Discover more from Underthrow
True. Beautiful. Good.
Our lives are nothing without the Big Three. They are our spiritual nourishment. It’s not merely that we must find them again. We have to fight like hell for them.
Social media personae get pulled into falsehood, ugliness, and evil. Hundreds of millions send signals from their perches on a Perverse Distribution Curve.
At one tail, there’s a pessimists’ arms race region called OUTRAGE. On the other tail, there is a post-modern danse macabre region called WHATEVER. In between, at the bulge of the bell curve, people cluster around some variation on a selfie—NARCISSISM.
Sometimes, therefore, a few of us ask ourselves:
Where has truth, beauty, and goodness gone?
Seems like most don’t care. Or they think the Big Three are passé. But even in an age of outrage, insouciance, and narcissism, we can’t forget that Truth, Beauty, and Goodness have been there all along.
It’s no wonder, though, that so many people are spiritually starved and mentally ill. The Big Three are air, food, and water.
Yet we are on the postmodern sea, waiting out a doldrum.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.
About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.
Maybe Coleridge wasn’t so much a poet as a seer.
For a while, truth has a way of playing hide-and-seek with us, like a child who thinks he’s invisible as he hides behind a sheer curtain. We claim we can’t see him. But, eventually, that child grows up and wearies of the game. If we continue to pretend after he’s ready to be acknowledged, he’ll have to slap us open-handed.
Our lives are filled with a cacophony of phony voices, each announcing some hollowed-out version of reality. We sometimes retreat into our comfortable confines and pray the troubles go away—all to avoid hard truths.
Truth never skipped town.
Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, they say, but it's not just our eyes but our hearts that discern it. With open eyes and a closed heart, beauty is invisible.
I admit to being the type who sometimes wanders through a blooming meadow and complains about the pollen. I remind myself to enjoy the twirling of petals in the breeze—and keep Kleenex in my pocket.
Anyway, the world has not become less beautiful. We’ve just become more preoccupied, lonely, and self-absorbed. But even for those of us who are addicted to our devices, there is a simple cure.
Now, goodness. That’s a peculiar thing. These days, it’s like water in a desert. Tales of malice and deceit go with our morning coffee. On YouTube, people use tall sans-serif letters to shout sensational headlines over pictures of shocked or troubled faces.
But for every scandalous item of gossip or disturbing news bite wrapped in a hot take, there are a thousand untold stories of kindness, helping hands, and words of encouragement. Practitioners of Goodness might even be a silent majority—for now, anyway.
As those practices fade, we’ll hasten our fall. The Golden Rule functions as a way out of perverse game-theoretical traps, but that takes more of us living the Rule in thought, word, and deed.
So maybe it was never that Truth, Beauty, and Goodness changed or disappeared. Maybe our perception of them has dimmed. Like gold covered in riverbed silt, the Big Three are waiting to be discovered, appreciated, and cherished. And once we find them, we must remind the world of their eternal splendor.
In some respects, this is our life’s mission. Sure, we want to pursue happiness or find meaning, but how are any such pursuits possible without the true, the beautiful, and the good?
The next time you find yourself on the Perverse Distribution Curve, as we all do from time to time, remember that our lives are nothing without the Big Three. It’s not merely that we must find them again. We have to fight like hell for them.
What greater value can we leave our children?