Truth is as varied and complex as the human mind. It acquires a different meaning in various areas of knowledge and here I have been asked to comment about it in math, ethics and arts. The truth in math could be said to be proven logical reasoning at its best with a capacity for practical applications. The truth in arts is a treasure trove of heritage and culture as conceived by the creator of the art form and the truth in ethics is truth which binds humanity across the globe encompassing wisdom laced with compassion, handed by one generation to another for the survival of the human race with dignity and harmony.
Truth in a math classroom which I was exposed to were the concepts of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication at lower levels, and as we progressed, calculus, theorems, equations etc at higher classes. These truths were exact, conclusive and final and the results were not open to arbitration as they could be proved beyond any doubt. In the arts classroom, one was exposed to the beauty in everyday life and nature through poetry, painting and crafts, and we were taught to perceive the truth according to our individualistic view. My interpretations brought out appreciation or disapproval from the teacher or my classmates but knowingly or unknowingly, was allowed to explore or alter the truth according to my perception. In the ethics class, we were taught a moral code of conduct or truths that would help us to lead a disciplined and righteous life both inside school and the outside world.
As a 12th grader in an IB school, I’ve been asked by my teacher not to skim the surface of the areas of knowledge but to ponder more deeply into it and I have come up with the following facts:
Truth in math can be said to be omnipresent in the universe, only waiting to be discovered by the right person at the right time. This can be explained by the following example. The British mathematician G.H Hardy visited the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan in the hospital as he was gravely ill. G.H Hardy remarked that he had come in a cab with an uninteresting number 1729. Ramanujan immediately responded that it was not so. He said it was the smallest number expressible as the sum of 2 (positive) cubes in 2 different ways. 1729 is equal to 13+123=93+103. The number 1729 has been associated with other attributes but this attribute of the number expressed in the shortest possible time, only subscribes to the fact that the mathematical truth is waiting to be unearthed. Truth in arts exists in the mind of the creator and has to be brought out by the creator from his perspective or a general perspective. It can be linked to either to the human form, nature or something abstract but need not be proved absolutely beyond doubt for the truth to be portrayed and accepted in an art form. In the poem by John Keats “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, the concluding enigmatic lines, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” suggests his view that beauty and truth are one and the same but left open for individual interpretations. On the other hand, truth in ethics is essential because humanity can coexist only if a common code of conduct is adopted and approved by the community at large. The truth in ethics has to come from deep rooted convictions and conditioned by situational demands and common beliefs in society. These written and often unwritten convictions have been accepted as moral or ethical truths. These are the basic foundations on which truth in math, arts and ethics are based and on further exploration, more distinct differences can be found out than what is apparent.
Truth in math is puzzling to the uninitiated but rewarding to the mathematician. The truth can be expressed in different methods but the results cannot be varied. An example would be of numbers two plus two which equals four, which can be expressed in numerical denomination i.e. 2+2=4 or can be proved by using objects such as 2 oranges + 2 oranges = 4 oranges or using symbols || + ||=||||, the final truth being conclusive and same which in all cases totals to 4.
Truth in arts triggers the aesthetic sense of man giving mental happiness and a value that beats logical reasoning. Truth in arts is an umbrella term used for various genres of performing visual, creative and artistic ability of the creator using his imaginative mind. Truth here is as varied and changing as civilization itself. Classical paintings by Michelangelo, Renoir or Vinci that depict images of manhood in all its glory have given way to art depicting human form in abstract shapes by painters such as Picasso and M.F Husain. This only proves how truth in arts is not rigid as regards change but widens its embrace to incorporate changes when presenting truth. In other words the changing methods of portrayal of truth have been accepted as a reflection of passing trends and time.
Truth in ethics can remain unchanged if it is accepted universally at all points in time. It is truth which benefits humanity and helps maintain harmony in society. Ethical truths which become contrary to society’s acceptance over a period of time can be changed to suit its demand. The Delhi High Court’s move in 2009-08-14 to alter the 140 year old British law to decriminalise homosexuality which was considered to be ethically and morally wrong shows how ethical truths can be altered to suit society’s changing needs.
One can also see how truth in one area of knowledge is presented using another area of knowledge. If we take the truth in math, the truth can be expressed using another area of knowledge like arts but the truth has to be unaltered irrespective of barriers of time, geographical boundaries or ethnic differences. I would like to quote an interesting example from “Vedic Mathematics” by Swami Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji Maharaja where he used the Sanskrit Devanagiri script to prove the value of pi divided by 10. This is given in a particular decimal code of certain set of rhyming syllables within the verses in a poem. He gives the poem in an alphabetic code language that has 3 meanings, the first one being a hymn to Lord Krishna, the second one a hymn to Lord Siva and the third the value of pi divided by 10 to 32 decimal places. Pi/10 =0.314159265358979323846264338332792…….., with a self contained master key for extending the evaluation to any number of decimal places.
When the truth in arts is considered, this truth is often used to bring out the real essence in other truths to help establish it more effectively in the minds of people. Ethical truths about child abuse, drugs, poverty and other sufferings in the world have been brought out through music by singers like Michael Jackson and thus helped in public initiated reforms. The onslaught of globalization and advance in technology has not only emphasized the age old ethical truth of how good forces of nature triumph over evil through children’s novels like the “Harry Potter” series but has also brought out the suffering of the Afghan woman in Taliban stricken Afghanistan through literature like “A thousand splendid suns” by Khaled Hosseini to the knowledge of people worldwide. I can convincingly say that truth in arts by itself can make an enduring impact on the minds of people and also act as a powerful catalyst as far as truths in other areas of knowledge are concerned.
I would like to point out that truth in ethics is absolutely essential for the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of man. This truth when brought through literature, drama, dance etc creates an indelible impression rather than just opinions and viewpoints, written or unwritten. Issues like rape, dowry deaths, abortion etc, which were discussed in hushed whispers in India are now are a matter of open debate. The noted Indian classical dancer, Mrinalini Sarabhai’s, dance on dowry deaths initiated the state minister of Tamil Nadu in India to conduct a survey on dowry deaths which brought to public view the high statistics of such deaths in the district of Salem in Tamil Nadu. Ethical and moral truths with the help of truths in other areas of knowledge help it to become larger than thought and make people judge the situation fair and rationally.
After studying the various areas of knowledge, I have come to realize that truth in math appeals to the logical brain whereas truth in arts provide an aesthetic experience to uplift man from his mundane existence but it is the essential ethical truths that help bind truths in other areas of knowledge and allow it flourish. Hence the truth in math, ethics and arts, can help us understand the complexities of the human mind and need not be bracketed in to water tight compartments but can be accepted for what they represent; an ever growing pathway of discovery, introspection and renewal.