The greatest polarity of our times is the one between truth and lies. Not a single day goes by without some new apocalyptic warning that flood of fake news will sweep away the very foundations of human civilization.
Unlike the ancient Greek philosophers, Laozi had no interest in the pursuit of a single universal truth. Indeed, the very idea that one existed probably never even occurred to him. His concern was how the inadequacy of language to accurately describe reality was driving people further and further away from their original nature. Worse still, he feared that by giving people the ability to convey subjective judgments about themselves and others, language was fueling what he saw as unnatural desires for greater wealth, health, beauty, and happiness that would inevitably lead to the destruction of humanity.
Given his concerns about the power of language to distort people’s grip on reality and incite greed, envy, lust, and an endless litany of other vices, it’s not surprising that Laozi counseled the sage to stay well away from the verbal fray and let his actions speak far louder than his words. He certainly wouldn’t have allowed himself to get caught up in the increasingly virulent social media wars that are destroying any chances of reasoned discussion or debate.
Even though it’s much more difficult to escape from the raging torrent of words that constantly assails us now than it was in Laozi’s time, that doesn’t mean that we should let ourselves get sucked into the manufactured controversies, synthetic outrage, and artificial hyperbole that masquerade as news and discourse in the modern age.
Rather than wasting precious energy and time trying to figure out whether some tidbit of information is fake or true, wouldn’t it be better to simply ignore it and stay focused on the truly important things in your life?