“The truth will set you free

hith-garfield-assassinatiion-jgarfield…but first it will piss you off.”  (paraphrased from a comment traced to James Garfield)

Do we need our illusions in order to be happy?  Do we need to pretend we are more important or more virtuous than we really are in order to maintain faith in ourselves?  Do we need to forget about our mortality in order for our projects and aspirations to have any meaning?

The four nobles truths of Buddhism are all about age, death and suffering.  The existential psychology that dominated intellectual life in the 20th Century is all about deliberately pretending our human values have significance within a universe that we know to be absurdly random.  We need a pretense in order to be happy, because the human condition is fundamentally incompatible with our human psychology.   Ignorance is bliss.summer-happiness-photoWell, I don’t buy it.  I don’t think there’s an absolute relationship between truth and wellbeing.  It depends on individual nature, and thus—at least to some extent—we are free to choose.  I propose that we take as an axiom the opposite proposition, that the world is a miracle, that it is here for us to explore, that we are embedded and intertwined with all of life, and even with the physical laws that prescribe the world’s unfolding.  Our experience in particular is the essence of the Universe.

(Quantum mechanics carries a message that there is no objective physical universe apart from our perception of it.)

john-keats-poet-quote-beauty-is-truth-truth-beauty-that-is-all-yeI propose that truth is not just compatible with happiness, it is essential to happiness.  It follows that if reading the newspaper every day makes you wring your hands in despair, then the newspaper is suspect, and is probably wanting in the truth department.

The world is perfect.  My experience of the world is perfect.  My dissatisfaction with the present is an impetus to change, which is part of that dynamic perfection.

Does this sound like a rewinding of the Copernican revolution?  You bet it is!

— Josh Mitteldorf


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