During a not-so-long-ago walk, I saw these two flowers on the same patch of soil. They look entirely the same; only their colors were different. One was yellow; the other was fuchsia. They grew underneath the walls of a large school run by the religious, so I am not sure whether they were cultivated or whether they were wild.
I later learned that they were Umbrellaworts or four-o’clocks, named after the time of the day when their flowers open. I usually walk around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, so perhaps it made sense that I saw these bright flowers at that time.
Since I didn’t know their identity at that moment, what struck me was the duality of their colors, their being together, their being the same yet different. It reminded of a new friend I recently found from the vast world of the Internet. This friend filled a void that I didn’t have for quite some time—a void that made me feel less complete in my search for truth.
We all need partners—conversation partners—but more so if we are interested in the truth. While I still think that the search for an accurate description of reality should always start and end within oneself, I also find that we need others to make this search sustainable. Otherwise, it can be a long lonely monologue.
But a truth partner performs an even more important role. My new friend shared me this quote from Marcus Aurelius a few weeks ago:
“If anyone can refute me, show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective, I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.”
I love this so much! To achieve any success in a journey to truth, one needs to embrace this kind of humility—a humility, which in turn, encourages one to embrace openness.
But it can also feel the other way around. Maybe I know something that my truth partner would need to know. I should be ready to perform the role of an accountable honest friend who is brave enough to say when he disagrees and offer a better perspective.
Obviously, we are so infallible as human beings, and our efforts to share our perspective could easily lead to self-righteous criticism if we aren’t careful. That said, it is this very infallibility of our minds that necessitates dialogue. The quest for truth will only get better through talking to someone.
And even if we come to philosophy not to understand the world or to take advantage of what Socrates called the “medicine for the soul” which philosophy provides, what better medicine can we get than a friendly conversation with an honest and kind truth seeker, perhaps late in a summer afternoon while walking and being amazed with umbrellaworts.