A month ago, I sat across somebody in the metro, who was wearing a T-shirt with the text ‘no need to check, I’m right’. Last week, a friend of mine said ‘run away from those that (claim to have) found the truth, follow those that seek it’. Both statements touch me, and after some more pondering I ask myself whether perhaps there is a third possibility, something like ‘those who state there is no (absolute) truth’…

Indeed, it seems to me that there are three approaches for dealing with the truth. And by truth I mean statements and ways of being that offer us a compass for choosing our path in the complexity of our lives, together with others sharing the same environment. The approach of the ‘not-knowing’ assumes there is no such thing as truth, or that it is relative, and decides in a rather random or changeable way for one or other action, depending on the situation and the current mood. The approach of the ‘knowing’ uses rather fixed guidelines to make decisions, based on beliefs, habits or revelations, sometimes wrapped in nice stories, old or new. The approach of the ‘seeking’ relies on strongly lived ways of being and values shared amongst seekers, and makes flexible decisions, taking into account the specific circumstances and after consultation of the people concerned by it.

Those not knowing have doubts about the path to take in one or more domains. In a domain, they don’t have any or sufficient trust in themselves to choose by their own a direction, or they don’t have a standard to determine who of the others speaks the truth in that matter; some even lost all hope (‘all men/scientists/politicians/… are liars’). Those that know have found something to go on in one or more domains. In a domain, they trust themselves or specific other people, and they decide based on the insights acquired or received. But when they trust others, they don’t always check whether those would actually be speaking the truth. And, they are not always conscious about the limits of those insights, or about the underlying assumptions and simplifications, or about the restrictions in applicability to other domains. Those will then become obvious when they clash with people following different beliefs or habits, or people that even follow another approach. When those that know are not willing to dialogue with others, in the best case we’ll get tolerance and living next to each other without relating much, but usually we’ll get oppression or conflict. Those that seek follow a path of dialogue, where they strive to find a common agreement about what connects them, to book progress towards more insight in one or more domains. They only trust people that follow the same process, so other seekers. They are very aware about the limitations of their (incomplete) models in those domains, and apply the insights like those that know do, but only within the confines of their applicability. So, by their ways of being, the seekers fundamentally follow a totally different approach than those that know.

Governing a human society is a complex task involving many, sometimes overlapping domains, and where many people share one environment with other people having differing views. The approach of the not-knowing will then lead to chaos, and a standstill, if not even a decline for the society. The approach of the knowing, however, also falls short, as people having different views will come by definition to different decisions. And tolerance meets its limits when the side effects of beliefs or behaviour will cause verifiable damage to others. Oppression and conflict cause even stronger damage, and induce long lasting distrust between people belonging to different groups. These observations then lead us to apply the ways of being of the seeking approach, to find out with all of us in which way we can shape our society to give all people equal value, to let them choose freely within the constraints of the environment, and to let them live a connected and supporting life with others.

So, our society is facing the challenge of investigating and applying the ways of being of the seeking approach deeply and in detail, to acknowledge facts as they are and to listen to the experience of others, to formulate clearly and spread the universal values that we all share in common, to define and refine how that can lead us to take decisions that are broadly supported after a large dialogue, to permanently follow up the results of our choices, and adapt them if necessary, and to transcend our internal differences for the wellbeing of people, society and the world as a whole.

I want to collaborate in this endeavour to meet that challenge, from the human values that I sense deeply in me, and from the hope that this endeavour is possible, when I look at where we stand today. In these unpredictable times, where so many issues in society ask for our attention, I want to contribute my part in making our society more of a fit for all human beings, within the limits of what our earth can take.