CHURCH OF TWAIN: Beware seekers of ‘truth’

  One of the many advantages of not sleeping much is that it gives you extra time to ponder. I have taken to pondering more and more as I get older. I don’t like to brag (which, if you’ve noticed, is always followed by the braggart’s clod of self-aggrandizement), but I’ve become a nearly professorial ponderer in recent years.

  At the office, co-workers and supervisors will find me lost in a forest of ponder in the coffee room with the day’s headlines under my nose and a column with my name on it as yet unwritten. If there’s time, I might ponder my way through half a pot of coffee and the sports pages.

  As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that pondering is an integral part of my business. It’s even tax-deductible if you keep your receipts. Pondering over a long lunch or a shot and a beer with sources of information are among the joys of the craft.

  When I say ponder, I am talking about wondering and noodling and considering and debating and, on a particularly clear-headed day, thinking about an issue. Smart people, and I know many, think heavily and expansively about issues all the time. Me, not so much.

  To be quite frank, I’ve never been that bright. This comes as no surprise to readers, and it’s something my wife discovered to her dismay shortly after they threw the rice at us back in 1994. No one of political polish or lofty corporate power has called and said I was brilliant unless they happened to agree with a column and had a favor to ask. I try not to take it personally.

  Whether Greg Maddux has any magic left in his right arm or Gov. Gibbons is going to buckle on his no-new-taxes pledge are topics of consideration and ponder. And if you dress them up, they might even be topics of a column on a slow news day.

  But they are not grist for the Seeker of Truth. The Seeker of Truth holds between his ears larger thoughts and more important concepts. The Seeker’s stride is a long and confident march. His jaw is set, his eyes lighted with an unshakable certainty of purpose. He is full of vigor, the Seeker, vigor and absolute certainty.

  I am talking about the professional Seeker of Truth here, not your amateur variety. The Seeker of Truth is not to be confused with the Finder of Fact or the Asker of Questions, or even the lowly Ponderer, for that matter. The Seeker follows a higher calling whether he be a captain of industry, man of the cloth, or essayist extraordinaire. (As a rule of thumb, the quickest way to determine whether you’re in the presence of a true Seeker of Truth is to evaluate whether the person has a sense of humor. I don’t mean a person who can remember and tell a joke. I mean a person with an actual sense of humor. For the most part, Seekers of Truth are devoid of a real sense of humor. I suspect it’s because it’s unbecoming persons of their calling.)

  But this Sunday I just want to remind you to beware of the Seeker of Truth. The only truth they seem to find is the one that suits their ends.

  It’s like Saint Mark said in “What is Man?” “We are always hearing of people around seeking after Truth. I have never seen a permanent specimen. I think he has never lived. But I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were permanent Seekers after Truth. They thought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment – until they believed without doubt or question they had found the Truth. That was the end of the search. …

   "A man is never but what his outside influences have made him. They train him downward or they train him upward — but they train him; they are at work upon him all the time.”

  So, I repeat, beware the professional Seeker of Truth. In my experience, his Truth is inseparable from his hidden desire. And Las Vegas glimmers smack in the middle of the Desert of Desire.

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