Truth and the Red and Blue Ball

Jan 24 2021
Edd Johannemann

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Declaration of Independence

In light of recent events, I have found myself pondering “Truth.” Truth is an important consideration for artists. Artists are encouraged through education, institutions, and even fellow artists to be true to themselves and their work. The work of artists should encompass Truth. But what is Truth? 

A conflict between my two sons comes to mind as I am writing this. As young boys will, they had worked themselves into a conflict with each other, and I been called upon to dispense justice. I gave one son an opportunity to explain what had happened. Then as the second one began stating his case, the first interjected; “Liar, he’s not telling the truth.” I patiently tried to explain that perhaps from his brother’s perspective he was also telling the truth. “He has to be lying, only one of us can be right.” Ah, a teaching moment. “Imagine I am holding a ball between the two of you,” I said, “The side facing you is red, the side facing your brother its blue. From your side what color is the ball?” “Red.” “What color do you think your brother would say the ball is?” “Blue.” “Okay,” I said, “Who would be telling the truth?” The reply? “I hate it when you do that.” Lesson learned. 

I marvel now that I chose red and blue for the colors of the ball. As society divides itself into red or blue, it appears that by and large we have not learned the lesson that Truth is not necessarily about right and wrong. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence may be a noble statement about truth but is misleading because truth is anything but “self-evident.” If there is a universal Truth, and I believe there is, it seems our minds simply cannot encompass the entirety of it. Perhaps Truth is more like the night sky. Even when able to see the stars in all of their glory, the most we can observe is a part of them, the rest hidden around the other side of the globe or simply not visible to our eyes. We are able to get glimpses of the Truth, often when we are not looking directly at or for it, like catching the Pleiades out of the corner of one’s eye on a cold clear night. It is this glimpse that I strive to portray in my art, to hopefully resonate in the world and to say “Look! Here is a bit of truth.”

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