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Capital-T Truth

March 2, AD 2012 6 Comments

A few years ago, the Ogre and I attended an Interdisciplinary Studies conference at the University of Tulsa. At the time, the Ogre was wrapping up his coursework on his Master’s degree from the University of Dallas. We had both recently completed a class on Joseph Conrad, so the Ogre chose to present a paper on Kurt’s cry at the end of Heart of Darkness…not his area of specialty per se, but his research has always circled back around to the peculiar despair of the postmodern man. Man without Truth. Man without God.

The conference was a new experience for us. He’d presented papers and participated in panels at two other larger and explicitly Catholic conferences, but he was hoping to get some diversity on his CV before sending out applications for PhD programs. We knew of course that an “Interdisciplinary Studies” conference would include numerous presentations about literature which had been overlooked for a variety of reasons — race of the author, gender of the author, post-colonial oppression of the author, sexual orientation of the author — and that no one would dare state the truth, that much of this literature had been overlooked because it simply wasn’t great literature. It was all basically as we had expected. Some unexpected gems, lots of talk of oppression, and the obligatory panel on queer theory.

What we weren’t prepared for was the welcome speech. It was delivered by the chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies department, previously the chair of the Women’s Studies department. She began by welcoming us all and then posing the question, “What is Interdisciplinary Studies?” After a long, meandering discussion of different areas of study and one exciting tangential attack on then-President Bush, she finally came to her conclusion.

“Interdisciplinary studies is the collective search for truth. NOT White Male, Capital-T Truth, of course!” she declared derisively, to the raucous laughter and applause of everyone except the Ogre and I. “No, we search for truth as we see it. There is no one truth that we seek. There is your truth and there is my truth. That’s what we try to find. Anyone’s truth as they understand it.”



When I began college at the University of Dallas, I was not a Catholic. Neither were many of my classmates and several of my professors. What united us was not Catholicism, it seemed to me then. But neither were we united in pursuit of a degree. We weren’t at that school to earn a piece of paper as a stepping-stone to a lucrative career path, else why would most of us have majored in English Literature, Philosophy, Theology and Classics? Before we could articulate it, before we even understood it, our professors at the University of Dallas had set us upon a path to discover Truth. Not their truth, not our truth, but The Truth. The horrifying “white male, capital-T truth” and its apocalyptic companions, the Good and the Beautiful.

During the course of my time there, a transformation took place within me. By learning to seek objective truth — within Eliot’s “The Waste-Land”, Plato’s Republic, the French Revolution, even in Euclid’s Fifth Postulate — I began to internalize the idea of Truth. I began to understand, unconsciously at first, that there is an objective Truth, accessible to the human intellect and revealed to us in a myriad of ways, and that my duty as a human being is to seek that Truth. I began to realize that I was a slave to my desires, and that I would only really be free to live when I broke free from that slavery and instead began to discipline myself to pursue Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

Once I learned to seek them, it was only a matter of time before I recognized the ultimate bastion of Truth, Goodness and Beauty — the Catholic Church. Once my mind had been freed to see true Beauty, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Church. One I understood what Goodness is and that humans are capable of choosing it, I knew that the best path to it lay through the Sacraments. Once I could see that there is Truth, objective, immutable Truth, I could also see that Catholicism is the highest realization of that Truth.

I can’t say whether I would have come to the Catholic faith if I hadn’t first learned to seek Truth itself. I had too many prejudices, too many pre-conceived ideas, and too much pride to re-examine them. I was content to believe that the highest truth lay in what I thought, felt and desired. It wasn’t until I was shown that there is a greater truth beyond myself that I even began to question why I held the beliefs I held, and it was some time later before I moved on to examining whether or not they were true.

Many of the people I know who went the University of Dallas either converted to Catholicism or reverted to the faith of their childhood. I’ve heard accusations that the school indoctrinates its students, that the faculty (a substantial number of whom are not Catholic) brainwashed us, and that the only education going on is a cunning type of forced catechesis. The same accusations were leveled at a great books program at the University of Kansas, which was shut down after only a few years because of the huge number of Catholic converts.

These programs are not religious indoctrination. They simply set out to teach students what the modern world has forgotten — that there is Truth. A Truth. And once a person begins to seek it with a free mind, it’s nearly inevitable that he or she will find the ultimate Truth of the Catholic faith. That is the great value of Catholic higher education.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Calah Alexander was born and raised Evangelical Christian and converted to Catholicism in August of 2007. She is a married mother of three whose husband is finishing his doctorate in English Literature at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, while she is homeschooling, writing, changing diapers and remembering to turn the oven off. Her website is Barefoot and Pregnant.[/author_info] [/author]

About the Author:

  • I can’t even begin to explain how much this resonates with me. There’s so much difference between truth and Truth and looking back on my teens and early 20s now I see that it was inevitable that when I started to search for Truth I found the Church.

  • Oh Calah, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have ‘met’ a fellow UD grad/convert/unlikely stay at home mom (but willing to do it anyway) here in bloggy land. The Church makes this world a much smaller, more inviting (or at least tolerable 😉 ) place. But more importantly, she finally gave me the hope I needed to strive for the blessing of eternity with God.

  • kris

    I am so happy to hear that UD is still moving the hearts and minds to the TRUTH. We wondered after all these years after the Cowan’s were gone if the same mind set prevailed. I have a daughter in college who may be looking for another one to finish her BA. Thanks for the insights.

  • Edward G. Radler Rice

    Two of my sisters-in-law are undergrads at UD.
    For anyone interested, here’s the link to the graduate page of the University of Dallas:

    The Cardinal Newman Society lists UD as a top U.S. Catholic University (one of three in Texas):

    Yours in Christ,

    High School Theology Teacher
    San Antonio, TX
    M.Div. (Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD); currently completing Masters in Catholic School Leadership

  • Loud

    “The same accusations were leveled at a great books program at the University of Kansas, which was shut down after only a few years because of the huge number of Catholic converts.”

    How vile! They teach you to search for truth, then they panic when you find it and tell you not to. And they say it is us who is trying to indoctrinate people?

    “Search for the truth, BUT NOT THAT TRUTH! Take this one over here, it’s new and glittery.”

    To cancel it for the reason that people end up as Catholics is the bigoted assumption that there is no truth in Catholosism. Even the Church recognizes that while she is the pillar and foundation of truth, bits and pieces of truth can be found almost everywhere.

  • This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite saints, Edith Stein, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: “Whoever seeks the truth is seeking God, whether consciously or unconsciously”. I have a keychain that I got when I went to her canonization Mass in Rome that has that quote on it in the original German.

    I think this is why I was such a washout in academia and never went further than my MA in literature– I’m not very good at swimming against the current and I kept clinging to my capital T truth even when everyone around me insisted that it was only a “dead white male” truth and not an objective reality. Not that I actually heard it spelled out in so many words– I actually think that would have been a great gift because it would have clarified things for me immensely– but it was the bedrock assumption.

    My touchstone moment in grad school that would most closely parallel this one was when the professor who was teaching a class on Joyce– and who was a Joyce scholar– looked up int he middle of a discussion of Ulysses and asked in a kind of off-hand way: “Is that in the Bible? Does anyone know?” I thought it was so sad that she had so little knowledge of the Bible herself. Even if you aren’t a Christian, I still think it behooves a Joyce scholar to perhaps know something of the Catholic faith that was the single largest influence on his writing. But the doctrine of subjective truth has so warped scholarship that it seemed largely irrelevant to most of the people in my class. I wish I were a stronger personality– as obviously your Ogre is– but I just knew I couldn’t go on studying Irish literature in that climate and maintain my own intellectual integrity. I kept finding myself so torn between what I wanted to write and what they wanted me to write and without a mentor who could support and understand my interests, I was just lost.