We must be a very stupid species, we humans.
For at least 3,500 years, we’ve been trying to figure out what Truth is.
For example, an estimated 47,000 religious denominations each claims to herald the Truth.
Americans are riven by a level of mutual animosity we haven’t seen since the Civil War, with each side accusing the other of hateful, non-stop lying. Or should it be called the War Between the States? Depends on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you hail from.
Ancient Romans would tell you that Truth is usually found in media res—in the middle of things.
But us? When we cannot agree about Truth, we make it up . . .
James V. Schall, S.J., who taught political science at Georgetown University, puts it this way in America magazine:
Freely to assent to truth is the heart of what it means to be civilized. In a way, however, our culture is beyond truth. We no longer speak of “heretics” today. Instead, everybody is nice, with a “right” to his own opinion. Nothing is held as definite, precisely so that nothing binds.
Regis Nicoll, writing in Crisis magazine, suggests that in today’s culture our Truth . . . is to be true to ourselves.
If infidelity, divorce, or suicide occurs along the way, they are neither right nor wrong, he says. They are merely the consequences of choices we make to avoid the real tragedy: living a counterfeit life.
Ancients asked the same question we do: what is Truth?
Three thousand years ago, even before the Greeks and Romans, Solomon began a journey of self-discovery. He pursued wisdom, pleasure, possessions. He achieved more, acquired more, and enjoyed more than anyone before him. Still, he found it all meaningless.
John-Mary Vianney, the saintly French parish priest, taught that the planet provides what is necessary for our physical subsistence, but “the earth is too small to provide enough to satisfy our soul.”
In our day, Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain had it all: wealth, fame, access to the best things in life.
Why, then, did they choose to exit this world for the fearsome darkness of death?
Americans are lonely, depressed, and suicidal as never before. Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state during the past two decades, and half of the states have seen suicide rates go up more than thirty percent.
Writing in USA Today, Kirsten Powers argues that as a nation we are lonely, depressed, and suicidal because something is wrong with our culture.
Could it be that our society has bought into the idea that the highest good is to enjoy the finest things for as long as possible? Could this be the “something” wrong?
Regis Nicoll again:
Solomon learned that life’s meaning is not in discovering self, but in submission to Other. The school of life taught Solomon that sensual fulfillment, material accomplishments, and “actualizing” experiences can be sources of temporary satisfaction and enjoyment, but they are not sources of meaning and purpose. That source is God.
Carl Jung agreed. In Modern Man in Search of a Soul, he wrote, “Among all my patients in the second half of life, it is safe to say that every one of them feel ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and not one of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”
Like a dog chasing its tail, the more we pursue a truth of our own making, the more counterfeit the outcome.
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