The Robustness of Truth

A Fable by Tom Radcliffe

The road to truth runs down a long, winding, sunlit valley. It runs beside a river that has cut deep into the mountain slopes. The upper reaches of the valley are cold and snow-covered, and the river spray leaves frozen maelstroms of abstract art spattered over the rocky banks. As you travel down the road, the weather becomes warmer, and the fresh breezes of spring waft up from the plain below. The valley slopes above you are now covered with dry scrub, and the long dead grass whispers quiet secrets, too soft for you to hear.

The river falls away into a gorge for a time, and the road winds precariously along the cliff edge above it. Some travelers stop here, entranced by the beauty and power of the tumbling water below. Below the gorge the river widens and valley starts to spread out. Side paths begin to appear off the road, and sometimes travelers turn up them. Some paths lead to no-where, and travelers who don't have the sense to turn back get stuck at the end of solitary, short dead-ends. Some lead higher and higher, until anyone who follows them had better be an expert in mountaineering, and will rarely have time or energy to spare even a glance back at the marvelous vista of the road and river spread out below — but the ones that do sometimes see much further down the road than if they had not strayed. Some side-paths lead through wildly fascinating groves of trees and flowers that entrance the eye. Some are just hard slogging, rough and unrewarding. Many travelers who go down the side paths never return, but a few push on along each to the end, and find themselves back on the road to truth. Sometimes they are a bit battered for the experience, and sometimes they've had to backtrack to recover the true path.

Further down the valley, orchards start to appear along the road, full of trees laden with fruitful error. Some travelers stop for a taste, and then move on. Some stay there, feeding on error for the rest of their lives. But the road is always in front of them, waiting for them. It will never go away.

At the end of the valley the river broadens out still more, and there is a last spur of rock standing at the edge of the fertile plain. Most travelers, reaching here, think they have finally arrived. But a few turn aside to climb the spur, and from its summit look far out across the green land, and through the distant mists catch a glimpse of the edge of the sea.