The search for truth without ulterior motives is the secret of happiness. It entails an unstarry-eyed understanding and appraisal of yourself and the world uninfluenced by a desire for self-aggrandizement in any of its moods or tenses.
It is a learned or acquired pleasure. It is not in the DNA, in contrast to the childish thrills of money, sex, power, fame, or creature comforts.
There is more happiness in being a discontented Socrates than in being a contented cow.
Moreover, the uncompromised search for truth is the sole gratification that neither dulls by repetition nor depends on others. Ever-increasing wealth begets diminishing returns. The enjoyments of sex or opulence lessen when novelty ends. The powerful or famous become jaded with their power and fame over time. But every increment of wisdom begets fresh pleasure from deeper understanding.
The unblinkered search for truth is also indispensable to making sense of the past and discerning the future.
It reveals that the DNA of the species has been unaltered since the beginning of time. It is unchangeable. And no race, ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, tribe or otherwise has a monopoly or predominance of either angelic or satanic DNA. The ratio is the same in every group everywhere at all times and in all places.
Thus, as was observed in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” The human narrative is constant. The choreography or coloratura varies to fit contemporary fashions. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The notion of novel or unprecedented problems, dangers or miseries that require equally challenging or innovative responses is thus delusional.
The greatest and most enduring source of evil is the allure of power for the sake of power. It explains chronic wars and the lion’s share of the world’s misery index from the beginning of recorded history.
War makes legal what is customarily first degree murder punishable by death. In times of war, the law is silent. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman sermonized, “War is hell.”
Yet purposeless, objectless wars have earmarked mankind from the start.
The Greek-Trojan War was fought over a woman, not over resources or geostrategic imperatives.
Alexander the Great fought endless wars without ever asking why — conquest for the sake of conquest.
Napoleon’s megalomania drove him to Moscow in 1812 and the destruction of the French Army.
Rome first fought to defend itself. Then it fought to defend allies. Then it invented allies to defend. Then it fought to defend its amour-propre. Then it fell into bankruptcy, tyranny and oblivion with the sacking of Rome by vandals in 410 A.D.
The United States is aping the folly of Rome.
We chronically fight pointless wars at staggering cost irrelevant to defending national security through aggressive self-defense—including border security and surveillance of foreigners with no allegiance to the United States. Think of our futile and costly adventures in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. Like the French Bourbons, we forget nothing and learn nothing. We reject President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning against the military-industrial complex in favor of world domination euphemistically styled “world leadership,” whatever that means.
Henry David Thoreau observed that, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” craving fleeting fun rather than enduring wisdom. They are uninterested or uncomprehending of the search for truth without ulterior motives—including the nature of justice, the legitimacy of power, or the justifications for warfare. The consequence is a Sodom and Gomorrah-like culture preoccupied with banalities or trivialities.
But the unreflective should not be envied. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet philosophized, “What is a man If his chief good and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. Sure, he that made us with such large discourse, Looking before and after, gave us not That capability and godlike reason To fust in us unused.