Is It Possible to Find Truth?

I have been binge-watching “Alone” during an extended hot spell that makes any kind of work outside tough. The thing that has captured my attention with this History Channel show is the mental pressure exerted by the circumstances of these survivors. The workings of the mind have always fascinated me and especially those involved in the search for truth.

As a young college student trying to discover what was true in the world, I was frightened by the reality of what I saw around me – literally hundreds of religions each with thousands of followers and each with its own description of the world/universe we live in. It looked hopeless on the surface but I was determined to make the best of it. That forced me to sort of sit down and think through what had happened and what was happening in my own mind and heart.

My Parents Were WASPs

White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. My parents were Republican Christians, so I was also. That was totally unacceptable to me. I could not accept their perspectives just because they were my parents. Based on the sheer number of possibilities, it seemed about 999 to 1 that they were wrong. So I went in search of a methodology to sleuth out the truth.  I had picked up a few ideas that stuck with me:

“People believe what they want to believe.” My mother’s often-spoken perspective was a dire warning in my mind. Then there was this one from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

And I knew that important, unpopular truths will always attract liars. I could see that.

Look in the Mirror and Ask the Hard Questions

As I pondered those, I realized that the most important factor in my search was my ability to be honest, rigorously honest, even brutally honest if necessary, with myself. Otherwise, I would end up like all the other shoppers I saw around me. It boggled my mind that some people would, for instance, pick out a church to attend like they would pick out a club to join. I had no interest in a religion or a philosophy of life if it did not offer a good description of the universe in which I found myself.

I figured that there was no way to identify a philosophy, religion, worldview, (or whatever you want to call it), as being true all in one leap of logic, but if I could identify smaller viewpoints or paradigms one at a time, I might be able to put together the puzzle and solve this problem.

Mascot Owl Facing Left

To be “true”, I thought, a worldview had to be a description of things as they actually are. That meant the answers to the big questions had to be correct. Is there a God? Is death the final end? How did we get here anyway? Etc.

Then I had to have an objective for life in order to measure the thousands of viewpoints against some standard. I needed a way to weed out the weeds. My conclusion in that little side search was that joy was my goal. There was fun/pleasure, happiness/fulfillment, and joy/fulfillment. Joy was something that could be enjoyed over and over without it diminishing. Fun and pleasure, on the other hand, had to be repeated in order to keep it coming. But joy comes back as full joy just in remembering the original joyous experience. That was a decisive discovery for me. I thought that’s where I wanted to put my money.

The Most Fundamental Human Activity

For me, this was deeper and more fundamental than religion. This was a necessary starting place from which I might identify the truth about the world around me. I reasoned that if I could pursue a path that would produce joy, that would be the ultimate thing. Then there was the problem of trying to figure out what worldview, and what perspective on life would give me the most correct understanding of it. I took classes in logic, religion, and philosophy, and did a lot of analysis. I was deeply impressed with the fact that Judaism, Mohammadism, and Christianity had many more connections to physical and historical things than the other religions. These are the so-called desert religions where sexual taboos had created peaceful homes, and peace is a clear prerequisite for joy.

You Figure It Out

I am recommending these thoughts to you. If you haven’t done this already, sit down and write down the experiences that have brought you true joy – experiences that bring the joy back just in remembering. See what kind of pattern, or commonality you may find in them and see where that leads you in your search for peace and happiness in this troubled world. It took me a couple of years but my search led me to baptism in the Church I call home. The path to joy and a lot of reading and thinking about the nature of nature got me to where I am.

So the answer to the title question is “Yes, it is possible, but it’s not easy and it can be scary at times.”

Jackson Pemberton
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