One of the divisions of Psalms, called the Song of Ascents, includes Ps. 121, is the source of many schools' mottoes: levavi oculos, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." This group of psalms is marked by cheer and hope. And while experience shows that life is not necessarily full of cheer, like this man says: life can be hell, cheer may represent one's overall orientation, one's vision through the darkness. The rising up from the mire - άναβαθμοί. This may be the symbolic staircase seen in so much rock art.
Hadot writes of a "truth-dissolving relativism" which can be overcome by returning to the classical philosophical values of right and wrong, "in this transcendent norm created by reason" wherein each ancient philosophical school expressed "its own vision of the world, its own style of life, and its idea of the perfect man." Ascent: "a movement, a progression, through a never-ending one, toward this transcendent state." Although the disputability of truth claims does not necessarily mean that all meanings are to become possible, relativism has nonetheless been prided since Hegel, replacing the definiteness of a worldview with the subject matter of variety.
To set out all alternatives side by side and contemplate is to construct "a veritable tower of Babel of interpretations." This creates a false sense of mastery and knowledge. Hadot writes there are other ways of knowing nature besides this.
Relativism has no lifting up of the eyes, "So that the sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night." If only the right and wrong were as clear as night and day. Aristotle's ethics show that even virtue may become vice if exaggerated. Who has the patience to begin to discern such realities? Only the people who are starved enough for truth can see that long night through - and the several times of rejection from truth which are bound to occur before one is granted it.
As a general rule, people are far more content with unguided categorical statements, such as: coffee is bad for you - which can be factually inaccurate because some studies show that coffee is good for you. Just as people who smoke cigarettes only when they are happy do not seem to be harmed by them. Or those centenarians who enjoy their daily dose of booze. Sometimes it is not what is consumed but how it is taken that counts. Again, who has the peace of mind to see this?
It is easier to become blind. It is easier, too, to release half truths or even lies through speech: few people see that to do so is to not have control over one's own tongue, letting loose, in that way, a thousand strikes of the sword. In certain other circumstances, we call a person with no control over their speech faculty a "dumb" person. To see right and wrong means making it a priority to see - and then to speak, to share this information.
There is a passage somewhere that reads: every time I tried to lift myself up, they tried to drag me down. Ascent is for the dedicated. Many are the tricks - sometimes played by those who are closest to us. Like in the case where they are no longer wolves, attacking us and making us stronger, but vultures "leaving nothing to waste," eating every last bit of our souls.
To seek out the truth in various situations is not to be adopt a position of cultural relativity but to enjoy the ways in which the staircase, leading up, meets man in his situation. But many prefer the staircase itself to the continued journey unto the hills. To see that ascent is relative to one's size warrants discernment, not judgement. To look up is not to look down on something.