maintaining sufficient detachment
I seem to be having a period of lucidity today – we better write while it lasts.
We welcome recent subscribers to the blog. Please be aware that not all of our essays are of interest to every reader. If this one does not interest you, the next one (or the one after that) may.
One must live, actually be, in the moment to be fully alive. Yet in one’s thinking, a person needs to consciously maintain a certain amount of detachment.
Do we define ourselves by our closely held beliefs? Yes, we do. An excessive emotional investment in our beliefs can lead us to be close minded, and rigid and inflexible in our thinking. Such close mindedness shuts us off from gaining a broader perspective on the world around us, and limits our possibilities for growth.
Why the resistance to considering what others are saying? We seem to (too often) be talking past each other. Is there any genuine dialogue or discussion? Do we truly listen to what others are saying? Or do we too rapidly jump to conclusions that what they are saying is simply ignorant nonsense? Even if it is nonsense, we might consider why our fellow human being believes it, and acts upon erroneous beliefs.
We need to maintain sufficient detachment from our beliefs and habitual ways of thinking, so that we can retain an objectivity towards our own beliefs and towards what is going on around us. Call this self scrutiny or introspection if you like. We may find that we are clinging to erroneous beliefs ourselves, and realize we need to let go and discard them.
The bumper sticker below is from stickergiant.com.
Truth versus the Perception of Truth, also Knowledge and Understanding
Every successful sales person and every effective politician knows that there is the truth, and there is also the perception of the truth in the minds of everyday people. These are often not the same. Some politicians and some sales people do not, at times, themselves know the difference between the two. What counts most, often times, is what the people believe is true – even if what they believe to be true is actually false.
(The news media in the Western world, most especially in the USA, has learned this lesson well in the past 30 or so years. Their news “reporting” is too often geared towards shaping public opinion instead of simply reporting the news objectively. Recall that there are 3 forms of a lie. One can knowingly and purposely make a false statement. A person can choose to suppress (keep hidden) a truth. And, the third form is that of the half-truth.)
We are living in a world filled with much misinformation and disinformation and discord and hatred. Out of control emotions and passions are often overcoming reasoned (rational) thinking.
So what is truth? We could define truth, in a practical sense, thus: Truth is what people can be led or made to believe. People (significant numbers of them) can be led to believe lies, and then base their decisions and actions on such lies that are taken to be truths.
Here we present 2 images of paintings by Rene Magritte (1898 – 1967) who in the 1930s did a series of paintings called The Human Condition. There is an even better example of this series on the cover of the book, Art at the Rockface – The Fascination of Stone. The view is looking out from the inside of a cave at a castle on the side of a cliff. You can view the painting here:
Quoting from the above mentioned book (page 89):
In The Human Condition, the viewer looks through the mouth of a cave across a steep mountainous valley. In the center of the painting, standing on an easel, is a painted canvas representing a castle. We are led to believe, but can never know for certain, that the painted castle conceals a real castle behind.
These 2 images below are courtesy of Wikipedia.
Now for another painting in the series.
May be it is a clear piece of glass that is mounted on the easel. Yet, we conclude it is a painting (within a painting). Perhaps, we can benefit from being more flexible in our thinking and not rushing to conclusions.
So much data, information, “knowledge” at hand today, but so little understanding and perspective. We are collectively suffering from information overload. No joke. If we cannot achieve understanding, greater perspective, and eventually wisdom, we are no better than our constant companions, the personal computer (or the “I-phone” or “I-pad”, “I-pod”, etc.).
What is understanding? What is wisdom? Perhaps it is easier to recognize them in others than to define these terms. But, wisdom and understanding can be seen in those individuals who are living constructive, responsible, and loving lives. We will not attempt to define wisdom here. Understanding may just be (or involve) recognizing and properly comprehending the many and diverse interrelationships that exist among facts, events and people. Understanding may involve being able to put events and facts in proper context. (We have never looked up the term in the dictionary. Perhaps we ought to.)
Can we acquire or develop understanding and wisdom in ourselves as individual citizens? If so, how does one acquire or develop these? By or through life experiences, education (both formal in school and/or by self-teaching via reading and conversing with and listening to wise people (and then reflecting on what they said)), or a combination of these?
Most likely, by a combination of all that and more. By working consciously on our habits of thinking so that these are more flexible, more open to considering more factors, and by striving for a broader perspective (“bigger picture”) on events and on people, we can gain insights and understanding. With greater understanding, we can make better, more constructive decisions, and thereby live fuller, more loving lives.
But, alas, life is a struggle all the way through; and perhaps even beyond this life, the struggle for understanding, for growth, for realization of potential continues.
Random and sundry musings to finish this essay with.
There is a necessary role and proper use of authority in our lives. We do not reject the need for authority (secular, parental, ecclesial, etc.). We do, however, have serious problems with the abuse of authority.
Freedom and personal responsibility go together. Freedom without personal responsibility is licentiousness, and results in individuals acting selfishly and they harm others and themselves. We need to become a virtuous people who embraces freedom and personal responsibility.
There is a legitimate need for organized religion (because too many of us are not up to the effort of seeking spiritual truth). Unfortunately, there are invariably abuses of religious or church authority. (This may be a reflection of the type of person (or personality) that makes it to high positions in an organized religion’s hierarchy or power structure.)
Over the millenia, there has been much absurd nonsense that organized priestly classes have palmed off on the people the world over. For those priests/priestesses, ministers, rabbis, imams, Brahmins, and other interceders with the Divine on behalf of suffering humanity who insist on playing moral arbiter over all aspects of our lives, please make sure you are up to dealing with moral complexity!! (Notwithstanding the attempts over the many centuries by officials of all these religions to manage the perception that they know so much, the truth is that none of these church men (or women) are all-knowing.) Sin exists. The two extremes of either asserting (proclaiming) that just about every human action is sinful, or that there are hardly any sinful actions at all, are both false and greviously mislead people.
The branch of Christianity that seems to me to be closest to original Christianity may just be the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches. (Feeling like a non-denominational Christian as of late.)
Though we greatly value and appreciate the wisdom and truths of the Vedic scriptures and Vedic philosophy of India, we must point out that modern Hinduism is rather decadent. Although ultimately we see the Vedic scriptures as teaching there is one God, Krishna, (with all gods and goddesses just being manifestations of Him), modern Hinduism has degenerated into rampant polytheism, and even pantheism. God transcends His creation. And, the caste system of modern India is corrupt. Society was originally to be organized and segmented (by occupations) based on merit and qualification, and not on birth. A corrupt Brahmin class altered this original design to perpetuate their family power and status through their children.
As we had originally thought we would not post an essay on Tuesday, October 2, we include the link to it for our email subscribers in case they missed it.
Best wishes to all.