ Burty were in. You are in it too, whether you like it or not.

This conversation will not stop, it has been raging for millennia and will continue. What I love about this whole notion of education is that we get to keep the conversation going. We get to debate these things, knowing the vastness of the implications and the greatness of the challenge. The desire for knowledge and for the wisdom of how to use it propels us on and on.

What is so beautiful about the university is that we are all (supposed to be) here for the same purpose; to acquire knowledge. Quite naturally, the scrum starts up pretty quick. Perhaps I threw one too many elbows in my time here, but hey, who can blame me? Truth is at a premium, and the aisles of cosmic Wal-Mart are pretty crowded.

All the best,

Sean

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