April 2004 Issue --> Mindset Article
Laughing Toward Truth: Six Tips for Lighthearted Thinkers
By: Maya Talisman Frost


Do you believe in the power of your convictions?
It's time to lighten up.
People love attaching themselves to ideas. We can get pretty feisty when one of our beloved beliefs is challenged. We're too busy defending to spend our time analyzing.
Truth has a tendency to get in the way of our beliefs.
We like having our rules to live by, our reasons for feeling righteous, and our excuses for ending intellectual exploration. Just as we climb up a ladder, we like counting on certain rungs to hold steady. Thinking about cracks just makes us uneasy.
That approach works if your goal is to reach the top, but it doesn't allow for much examination or lateral growth. Plus, there's always the risk that you'll come crashing down.
Quick quiz:
What fills you with more satisfaction--being right or discovering the truth?
Of course, the best scenario is discovering that you knew the truth all along. Validation is a huge motivator. That's why we find it more exhilarating to win an argument than to learn more about the other side.
It's kind of like that whole "life is about the journey" concept. The thrill is in the seeking. We've forgotten that. It's as though we went on a treasure hunt, stumbled upon what we thought was the hidden booty, and now we've become complacent.
What if what you found wasn't the real treasure? What if the whole point was to keep looking?
Thinkers have been wrestling with the concept of truth for ages. Socrates was fond of saying that there are only two kinds of beings who do not need philosophy: the gods, who are already wise, and the fools, who think they are wise. We want to be in that large middle group of people who recognize their lack of wisdom and continue their quest for truth and knowledge.
It's helpful to be reminded that our role as humans isn't to figure things out--it's to KEEP ON figuring things out. Don't take my word for it. Here are some truisms about truth from some formidable thinkers.
#1 "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible."
Bertrand Russell, British mathematician
Can't think of any widely held absurd beliefs? You're not trying hard enough! Fashion, pop culture, politics, (gasp!) religion, and virtually every other arena of modern life is full of examples of ideas that have somehow taken hold but defy logic. Good Thinker rule number one is simply this: Never accept an idea just because everyone else does.
#2 "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
Albert Einstein, American physicist
Leave it to Albert to maintain that crucial sense of humor and humility. The more we know, the more we get a clue about how much we don't know. At least, that's the way it's supposed to work. You probably know people who haven't quite come around to that realization yet. Get there now. Accept it, celebrate it, and keep on thinking.
#3 "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it."
Andre Gide, French writer
Your best bet is to hang out with those who are happy to admit that they don't have all the answers. As friends, co-workers and party guests, they tend to be a lot more fun, anyway.
#4 "Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails."
Clarence Darrow, American attorney
Play the game and have some fun with it, even if you never score. Remember playing games with your friends way back when you were five? You didn't have a clear sense of the rules or even the point of the game, and neither did anyone else. It didn't matter. The reason you were playing was to simply enjoy the game, even if that meant making it up as you went along.
Approach truth-seeking like a five-year-old playing a new game. Don't get caught up in the regulations, and don't keep score. Who cares who's winning?
#5 "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh."
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher
Nietzsche saluted the creative force that feeds us. Despite a life of ill health and misery, he recognized the value of joy in the seeking of truth. Most of us have it a whole lot easier than Nietzsche. We have no excuse for not laughing.
#6 "Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so."
Mark Twain, American writer
Truth doesn't rise to the surface. You've got to dig for it. Truth doesn't automatically rule; fallacies with excellent public relations campaigns tend to dominate in our culture.
Truth isn't easy, but it isn't supposed to be. If you want to dive into the human experience in all its glory, you're going to be wading through a lot of ideas masquerading as the truth.
Think for yourself, and have some fun with it. Look for truth in the unlikeliest places. Find the absurdity in every idea.
The best philosophers have loads of laugh lines. Start creating yours. You'll become a better thinker, a happier truth-seeker, and a more excellent human.

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse. Her work has inspired thinkers in over 70 countries. She serves up a unique blend of clarity, comfort and comic relief in her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage. To subscribe, visit www.massageyourmind.com.
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