Stuck In The Middle…

You know the song, right?

Last night I was reading a history excerpt about various rational cultures, now extinct (or nearly so) because they resisted signing on to one of the absurd extremes. In this case, those who rejected the Jewish vs Christian polemics are lost. It is an extremely interesting historical interpretation, and provided the segue to this post.

A long-term dilemma is found in the tension between the search for truth and happiness. Epitomized by Voltaire’s very short Story Of The Good Brahmin, I’ve seen the pattern replicated innumerable times over several decades.

In the following ontology of the pursuit of truth (and “the pursuit of happiness”) are there more fundamental classifications than these?

  1. Those like Voltaire’s happy washer woman, who are too stupid to care about the search for truth and/or comprehend the absurdities of our understanding of life.
  2. Those who simply don’t care; truth is of no special consequence to them.
    1. Those who have abandoned pursuit of the truth. Perhaps prior examination and exploration simply exhausted them and left their investment “underwater?”
    2. Perhaps they simply witnessed the masses of philosophers and determined it to be a futile endeavor?
    3. Perhaps they are culturally desensitized?
  3. Those who are so bias entrenched that they are simply blind to those contradictions and concordant dissonance within their beliefs.
    1. Contrary to all logic and rational thought, they determine that they comprehend truth. Perhaps they replace truth with a laminate structure of justifications, excuses, rationalizations and chicanery (JERCs, including but not limited to fables and embellishments)?
    2. Perhaps they know their understanding of truth is incomplete, but willingly abdicate responsibility, relying on trusted leaders and institutions.
  4. Those who explore the conflicts, and seek comprehension and resolution without apologetics (JERCs; like Voltaire’s brahim?).
  5. Those who accumulate truths, but believe truth is unobtainable (this idea was recently introduced to me by Rabbi Scott Looper; it might be argued that 5 should be a subset of 4 in that obtaining truths requires all that is implied in 4).

A More Personal Perspective

Several years ago, a gnawing from decades of irreconcilable voids and conflicts arose. Eventually a simple nudge (see: Fork In The Road) predicated a return from detours (JERCs). Subsequently, piles of accumulated untruths and unbeliefs eclipsed the piles of truths and beliefs. Changing metaphors, what was initially hoped to be a quick flip become something more akin to a demolition (with the tear down continuing faster than the restoration; see also Halting Between Opinions). I wonder if I am not now some composite of 4 plus all of the others.

I know that due to biological vicissitudes, I now forget more rapidly than I learn. I know that I am getting tired. I know most other people seem more happy. I know that the fruits of Truth remain precious in the sense of being exceedingly rare (i.e., scarce), but fear the likelihood of insufficient recognition, acknowledgement and gratitude.

For most of my life, I comprised some combination of 1, 2.3, 3.1, and 3.2. In my youth and teens 1 and 2.3 dominated, with a measure of 3.1. As my biases “matured,” 3.1 became more prevalent. After joining the LDS Church, I added 3.2, which I incorrectly believed eradicated 1, 2.3, and 3.1. (yeah, right. ha). And yet, even with that self-deception, I was not truly joyful, or even happy, and certainly not content. Perhaps this is simply my nature? Or, perhaps, I completely missed an important point.

Conclusion

Voltaire implies that happiness may be found in 1, but not in 4. But, shouldn’t happiness (if not true joy) be a byproduct of acquiring truth, and not just found in those who choose to ignore/neglect that path (1 through 3)? This does not the imply “smell the roses” along the way or “don’t worry, be happy.” Those are independent.

Is this what 5 enables? If we allow that until such time as we are given a mass Celestial Truth Dump, we must harvest truths as they ripen (yes, meat verses milk). If some fruit is good and it is a given that some will be evil, can we celebrate each time we correctly sort these into the appropriate pile?

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