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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Eppur Si Muove

I'd like to introduce this piece as an add-on to my prior piece, Intuitive Truth. First lets start with a phrase attributed to Galileo although there is no factual evidence that he uttered it.

The Italian phrase "Eppur si muove" means And yet it moves (Nonetheless, it moves). It is pronounced [epˈpur si ˈmwɔːve].

Legend has it that the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei muttered this phrase after being forced to recant in 1633, before the Inquisition, his belief that the Earth moves around the Sun.

It is occasionally used in modern speech to indicate that although publicly someone who is in a knowledgeable position may discount or deny something, that does not stop it from being true.

Galileo had become the target of the Catholic Church. He believed the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way around. His views were seen as heresy by the church. Had he not recanted his view, Galileo would have been sentenced to prison. When he did recant, he was spared prison and sentenced to house arrest until his death 12 years later.

All of that insanity did not change one thing. Years later, Galileo was proven correct. The Church never uttered an apology nor would an apology have made a bit of difference. No matter how hard the church tried, they simply could not make the sun revolve around the earth.

Truth has power. It can't be bent. In the end, it is always self evident. That Galileo found the truth earlier than his peers, left him in the precarious position of one against many. Isolated.

What do we do when we find ourselves in the precarious position of knowing something, yet to utter it, will certainly wreak accusations and hostility?

I had a wise old guy tell me once, "Son just because you know something, doesn't mean you are required to tell anyone." So what do we do when we intuitively know something is wrong or people we know are untruthful? It depends on what is at stake. Very often, I just let people tell me things that I know to be untruthful. The stakes are simply not high enough nor do I want to embarrass people.

Yet, as the stakes increase, we may find ourselves in a position where the truth becomes overwhelming. We simply can no longer accept untruths because it is robbing ourselves of the opportunity to make informed decisions. When someone deceives us, we unconsciously feel victimized. We feel diminished. Our sense of fair play has been violated.

And very often the selfish needs of others impact us. When they impact us to the point of feeling helpless- perhaps diminished or of little value, we must practice acceptance and limit our losses. This is what Galileo did.

He accepted that the church was too formidable of an adversary. He recognized the inherent power that the church had and it's willingness to punish him. Lacking the facts to defend himself, Galileo did the only thing that made sense. He limited his losses. He capitulated and thus enriched our lives although under house arrest. In the end, he did the only thing that made any sense. And the planets cared not who was right.

And yet it moves.