Saturday, May 30, 2009

Truth: The True Evil

Truth truth truth, we look for her, we find her (or think we do), and then regret the day we started looking. What does one get from her? Nothing. No thank you, no reward, no eternal life, and no meaning. Just nihil and void, and of all good devoid. עולם הפוך שמעתי where truth is equated with good and deception with evil. But in reality, there is no good or evil, and if there is, truth should be equated with evil and deception with good. For is there a single man who will honestly proclaim that shedding the belief in a life full of meaning is good?

What happened. Nothing. Just Shavuos came around, my favorite holiday. A time when I could really appreciate Rav Yosef's saying אי לא האי יומא דקא גרים כמה יוסף איכא בשוקא, but instead nothing. Not that I still can't take a RMB"M apart, but now looking at it, what's it all worth. And not just it, life - it's nothing. How can I recapture that feeling? How? How can I delude myself into disregarding the evil and cruel truth? Can I turn the clock back to a blissful time when I knew no better. This search for truth is a sickness, it's a force that sucks the life out physically and spiritually. I envy people who are able to delude themselves in spite of their knowledge, even those like XGH who still cling to some meaning in life. Unfortunately I don't posses the gift of delusion. Deceiving others is the simplest matter, but deluding oneself is an art, a skill I don't have. How I wish I hadn't started on this path, but once I did, I wish I were able to turn back somehow. It is impossible, כל באיה לא ישובון, and there is no way to recapture that most benevolent deception, that belief in meaning and good.

On the other hand, I couldn't live with some belief, no matter how exhilarating, if I doubted it's validity. So the search for truth was inevitable. And even now seeing how unsatisfying it is, it doesn't make it any less true. Facts are cruel, and there is nothing to be done about them. Nevertheless, how I wish to have the ability to side step them, and even ignore them.
אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ, כִּי מָחָר נָמוּת is my motto now for lack of anything better, but seeing that all there is to it is מָחָר נָמוּת and contrasting this with the great edifice of religion, it's very hard to continue this way. Probably, one who was never exposed to the beautiful deception of religion, can live with this motto. But for me, I can't. There is simply no comparison, and no turning the clock back, and no deluding oneself, unfortunately.

So what's to be done. I sit and think, maybe there is meaning to all of this after all. But no, stop kidding around, you know we're just here by default, live and then die. How do you know this, based on what, on the little you have studied? That's not enough to make such conclusions, go study more, find out, maybe you're wrong. וחוזר חלילה and round we go, getting deeper and deeper in this quicksand, in the quagmire known as the quest for truth, and so till death. Except that instead of a life full with this nonsense and then death, one could at least אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ and then die. But no, it seems some are destined to waste their life away, stricken with the sickness , an untreatable one at that, known as the "quest for truth".


Baal Habos said...

Great post. I wish I had an answer. I think you're right that it's worse for people who used to have belief. I don't see long time non-believers depressed over these issues.

Ignorance is bliss.

However, I think we can make purpose for ourselves. Also, you might want to investigage Eastern religions. Speak to Spinoza.

Shtreimel said...

Brilliantly written. I'll echo the sentiment.

Acher said...

>Also, you might want to investigage Eastern religions.You're not serious, are you?
Do you think there really is anything to it. Do you think they discovered anything. What's there to discover anyway.

Freethinking Upstart said...


evanstonjew said...

Very eloquent, and heartfelt, but I personally disagree. By your chesbon a person should not have children, or for that matter marry. Why bother, for worry about the einicklech, after having spent a lifetime working for the children. A normal bourgeois life is about tomorrow, working, saving, dreaming of a time when life will be easier. But why? You know the joke about the 90year old couple who show up in court asking for a divorce. “Why now?” asks the judge. “We waited for children to die.” By the time everything is taken care of and arranged we are too old to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Within a naturalistic framework the answer to why bother generally involves the creation/acceptance of goals and ideals as part of a plan for living a good,meaningful and worthwhile life. The assumption is that such lives are possible and there are ways of getting there. A well known variant is the Freudian maxim that there are two minimal requirements for a good life, love and work. A person can open himself up to love others (spouse,children family, clan, stripe, nation-people, species), and can use his powers and capacities to engage in creative work. If your question then is why bother living a good life, the answer is that one can take satisfaction at living well. And if you then ask why bother winning at life, the answer is it is better to win than to lose.

I know everything is subjective blah, blah, but for most it is better to be rich and healthy than sick and poor. And part of being rich and healthy for most involves love and work. Maybe not for you.

eitz hadaas said...

It's not about truth, it's about honesty.

Honesty is about the unattainable and the already attained, coupled with the known processes that can narrow the gap. Honesty requires one to acknowledge, both, the knowledge and the lack thereof that one posses. It requires an honest assessment of one's capabilities and reach. It requires one to internalize the lessons of history, which point to a pile of inequities from mental and intellectual shortcomings humans have, along with achievements that have broadened our sense of world and mind.

And that is spiritual to me. It is the humility you carry when realizing your place in the context of the cosmic vastness.

I can't think of a stronger sense to make life more bearable. I don't know if it makes life wonderful, but it enables wonder to be appreciated. It might not make existence valuable, but it makes existence more existential.

Baal Habos said...

>Do you think there really is anything to it. Do you think they discovered anything. What's there to discover anyway.

No, I meant as a way of achieving peace. Even Sam Harris speaks of it.

Freethinking Upstart said...

that last post by me that said, "fe" was a complete mistake. I was going to comment but decided to write a post on meaning.

Freethinking Upstart said...

Some level of "delusion", as you call it, will be necessary if you want a happy life, especially for such a skeptic as yourself.

You will probably find that "deluding" yourself will be especially difficult, as it is for those as convinced as you were of your previous ownership of the absolute truth and the incredible emotional, psychological etc. supplement that your previous beliefs and lifestyle offered.

Something that has been of help to me, is to read lots of different worldviews and ideologies. You will find none of them fully satisfactory, but you may slowly start to realize that your search for complete satisfaction is hevel. Eventually you will start to look at these things like you now look at aesthetics. That which helps you live what you have come to understand as "the good life" and skills that you admire for reasons having nothing to do with Truth will start to resonate with you. You will remember these tid bits and eventually realize that you have to decide for yourself what you will believe, and it's truth will be neither here nor there. You will begin to feel comfortable with uncertainty, hopefully eventually not even taking the truth of said information into cosideration. Not that you still won't want Truth. But it will become less important and over time you're sense of humor will make it all a little less painful.

The key is too not think about it. But the more that you try not to think about it, the more you will. So what do you do? You think about something esle. When something takes over your thoughts, you can't just stop it and think about nothing. Thinking about nothing is extremely difficult for a person such as yourself. You have to change the what and how of your thoughts.

tayqoo said...

even eating, drinking and being merry has no ta'am.

Acher said...


Aside from everything being subjective, I agree that life is worth living, the good life, and why, because essentially that's our nature, to survive, and by extension to have it as good as we can. The problem for someone like me, having been brought up orthodox is that once I have tasted what life is like when meaning is not subjective, and living it properly is of utmost importance, it is ordained by God himself, nothing else can compare with this feeling. At times such as over the last Yomtov, I thought too much about how it used to be, and how there is no way to recapture that deception, as I put it.

Acher said...


Two things. First, it doesn't matter what life may be about in reality, my point is that nothing can compare to the meaning infused into life by orthodox Judaism, or any religion I would think. Second, I don't think there is any inherently important thing living for, be it truth, honesty, happiness or whatever else one may come up with. Despite my personal Meshugas of always trying to get to the truth, I'm not one of those, truth as a goal in of itself types. Often I wish I wasn't obsessed with truth, and as the post suggests, I wish I was able to let myself be deceived for a good lie.


NU, Sam Harris is not my Baalhabos, ;)
And again it's hard for me to fall for something that I just don't think is the real deal. If life doesn't have meaning in reality, I doubt some Eastern meditation will convince me otherwise. Although you never know. Do you have anyhting specific in mind.

Acher said...


I was gonna respond to your first comment by the following Posuk:
מַצְרֵף לַכֶּסֶף, וְכוּר לַזָּהָב; וְאִישׁ, לְפִי מַהֲלָלוֹ.
But then again, maybe it's appropriate now as well :)
Thanks for the kind words.

I gather from what you're saying that I have to try and change the emphasis on my thoughts and not be so obsessed about the simple 'what'. Don't know. My Meshugas with getting down to the bottom of things is not because of my orthodox upbringing, it's my nature. My upbringing just makes reality painful. I don't know if there is much to be done. From reading your latest post, I understood that you may be talking from experience. Do you have anything more to say?