You might have heard the advice, "follow anyone who searches for the truth, run from anyone who finds it." Well then, it’s safe to follow me, if you want to take the chance of getting very lost at times.
Our fourth principle talks about the search for truth and meaning. It is a search in which I hope all of us are participating. If you have ADHD, as I do, this search can be quite interesting, and a bit confusing. As an undergraduate I attended three different universities, had six majors ranging from Biology and Natural Sciences to Theatre, and graduated with a year of credits beyond what was needed. And my searching didn’t stop there. When people hear that I was a university professor they often ask, “What did you teach?” My answer is that I taught 50 different courses in seven different departments. I was very fortunate to teach in a university where searching was still permitted.
So, what have I learned from all my searching? No, I did not find the truth: there are many truths. When you stand in one place and you turn around, the view changes. Is one of those views more true than the other?
For me, though, truth has one constant. It is always judged by the accuracy of what it proposes. We seem to be living in a time where many believe that the accuracy of a statement has nothing to do with truth. Truth is seen as what you believe, and statements are made on the basis of that belief. As just one example, many people do genuinely believe that global warming is not happening. For them, that is the truth. Presenting them with data that refutes their statements often makes them angry. You are asking them to believe that the truths they hold are a lie. It is an attack on their very world view. They are not lying, they are mistaken.
For me, truth lies in the testing of beliefs and changing or altering those beliefs when the tests do not show them conforming to our expectations. What often happens is that the testing will show that the beliefs are partly, or mostly accurate, but there is something that seems out of place. So you must keep searching. However, that is very uncomfortable for many people, and so they accept truths that are given to them and cease to search. Often those truths pay off in very personal ways, such as the comfort found in believing you have found the truth. So, why is it said, run from anyone who finds the truth? When you find the truth you can stop searching, you can stop growing. As Stephen Hawking once said, “I'm now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end, and that we will always have the challenge of new discovery. Without it, we would stagnate.” And I have discovered that, just as life is a journey, not a destination, meaning and truth are to be found in the searching, not the knowing.