Conflict, Compromise, and Bees
By Agastya Kohli
“It is not given to man to know the whole Truth”, Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said. “His duty lies in living up to the truth as he sees it. God alone knows absolute Truth. Therefore I have often said, Truth is God.” He then goes on to say, “Relative truth is all we know. Therefore we can only follow the truth as we see it.”
We are witnessing a time when it seems, the two halves of this country firmly believe in only their relative truth - as they see it. Amazingly, when confronted with the same exact facts, the two sides draw up completely opposite conclusions, which are equally obvious to each of them.
Truth it appears, can contradict itself. Or how we perceive it, can certainly be contradictory.
Queen by Madhuri Shekar is a brilliant study of the nature of truth. In it, one relative truth, as Ariel knows it, is that Monsanto’s pesticides are destroying honeybee populations. The other truth, as Arvind tells it, is that Monsanto are innovators and job creators. While this knowledge will absolutely color the way they (and we) perceive Monsanto, they are both “living up to the truth” as they see it, unknowingly following Gandhi’s example!
Mathematics is Sanam’s truth. Without mathematical evidence, all claims are anecdotal. But Prof. Hayes tells us “mathematics isn’t a direct path to god, to the universe.” It too can lead to different results when the same data is examined from different perspectives.
Understanding the nature of truth isn’t necessarily about looking at the picture from the other side, walking in someone else’s shoes. While that might help us understand the other person’s relative truth, it certainly doesn’t negate what we hold as self evident. What is perhaps needed then, is compromise.
But is compromising one’s truth a betrayal of God’s trust? Or is it the only way to get things done?
To quote Gandhi again, “in matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth. When you know the truth, the truth makes you a soldier.”
Gandhi changed the world. His commitment to his relative truth was near absolute. However, absolute commitment to a relative truth can not lead to compromise - only to conflict. Conflict in which friendships, careers, reputations - all can get destroyed, that compromise might salvage.
Conflict makes for good drama. Each character committed to their own truth, to their own God. Hope you’ll make time to come and see Queen - a play about truth, about compromise, and about bees.