In my last letter I attempted to define truth, to make the distinction between things that were true and things that were simply appealing. It was the latest in many attempts at permanently, or more effectively, silencing my companion, and while I may have declared victory as I finished the missive but a few weeks ago, I am sad to inform you that my triumph was rather short-lived.
You must not be surprised by this, dearest Father. As you know your children have very short memories. On a particularly busy day, attempting to recollect details of even routine and mundane tasks like breakfast can leave one pensive for minutes. While we are capable of displaying better skill with our memories when the situation demands it, we know that even the best of these memories is seldom a perfect record of events transpired. Our minds colour them with our personalities, focusing on the things that we deem important and pushing into irrelevancy things that we deem not. All but the very best of your children suffer from this, and oftentimes I am left wondering whether this flaw is by design, or whether it is a glitch in the otherwise perfect world you have made.
And so, not long after I had smugly agreed with Doubt as to the arbitrary nature of my rather long missive, my powerful convictions were all but wiped from my mind. I did not forget them entirely; my distinction between truth and arbitration remains an important one, if not to you or him, at least to me. I arrived at this distinction because of the pain and distrust Doubt has caused me since the day I met him; it is not one that would so easily go the way of my breakfast. Unfortunately, however, one of the side effects of the poor memories your children possess is that knowing in one’s mind that a thing is true does not always translate to knowing the same in one’s heart. Our short memories compel us to remember things by repetition; it is only by doing something over and over again that the strong (and still less than accurate) records we so desire may be formed and accumulated. And so while I may be able to reason wonderfully and come to great truths that would make gifted lovers of Sophie like Platocrates quite proud, the moment I turn from such musings to the mundane affectations of my life they are quickly forgotten, and Doubt is once again allowed to have his way with my mind.
It is at such moments I am reminded of how much I envy you, dearest Father. In much the same manner as Doubt is endemic to me and the rest of your children, he is foreign to you. Of course you must know of him, very well I dare say. But he does not possess you as he does me. This distinction, between knowing something and knowing of something, between knowing something in words but not in heart, is one that is very important, and unfortunately manifests itself in completely different ways in your children and yourself. After I had devised my new definitions for truth and arbitration, one can safely say that I knew of them, that I had the words in my mind. I could recall them with relative ease, and speak of them freely from memory. However, one cannot say that I knew them. I am far more intimate with Doubt, more comfortable with my old definitions of truth as that which makes sense or which feels right, than I am with the new and possibly more accurate distinctions between actual verified statements and simple arbitrations.
You can easily see why your children are really glaring statements of imperfection when placed alongside yourself. In order to know things, to remember them reflexively, we must learn them. We must train ourselves to see them in a certain way. And if these things are the wrong things, then we must spend time learning the right things and unlearning the wrong. Contrast this with yourself, Father, you that never has to learn anything. You know what you know. More importantly, the things you know are the right things and the things you know of are the “unright” ones. Because truth for you is a non-issue, your knowledge operates on a level far above ours. For example you know Sophia, very well in fact, in a way that no human ever will. But you must also know of not knowing Sophia, as the very act of knowing her is something that you made. You are always filled with certainty, but you know of Doubt, as once again Doubt’s very existence cannot be without your will. Very few of your children, both within the House and outside it, possess this skill, and when they do it is usually over a very small scope of trivial, lesser things. I cannot even count myself in their ranks, and so it should come as no surprise that Doubt is still fluttering about my head even after the bold discoveries listed in my last letter.
It seems to me that when I was uttering those statements, discovering those potential “truths”, I was of a certain mind. I, compelled by the pettiness of my companion, had temporarily discarded my normal way of thinking and had entered a new one, one that allowed me to view the world in a different manner and in so doing make different assumptions and arrive at different conclusions. There is a saying amongst your children that, to me, describes this perfectly: “Put your thinking cap on”. It is a statement that enjoins the listener to pause a moment and think deeply on an issue, to pull from his mind a rich vat of knowledge and reason and inspect it carefully so as to reach a desired conclusion. Perhaps then whenever your children think on things we would not normally consider, in ways that we would not normally use, we are putting our thinking hats on. (I personally consider hats to be much cooler than caps, hence the personalisation of the phrase). We are wearing these things over our heads that force us to consider the world from a certain perspective, to forget, temporarily, what we already know and consider more deeply the things we only know of. The thinking hat, in its various shapes and forms, changes the very nature of our minds. Unfortunately we do not – cannot – always wear these hats, and the moment we take them off the knowledge in our hearts, carefully cultivated and grown from years of reinforcement, takes hold of us once more.
It seems then that in order to unlearn wrong things and learn the right ones we must wear our thinking hats as often as possible, each hat suited for a different kind of inquiry. The Hat of Truth, for example, will allow me to consider what is true and what is not, as I did in my last letter, while the Hat of Reason may help me distil the pure nature of logic and reasoning from the all too common mixtures of fallacies…
Much as I felt at the end of my last letter, dearest Father, I very much like this conclusion. It is inevitable that whatever immediate victories I gain against Doubt would be short-lived, but by wearing my wonderful hats as often as possible it is not farfetched to believe that I may come to discern truths strong enough to dispel the pesky fellow. I may come to know in my heart, as much as in my mind, what is true and what is not, and by so doing make my triumphs more permanent.
Of course postulating on the nature of hats and truths implies that I must be wearing the Hat of Hats and the Hat of Truth at the same time, and while this imagery certainly calls the efficacy of this metaphor into question, I humbly request, dear Father, that you look the other way. I am but a little child in a strange forest, very far from home. Allow me, in this one case, to be a Small Arbiter, and to have my varied hats when I can.
With a thinking hat,
Your Prodigal Son