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Truth and Action

Pontius Pilate answered a life-and-death question with a question: “What is truth?” We recognize his response as a indecisiveness masking avoidance behaviour, since truth is well-defined, requiring evidence. Generally, even the answer to the question “What is truth?” needs argument and evidence.

But truth without evidence is undefinable. It can be anything we want it to be. “What is truth?”, asked as if truth were some abstraction, is a discussion that leads nowhere. Like watching shadows in a cave, we can never be sure what the substance of the shadow is doing if we don’t see it, but we can look to the shadow for evidence. True, we may get the wrong idea, but there’s a pretty good chance of getting most of it right. Our brains are wired to put such things together. And though our perceptions may be wrong sometimes, ignoring those perceptions and assimilations is normally seen as foolish and naive.

We can never see everything there is to see in life, but nevertheless, life expects us to make sense of the world around us given our limited perceptions and world view. And the critical decisions we make affecting our lives are almost never based on perfect information. But we often base decision on the degenerate data available, further informed by past experience, and often are expected to render such judgements, whether it is in our line of work, or our daily lives. More often than not, not deciding is often more damaging to one’s future than deciding. With a decision, at least you have a way to base a future plan for coping with any consequences. In life, there is no fence-sitting. Deciding not to decide is still a decision. And it is a decision with consequences.


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A Walk Around Harvard Yard

A couple of days ago at Harvard College was the first day that students had a chance to get settled away to their dorms; freshmen arrived with their parents, and clutches of parents and their young adult kids were clustered around the statue of John Harvard to have photos taken of them touching the shoe of the statue of Pastor John Harvard (1607-1638) for good luck, in particlular the left foot. Both feet however, show evidence of wear when seen up close and personal (the left much more than the right), proving that even some Harvard students can’t tell their left from their right.

The superstition of touching this guy’s shoe is a tad amusing, having heard John Harvard didn’t found the university, he was a benefactor whose contribution of books even got destroyed in a fire some 250 years ago, save for one volume. In fact this isn’t even the likeness of John Harvard. Truth be known, nobody knows what he looked like, and since the sculptor Daniel French had nothing to go on 240 years after Harvard was founded, he used a student as his model. Also, the base of the statue says that Harvard “founded” the university in 1638. But it was founded in 1636, and named after the Oxford University alumnus, but not founded by him.

The founding of Harvard was by a vote of the legislature in the former colony of Massachusetts Bay, changing its name from the former “New College”.