Home > Mark Twain > “Innumerable Temporary Seekers of Truth”

“Innumerable Temporary Seekers of Truth”

On my weekend off I read Mark Twain’s “What is Man?” The obscure essay is so full of wonderful passages, it’s difficult to choose what to excerpt. Twain’s imagined dialogue between an Old Man and a Young Man opens a sinkhole underneath the concept of free will and the existence of a totally altruistic motive. Yet one segment seemed the most fitting. This blog’s motivation is an honest and enduring quest for truth. In the interest of that enterprise, here’s the Old Man calling me out:

We are always hearing of people who are around SEEKING AFTER TRUTH. I have never seen a (permanent) speciman. I think he had never lived. But I have seen several entirely sincere people who THOUGHT they were (permanent) Seekers after Truth. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment – until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the Truth. THAT WAS THE END OF THE SEARCH. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather. If he was seeking after political Truth he found it in one or another of the hundred political gospels which govern men in the earth; if he was seeking after the Only True Religion he found it in one or another of the three thousand that are on the market. In any case, when he found the Truth HE SOUGHT NO FURTHER; but from that day forth, with his soldering-iron in one hand and his bludgeon in the other he tinkered its leaks and reasoned with objectors.

Ouch. Let this blog live on seeking after truth as frequently as my temperament allows. I encourage others to claw the roofing nails out of my insulating shelters whenever possible.

Categories: Mark Twain
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