(I didn’t write this, but it was found on a web site I visited and I don’t know who authored it)
Happiness vs. Truth
How is happiness about a belief relevant at all to whether it is TRUE or not?
“What if the truth were unpleasant….. and the lie were beautiful? Which is better?”
“Would you rather live happily and comfortably following a lie, or would you prefer to live knowing a painful truth?”
“IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE ONE AND ONLY ONE, WHICH DO YOU VALUE MORE: HAPPINESS or TRUTH?”
These questions are precisely the same choice represented by the Garden of Eden parable: “Do you wish to live forever in blithe, polyanna-like ignorance, *OR* face the painful mortality of knowledge & truth out in the real world?”
“Do you judge how True something is by how comfortable, or how Happy it makes you?” If so, then you are a prime candidate for — and quite possibly already a victim of — self-deception and delusion.
The very irrelevance of the question “are you happier?” is profoundly illuminating to me.
Our impasse is very simply this: a Different Prioritization of 2 Values.
WHICH DO YOU VALUE MORE: ‘HAPPINESS’ or ‘TRUTH’?
While I know what the ‘right’ answer is for me, perhaps it is not the ‘right’ answer for everyone.
That realization is very tough for me to deal with, when my ex-wife — indeed, almost all of my family, relatives, — apparently prefer Happiness, while I find it the more expendable of the two.
Let’s engage in some hypothetical “meta-introspection” for want of a better term. Like an “out-of-body” experience, you’re going to be an omniscient meta-You (note the divine uppercase), observing your normal self (lower case ‘you’) from a distance.
In each of these 3 hypothetical situations in which the meta-You observes your mortal-self, your mortal-self does not have all the information available to the omniscient You. In as sense, You serve as a God to yourself, in that You (the meta-you) have the power to make additional information to your mortal self, if You should choose. (Note: you cannot punt your decision by appealling to traditional notions of ‘free agancy’ and non-intervention, letting the ignorant ‘you’ have find out for ‘yourself’. Since the you is also You, You have the right to reveal any information to you; no violation of ‘free agency’ occurs in reconciling the omniscient You with the ignorant you.)
1) If you were being exploited by your pleasant, fun, charismatic accountant…. having your life savings secretly siphoned off for his benefit…. would you want to know? As long as you don’t know, you are happy and you enjoy his wonderful company. BUT if you find out the truth of what he is doing, you’d be angry and unhappy….. Which do you choose? Happiness, or Truth?
2) If your doctor were using you as a human guinea pig without your knowledge, injecting you with drugs that kept you perpetually mildly intoxicated….. drugs that numbed your ability to feel any pain, that impaired your ability to think, that made you hallucinate happy things….. would you want to know? As long as you don’t know, you are happy and *never* feel any pain, even when you stumble and fall down or burn yourself. Because you are unable to form complex thoughts, all questions seem black & white, all decisions seem very simple. You are happy! BUT if you find out the truth of what he is doing, and go off the drugs, you’ll experience physical pain from time to time, decisions will be difficult, and you’ll experience disappointment and frustration. Which do you choose? Happiness, or Truth?
3) If your husband were cheating on you, running around having lots of one night stands, and keeping a couple of mistresses with whom he has long-term love affairs going, buying them gifts and spending time with them…… but he is successfully keeping you from suspecting anything, a consumate actor pretending to love you while he is actually sharing his true affections with his mistresses, not you…… would you want to know? As long as you don’t know, you have an ideal marriage. You have a happy family life, he appears to be the ideal faithful husband, he treats you well and is never mean or abusive, a real charming, fun companion….. You are happy, and you feel loved. BUT if you find out the truth of what he is doing, you will feel betrayed, angry, sad, manipulated, trivialized, unappreciated, used, lied to. Which do you choose? Happiness, or Truth?
Once again, this mental game is simply the classical Garden of Eden Dilemma. Behind door number one is ‘Eternal Bliss with No Death Nor Pain’ but the price is you must be willing to accept Ignorance. Behind door number two is ‘Knowledge and Truth’ but the price you must be willing to accept is Pain, Discomfort, Unhappiness, and above all, facing your own Mortality.
Which is the correct choice? Is there a correct choice?
Oh, sorry, did I say 3 hypothetical scenarios? Make that four:
4) If your church makes you supremely happy, provides emotionally fulfilling social interactions with wonderful people, eliminates uncertainty and fear of the unknown by giving you nice, sensible the answers to all life’s tough questions……. but those ‘answers’ are really just lies made up by a sicko but charismatic con man, and there are many emotionally damaging and pyschologically abusive effects that hurt many, including yourself, which effects you cannot see…… would you want to know? You feel great, everything is bliss, there is no doubt, no uncertainty. BUT if you find out the truth, you will feel betrayed, angry, depresssed, manipulated, exploited, lied to. The Truth WILL make you very unhappy. But as Jesus claimed, the Truth may also set you free. (He just forgot to mention the pain part to being free – but that’s why you have the Garden of Eden allegory about the Two Trees, to clarify that part.) Which do you choose? The Happiness of Deception, or Painful Truth? Will you brave the Pain of Truth, to test His promise that it will “set you free”?
Do you know the theme song from the play, Man of La Mancha? It is called, ‘The Impossible Dream’. At one point, after recounting how his noble actions are surely doomed to be unsuccessful, and misunderstood and mocked by others, the song resolves: “And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will be peaceful and calm, when I’m laid to my rest; and the world will be better for this…..” etc.
INTEGRITY. No matter what everyone else thinks of you. THAT is the feeling I have found — the feeling of ‘Peace of Mind’ that is expressed in that song.
And *that* feeling, that peace of mind, is 100 times better than the ‘happiness’ of living a lie, in my opinion.
I am inclined to agree with the saying in John 8:32 that is attributed to Jesus: that knowing the truth — even if it’s painful or unpleasant — DOES set you free.
Unfortunately, I fear that it’s a feeling that many LDS refuse to feel.