Are things that are well said, therefore true?

July 3, 2023

From the Pastor

Sensual thought is the lowest of all, and is material, and corporeal. In such thought are all those who are in evils of life, and thence in falsities of doctrine, however learned and clever they may be supposed to be, and although they can arrange their falsities attractively, and clothe them in choice and eloquent language.
(Apocalypse Explained 580:1)

We humans have a number of glitches in how we process information. It’s a topic I love exploring for some reason. Some examples:

  • We’re bad at grasping probabilities.
  • Very large numbers make us stupid.
  • Randomness doesn’t behave the way our intuition expects it to.
  • Our faculty for pattern recognition can cause us to see relationships that aren’t actually there.

Today, the glitch I’m thinking about is how we tend to perceive things that are well said as therefore true. And I’m not quite sure why we do this. I mean, is there any logical reason to actually suspect that a thing well said is necessarily true, or that a thing poorly expressed must be false? And we know that clever wording can’t be trusted, because we have sayings that warn us of this:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

“Beware of the flatterer: he feeds you with an empty spoon.”

“A smooth talker isn’t to be trusted.”

“Oratory is the power to talk people out of their sober and natural opinions.”

“Eloquence may set fire to reason.”

And speaking of instructional quotes, consider the following example of human wisdom:

“Actions speak louder than words.” So true! And yet… “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Isn’t it?

Everyone knows that “Slow and steady wins the race,” but…isn’t it generally accepted that, “Fortune favors the bold”?

It’s beautiful to think that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” isn’t it? Although now that I’m thinking about it, don’t they say, “Out of sight, out of mind”?

And when Coco Chanel (of all people) said, “The best things in life are free,” did they not realize that “You get what you pay for”?

And then there’s this great bit of relationship wisdom, uttered by many a nodding head when discussing the attraction of one person to another: “Opposites attract”. So true! So wise! So…contradicted by the famous avian saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

And speaking of wise words from great thinkers, I have always found curious the claim that “Great minds think alike,” given the also quite well-said warning that “Fools seldom differ.”

Is this just a lazy way of using a bunch of famous quotes to pad out an article in my quest to write a newsletter article that is in danger of being overdue? Well, sure, of course it is.

But as the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In our pursuit of understanding the world around us, we often turn to the wisdom of others, distilled into these memorable and thought-provoking quotes. However, these nuggets of wisdom can sometimes be contradictory or even misleading, reminding us that context is key, and that true understanding requires critical thinking.

As we explore the quirks and glitches of our human nature, let’s not be swayed by eloquence alone, but rather strive to question, analyze, and appreciate the complexity and nuance that lies beneath the surface of well-crafted words.

Because, after all, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”

So, as we continue to navigate the world of wisdom, clichés, and contradictory sayings, let’s remember to approach them with a healthy dose of skepticism, and perhaps most importantly, with an open mind.

And as a wise man once said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Rev. Glenn “Mac” Frazier, Pastor
Washington New Church, 2023-07-03

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