Editorial: Amidst confusion, truth tells

Scott Swanson

As this year’s graduates should be very aware, we live in a confusing world.

We often hear people, particularly those with significant life experience, say that things are happening that they never would have anticipated, 20 or even 10 years ago.

We’re seeing inflation shoving prices up – steeply – on all sides. Gas, food, housing. All the essentials, if we can even get them.

We’re surrounded by conflict and angst.

What could become a major war threatens to boil over in eastern Europe.

America is divided on just about every possible issue – abortion, government spending, firearms, immigration, election integrity, social issues, etc., etc.

While social media has certainly contributed good to our society during these graduates’ lifetimes, it has also, as is becoming more evident all the time, brought out the worst in us in some ways.

We’re constantly hearing about cyberbullying, sexting, undue peer pressure and influence on young social media users, the very real violence that can be instigated by social media, and a wide variety of aberrant influences, misinformation, and other abuses that are perpetuated on easily accessible platforms.

And while those may be issues of primary concern to adults, we know there are plenty that weigh on the graduates who left Sweet Home High School last Friday.

You erstwhile seniors have already heard plenty of platitudes. No doubt you’ve been told, in so many words, to go forth and conquer, to find success, to live in a way that is respectful of others and conducive to a healthy society. All sound advice, and after what you’ve witnessed in recent years, it might not be too hard to convince you that such a path is the one to follow.

Here’s one more piece of advice: Seek truth and live by it.

Sound a little simple-minded? Preachy?

It shouldn’t, despite what you might hear in some circles of our society, where truth has become whatever we want it to be.

We live in a world inundated with subjectivity and group-think, fanned by social media and the internet. We can find someone to substantiate just about anything we want to think about ourselves or anything else, so we often aren’t real eager to hear an opposing viewpoint, especially one that is uncomfortable.

Recently, a book came into The New Era’s office from an author who’s studied why people groups behave the way they do, how social influences affect us – emotionally, mentally and physically.

Dr. Todd Rose, a former Harvard faculty member, argues in “Collective Illusions: Conformity, Complicity and the Science of Why We Make Bad Decisions,” that we humans are geared toward finding people we like and trust and, well, sort of selling out to join their team.

Also, people tend to think that they have unique views that others don’t share, whereas that may not be true at all. Such thinking, Rose says, often leads to stereotypes and political polarization, among other things.

Interesting reading and not something we can delve deeply into here, but given all the division and chaos of the past couple of years, it makes one think.

True objectivity – the ability to weigh facts without being influenced by our personal feelings or desires, is not something that comes easy.

Some of you will be going to college, where you will be exposed to people from backgrounds that may be very different from your own. You’ll be challenged, by professors and fellow students, to analyze the assumptions you hold. You will need to determine what your standard is going to be before you make those decisions. There are still right answers and wrong answers.

This isn’t just limited to college. In today’s world, with the proliferation of information through the internet and other media, there is a tidal wave of opinions and facts – some true, some not, waiting for us.

We’ve seen the results of our society’s mentality, churned by the angst that’s come with the pandemic during the last few years, in violent rejection of ideals and heroes of the past.

People are unsettled. We’ve seen riots, looting. We’ve seen monuments honoring heroes of the past torn down due to the fact that those heroes were flawed. Many people are struggling.

So how do we find truth?

C.S. Lewis, a contemporary and friend of “Lord of the Rings” author J.R. Tolkien, was a prolific writer himself in the last century. He was devoted to the pursuit of truth. He found it in the Bible.

Lewis was a wise man, and here’s some of that wisdom that pertains to what we’re experiencing right now in our generation: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth; only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

P.S. This was written before we received the piece above (which also cites Lewis), which we decided to publish because it also addresses issues of importance. For those who might wonder, there was no planned coordination.

May you find right paths, Class of 2022!