“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” This was spoken many times on those old “Perry Mason” teevee shows aired during my childhood. It was captivating to witness the process during each legal trial how the truth about a crime would be revealed.
It turns out that the oath is useful in daily life, too. How often do we deceive ourselves and others with little white lies or believe things that have only the ring of truth? How often has the wool been pulled over our eyes by others? In our heart of hearts, we all yearn to know “the truth”, yet oftentimes, once we learn it, we disown it.
Truth has been one of the major topics in philosophy since ancient times, so why do I think I can write about truth in a simple, short blog post? Maybe my effort will be superficial, but I do feel compelled to give it a try. Like most people, I want to understand the truth of the matter. I realize I can only make a tiny dent in the ages-old discussion about inquiry and truth with my meandering thoughts.
The part of the truth that interests me today is inquiry into ones own, personal truth. This is an especially dodgy subject for each of us, because we know that we don’t always tell ourselves the truth about ourselves. On the other hand, maybe it’s instinctive for us to desire to know the truth about ourselves, at least it seems to be the case for me. Even when we discover the truth, whatever that is, we rarely reveal it to others, even to our friends and lovers. Once it is discovered, discomfort may cause us to deny the truth again.
The more we distract ourselves through wishful thinking, fantasy, diversion, and escapism, the less we are able to discover the truth and reality. To be an effective, compassionate adult requires the ability to accept reality.
The more we escape into diversions, the less mature we will be. Have you ever given this idea much thought? Can you see this happening in the overall phenomenon of our entertainment based culture?
I posit that to be a fully functioning, rational adult human being, one must let go of ones immature diversions and wishful thinking. A person becomes more mature as one follows the instinct to inquire and discover. The term I like to use is “compassionate curiosity”. A compassionately curious person can objectively inquire without an attitude of being cold and “clinical”. Compassionate curiosity is at the very heart of the “joy of discovery”. It is possible to be a mature adult and to be joyful at the same time.
There are many ways we might live that are untruthful. Some of us find ourselves trapped in jobs that don’t lead to fulfilling our purpose. We need the money to make ends meet. We tell ourselves that somehow, things will work out fine. But, regardless of pay grade, we know that we’re enmeshed in dead-end work. We remain doing that work in order to pursue status, rank, and wealth.
We substitute the illusion of security for genuine, authenticity. It seems too risky to do what we really want, in our heart of hearts, to do. We stuff away the truth in favor of expediency. We believe that we must choose between eating and being ourselves.
Every time one discovers and admits a falsehood, it can become easier to discard it and substitute a truth. Even if one is not ready to quit a dead-end job that pays the bills, a person can still admit the truth and take steps to find personally fulfilling work. In fact, the truth will be the motivation behind the search.
The inquiry and pursuit of personal truth is rather simple, but not always easy. One can look oneself in the bathroom mirror and ask oneself how truthful one has lived life. One can ask oneself: “Have I gotten lots of kudos and rewards from others? Have I fooled the whole world into thinking I’m someone I’m really not? In doing so, have I cheated myself?”
It is through the process of honest inquiry and admission of personal truth that we free ourselves to search for a greater truth, whatever that is. In doing so, we become compassionately curious adults as we fill our lives with the joy of discovery.
In the end, the truth doesn’t hurt.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes chemist and inventor Dmitri Mendeleev. “The most all penetrating spirit before which will open the possibility of tilting not tables, but planets, is the spirit of free human inquiry. Believe only in that.”