There once was a man — a long, long time ago — named Diogenes.

There could have been more than one, as I think of it, but the Diogenes (di-ah’-jin-eze) we remember lived around 300 to 400 years before Christ. He was witty, wise, and a great teacher.

For much of his life, Diogenes lived in Athens. It is said that he would walk about the city in broad daylight while carrying a lighted lantern. When asked what he was doing, he would reply, “I am looking for a man.” (Anyone who has not been corrupted by the world.)

Many have his answer as, “I am looking for an honest man.” That would have fit his philosophy and been just as hard to find.

His philosophy was known as Cynicism. In fact he is often called Diogenes the Cynic.

Cynicism favored courage over fortune, reason over passion, and (most important) nature over convention. In other words, live a natural life, not how the world tells you to live.

You can bet that no Cynic would have an account on TikTok. Or any kind of social-media, for that matter. They would also not seek wealth or worldly goods. Living as simply as possible was the goal, and Diogenes modeled that.

Still, he was a seeker of wisdom and most definitely a seeker of truth.

The search is on!

Everyone who seeks wisdom, knowledge, and truth is a philosopher. I’m guessing that includes you, though you may never have thought of yourself as a philosopher. First, let’s establish that you are a seeker. Think for just a moment of all the things you have looked for just this week.

In the last day (mostly in the last few hours), I have personally searched for:

  • a tax return from a previous year
  • an attorney who specializes in business and corporate law
  • a logo for a company so I could create a small sign
  • a TED talk with content that is important for this article
  • a comment on that TED talk
  • the fastest way to get from a meeting in one town to a meeting in another town

Mundane? Absolutely! Most of what we seek is not exciting or even interesting, especially out of context. So here are other things I find myself seeking:

  • a perfect golf swing
  • my phone
  • the best pizza within two miles of my home
  • a television show that will make me smile, laugh occasionally, think a little, and not be offensive
  • pancakes that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside
  • someone with integrity to lead the free world

My point is that whether it is exciting or not, much of our time is spent looking for something. Truth is one of those things I am always on the lookout for. Always.

Seek and you will find

The best selling book of all time has a lot to say about seeking. If you’ve read it, or even if you’ve heard it quoted, you might know: Seek and you will find. That phrase is one of three that come together. The other two are “knock and the door will be opened,” and “ask and it will be given.” (The actual order, which makes no difference, is ask, seek, knock.)

One of the fun things about ask, seek, knock is this. All of those verbs are in a particular Greek tense that implies continuous action. That means we should read it like this: ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. There is no promise of an immediate payoff for our one-time efforts. Sorry.

Of course if we really want something, what difficulty is there in keeping on?

When your 5 year old child or grandchild wants something and you say no, do they simply say “OK” and walk away? Ha!

If you really are trying to find something, you will seek it with thought, energy, and your best sleuthing skills.

In my home office, the top of my desk is a place where even a small dog might get lost.

So when I am looking for some particular paper, or a receipt, or a book I’ve pulled off the shelf, I always suspect the desk. But I don’t look there first, because it is too hard. I look on the floor and in various chairs — even in other rooms. Finally I get to the desktop, and I seek.

When my wife gets home she will look at my uncluttered desk top and ask, “What did you lose?”

Do I look that diligently for the truth? Or, like many people today, do I simply look for someone who agrees with me?

That lady in the TED Talk

Her name is Katherine Maher. She is not related to the comedian and talk show host Bill Maher. He even said he kind of wished she pronounced her name differently.

Ms. Maher was once the CEO of The Wikimedia Foundation, which is the host of Wikipedia, which is the seventh most visited website in the world. In 2022 she gave a TED Talk, and in it said:

“Our reverence for the truth might be a distraction that is getting in the way of finding common ground and getting things done. That is not to say that the truth doesn’t exist or to say that the truth isn’t important. Clearly the search for the truth has led us to do great things….”

So, stop seeking truth and start seeking common ground? I thought truth was common ground.

Commentator Jonah Goldberg recently wrote that we now live in a philodoxical age rather than a philosophical age. That means we now love opinion rather than wisdom or truth. He is right, and he knows it will only get worse.

How do we reverse it?

Seek truth, even if it is hard to find. Let’s get our lanterns out and light them and hit the streets. Truth is still out there, and so are truth-tellers.

Do good! It’s in you.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Marshall

    Ok, somehow I missed the word you haven’t used before……???

  2. Gary

    I think the word is “philodoxical” as used by Jonah Goldberg above.

  3. Lewis Greer

    Gary got it! Of course he knows my vocabulary as well as anyone. 🙂

    I’ve used paradoxical in the past, a word that shows up in my little online dictionary. Philodoxical, however, does not. And in my opinion… 🙂

  4. Lewis Greer

    By the way, this discussion only makes sense if you happened to read the weekly “Do Good U Newsletter.” In it I mentioned that I was using a word in the weekly article that I’d never used before.

    To subscribe to the DGU News, simply scroll up on this page and look for the Subscribe box in the right hand column.

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