Happiness vs. Truth

There was a fork in the road.

I looked left – and saw happiness: It looked Warm. A life of personal satisfaction?

I looked right – and saw truth: It looked Cold. A life of principle?

Most people were going left. These people ran quickly after their happy, fulfilled lives. I wanted happiness too. I asked myself, “What good is life if I can’t enjoy it?”

I decided to go right. By the time I reached the fork in the road I had already known too much. I liked being happy. I liked smiling. I tried to do both as much as I could. But how could I look at myself in the mirror having selected an illusion as the primary objective of my life?

Happiness is, after all, an illusion, right?

I may live 85 years on this earth, but once I die, I know my happiness won’t follow me. Happiness may help me to enjoy my time on the earth. It may help me to live longer – thereby helping me to accomplish more things, and that has value, right?

My accomplishments won’t follow me either though. I could erect the tallest buildings. I could eradicate diseases. I could help my fellow man reach the outer limits of the universe – but when I die, relative to my own decaying corpse – these accomplishments will all have been an illusion.

To me, truth is the ability to suppress delusion and to accurately experience the essence of life and my fellow travelers. It does not preclude happiness; however happiness is not its end objective.

Why did I select truth over happiness? I don’t posses the words to explain why, but I ask… how could anything be more desirable than truth? Truth is real, it’s infallible. I won’t ever attain what I consider to be truth – just as I’ll never be able to prove my existence – but is apathy an adequate excuse?

I hope to have many smiles in my life and much joy as well. But when I take my last breath – at my very last moment of life – my smile will be a genuine smile, and it will have been earned.

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7 Comments

  1. jwh
    Posted December 5, 2007 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_4_oh_to_be.html

    “…In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins quotes with approval a new set of Ten Commandments for atheists, which he obtained from an atheist website, without considering odd the idea that atheists require commandments at all, let alone precisely ten of them; nor does their metaphysical status seem to worry him. The last of the atheist’s Ten Commandments ends with the following: “Question everything.” Everything? Including the need to question everything, and so on ad infinitum?”

  2. Posted December 6, 2007 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    If we consider happiness to be an attribute of an an entity (us), then in what sense is it not true? Perhaps only in the sense that no existent is true or false, but rather they either do, or do not, exist. Happiness is real, it does exist, and it is the result of a life of truth, dedicated to self-perfection and achievement. Your dichotomy between true and happy shows that you understand neither.

  3. reasonmrsmith
    Posted December 7, 2007 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    You may be right Jason, that I understand neither happiness or truth. I don’t think it is for the reasons you’ve stated, however.

  4. Mario
    Posted December 8, 2007 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    I don’t believe that it’s a choice between happiness or truth. I think both can be had. Perhaps this dichotomy stems from the old saying “ignorance is a bliss”.

  5. John
    Posted December 8, 2007 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    If adherence to your principles do not make you happy, might I suggest that you’ve chosen the wrong principles? This may help explain why none of the objectivists I’ve met seem happy to me. They just seem angry….

  6. reasonmrsmith
    Posted December 9, 2007 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    John,

    I did not say that adherence to principles did not make me happy.

    I suggested that happiness was not my end objective, truth was. The two can co-exist, but at those times when they conflict, my principles lead to truth winning out over happiness. What good is happiness if it is built on a dillusion? On false truths? I suggest that while many are happy to look the other way and smile – I am not. If happiness is your end objective in life – above all other things – than I feel sad for you – such a Utopian goal seems shallow to me.

  7. Sara
    Posted December 13, 2007 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Then what should our goals be? What truths are we supposed to seek out, and how do we know which is the right one? Is it the one that we can understand or the one that makes us happy? How can you even tell what truth is?If life in its entirety really is an illusion, why not just be happy?I mean, what the point? and even if life is an illusion, we still have a consciousness to what’s happening to us. Doesn’t it matter that life at least seems real even if it isn’t?


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