Truth and Lies

February 8, 2018
Posted in Meditation
February 8, 2018 Michael Joly

Truth and Lies

In these days of unprecedented (and unpresidential) lying, I’ve been looking for truth.

While liars are quick to speak and obsfucate, truth remain true and can be felt as such. It seems that the liar is quick to speak and distract the listener who would inevitably perceive the truth which always speaks with a softer, gentler and somewhat delayed voice.

When we are lied to we are being told something is true when the facts demonstrate otherwise. Being lied to creates cognitive dissonance and feelings of unease. When lied to, the mind and body of the seeker of truth recoils.

On the other hand, if the lie being told supports a person’s position on an issue then the listener is apt to ignore evidence to the contrary and cheer the liar on. Boisterous enthusiasm obscures quiet questioning and cognition of truth.

The main tool of the liar is rapidity and volume of utterance. The liar is quick to promulgate mistruth, and loudly so, in an attempt (often successful, we see these days) to fill a quiet gap of stillness in which truth can be perceived.

I’ve been looking for truth. Recently it occurred to me that intentional listening can reconnect us to what truth feels like and thereby sharpen our ability discern truth from lies, purely on the basis of our own “gut” reaction and the welling up of knowledge from stillness.

In other words, intentional listening to sounds that contain truths, can be used as a practice to help us remember again what truth feels like and thereby contrast the feeling-state that arises from the cognitive dissonance when being lied to.

What is truth in sound?

There is a rather miraculous example of truth-in-sound. It can be heard in the naturally occurring harmonic series –– the overtone series that arises when a tensioned string is plucked for example.

The truth of the harmonic series has been demonstrated from the time of Pythagoras on. A string can be stretched and tensioned so that when plucked it will oscillate back and forth 100 times per second. Our ears are sensitive to the vibratory energy of air molecules in motion, and our brain interprets a 100 cycle per second disturbance of air molecules to have a particular pitch. In the case, 100 cycles per second is a fairly low bass note as might be sung by a male bass singer.

In addition to the 100 cycle per second vibration, the string in the example above also generates overtones (at lesser amplitude) at 200, 300 … etc. cycles per second. This is the harmonic series: 1,2,3 … It always occurs in the production of sound created by tuned sound sources such as strings, wind instruments or the human voice.

While the amplitude of each element in the harmonic series varies in strength –– both at initial onset and during the evolution of the sound, the ratios of the overtones to each other do not vary from the pure integer relationship of 1 to 2 to 3 etc. This is truth-in-sound.

In fact, this truth-in-sound is so important musicians and acousticians have given names to many of these numeric relationships. Two strings tuned to the same pitch have a numeric ratio of 1:1. This is called “Unison”. The relationship of the first overtone (200 cycles per second in our example above) to the “fundemental” (100 cycles per second in our example above) is 2:1 and this is called the “Octave”. Further, the relationship of the 2nd overtone (300 cycles per second in our example above) to the first overtone (200 cycles per second in our example) is 3:2, a relationship that is called the “Perfect 5th”).

Of course, when the a string is plucked, all overtones are generated simultaneously and heard as one sonic event. The simultaneous expression of overtones as observed by the listener is called “timbre” or “tone color”. The amplitude of the overtones relative to the amplitude of the fundamental pitch is what allows us to discern the pure tone of the flute from the buzzy quality of a saxophone.

But no matter if a tone is produced by a flute, or by a sax, the harmonic series is always present. The tones always arise in the relationship of 1 to 2 to 3 etc. This has always been true and forever shall be true.

So if we want to sharpen our perception of truth, let us spend more time listening to truth to experience what it feels like! I’d like to suggest an easy way you can do this.

Let us use a simple hum of your voice as our guide to truth.

Softly hum a constant note to yourself. The pitch does not matter. Choose a pitch around your normal speaking voice. Simply hum, and sustain the hum for a few seconds. Listen. Allow thoughts to fall away. Listen to this hum.

At first observation, the hum appears to be one sound. But as we’ve seen from our exploration of musical physics above, the hum you have produced is not one sound, it is many sounds. Your hum is many harmonically related sounds all being produced at the same time –– always with the frequency relationship of 1 to 2 to 3 etc. This is truth in sound. 

Hum. Sustain this hum and experience what truth feels like. There is no dogma involved here. There is no conceptual thinking involved. There is the simple and miraculous truth of the arising of the harmonic series in your own voice when you produce a hum.

By way of contrast, find a video clip of your least favorite politician telling a documented lie. They are easy to find. Watch this video clip, let go of thoughts, and just observe your body’s reaction to the lie being told to you.

Return to producing a hum. Notice how the hum of your own voice, with the inherent truth of the harmonic series, feels strikingly different –– calm, at rest, peaceful. True.

This is how we can use sound production and listening to sharpen our recognition of what is true, and what truth feels like.

This is very practical practice. The next time you encounter the cognitive dissonance of the liar  “do not deplore, just ignore”. Take a moment of stillness, gently hum to yourself, feel the truth contained in that hum. Then respond after some time if necessary, but from that place of truth. Notice how different a delayed response from a place of truth feels compared to immediately reacting with anger to the liar and thus feeding a system of lies.

Lies are weakened not by fighting. Lies are dispelled when truth is recognized and lies ignored. Listening to your own humming voice demonstrates this.