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Vail Valley Voices: The grand search for truth

Shane Musgrove
Vail Valley Voices
valleyvoices@vaildaily.com

Self-help books amaze me. I love walking into Barnes and Noble and seeing Oprah and Dr. Phil waiting there to greet me with a smile. It reminds me of my childhood walking into McDonald’s and seeing a large strange clown. It made me want to run. I’m not sure where we would be as a society without this selection of highly intellectual reads.

Scanning through them, I find all sorts of goodies such as 45 books on how to parent differently, 20 books on how to find a girlfriend, even more on how to have a good marriage, and a great assortment of spiritual guidance.

Ah yes, let us not forget the dummy books. Yes, the bright yellow colored books that tell us that we are ultimately dumb and must use the yellow book. I love those. There is a dummy book for every subject in life and even for every academic area. A little ironic, but whoever came up with the dummy books obviously was not dumb since he intuitively knew that everyone else was an idiot and therefore knew we must need them. Maybe he himself had a book named “How to Sell Dummy Books to Dummies.”

I found that a large share of the reader’s market goes towards self-help books and consist of several aisles of every bookstore. First, let me say, I am not a book burner nor do I have any qualms with Oprah or Dr. Phil, but that does not mean I am going to read them either. I cannot help wondering why this has been a growing market in our culture for some time now. Maybe there are signs of something slightly deeper here that we must heed to – we are searching.

I recently overheard a conversation between two students in their mid-20s, the same age as me. I was exhausted after an 11-hour school day, but something that they said caught my ear and everything else, visual and audible drowned out. My tired mind awoke and I fought and fought to bite my tongue. I was eavesdropping, to say the least, and by trickery just turned down my iPod so they would not know.

One of the students posed the question of what philosophy the other agreed with. His response was “I simply do not know. As I get older, it only seems to get more and more confusing.” The other student proceeded to tell him that he found “real truth” in a very special type of meditation with a Shaman and the addition of psychedelic drugs (i.e. LSD, acid, etc.).

He attempted to make sense of his statement. For example, he noted that a picture on the wall is not actually real, but during these times of mediation mixed with drugs it becomes what it was meant to be and it has a meaning. I heard a surprising statement from the other student, “I agree. … I think all truth is found under those circumstances.”

I felt like I was on a vivid bus trip down the hippie streets of San Francisco in the 1960s. I was listening to the Beat Generation. Dr. Timothy Leary had to be somewhere close by, and his catch phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” was present everywhere. The most baffling statement I heard, ” … These drugs enhance your mind and make you more intellectual as they give you the ability to see reality how it really is.” They proceeded to talk of secret groups that met to practice these meditation techniques, which are led by someone they would consider a spiritual leader or rather a Shaman. I wanted to jump in immediately, but by some mysterious discernment I sat silently to listen and learn.

I had a very similar conversation with an urban planning graduate student, and believe me when I say you would not want him to do any urban planning in Eagle County. North would become South, and if it were possible, the streets would run backwards, natural gas would come out of your kitchen faucet, and red would mean go. He proclaimed the same drugs help him with his graduate work. My purpose for telling you these stories is not to make some arbitrary statement about “the War on Drugs.” My purpose is solely that we look diligently and often hopelessly for truth in all the wrong places.

We search for it in self-help books as we go up and down the aisles of Barnes and Noble. We Google topics until our fingers are sore and our brains are fried. We search Wikipedia as if it is inerrant, but it is written by any fool who chooses to type, and we take it as truth. I would be crucified in my field of study for this. And, worst, people turn to psychedelics, supposed “mind enhancers,” to seek and search for what reality is. We do not all go down these particular paths, but there is a constant nagging within us that wants to know three of the most perplexing questions of our personal lives: What is my purpose, where did I come from, and who am I?

I often wonder if this is the result of a generation that went astray and we now reap the fruit or rather emptiness of their mistakes. I have spent many weeks in San Francisco, and I know the result. I walk the streets of Denver, and I know the results. It is a sad thing, but even more saddening is that we are still living there 50 years later. The Beat Generation continues to move forward in our minds, and the grand search for truth continues.

I would love to tell you I have all the answers, but, frankly, I do not. However, I do want to shed the philosophies that led us to this state of mind; one that a large majority of our society and world associate with. It would be an understatement to merely say they are destructive. Our worldview is now so corrupted that we exert ourselves with great difficulty to even have conversation with one another. I now abruptly end a conversation with anyone who tells me everything is relative. Why debate and converse? I am not a puppet made for the purpose of puffing up their head. They can endlessly debate in any direction their mind wishes them to go. A wise man once told me, “A relativistic person is only relativistic until you steal his shirt,” then life is not so relative for them anymore. A “wrong” action was committed against them. It is self-defeating. Thomas Aquinas sums this up well: “To one who has belief, no explanation is necessary. To one without belief, no explanation is possible.”

What is our explanation? The Greeks fell short in their search, the great thinkers of the Renaissance period fell short, the new age culture fell short, 19th- and 20th-century and modern philosophy fell short, and the post-modern mind falls even shorter. Gravity pulls at their feet. So, we are on a journey that continues day in and day out. Our paths, in many cases, are quite different as can be seen from the story of the two students and many books and the online articles that are published in an attempt to explain what we seek so desperately.

My case feels much simpler these days; however, I remember dark hard times not so long ago. Now, truth seems self-evident to me as it screams out through creation. I look … I look at the sky at night seeing the stars and the moon, the uniquely designed mountains that reflect the light of our sun and a beautiful intelligence cries out to me. What is now scientifically called an “intelligent designer” calls out to you and me. However, let us be honest with ourselves – what is referred to as an “intelligent designer” is simply the God of the universe.

We are not alone in this finite universe – we never were. We live in it, but it defies logic to say there is a finite universe without an infinite creator. A controversial statement for many, but there are absolutes in this life and they are found in places right in front of our eyes as all creation speaks out to it. Logic justifies it. Therefore, if you seek to answer the questions – what is my purpose, where did I come from, and who am I – it is crucial to have a starting point for your journey. You must start here: the God of the universe. All other quests, if traced back to their roots, will eventually point in this direction. And the question that all of the above leads to – who is this mysterious God of the universe – is essentially “the grand search for truth.”

Shane Musgrove is a part-time Vail and part-time Denver resident who attends the University of Colorado.


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