A Few Good Thoughts: Honesty, Humility & Perspective
What do you see when you observe others? What do you see in the mirror when you are all by your lonesome? I venture to state that these visions reach their mental resting point coated with a thick veneer of distortion & fallacies (ok, lies!). Achieving honest (pure) insight, on the worlds inside of & around us, requires a dedicated, strategic effort of internal restoration & integration. The shellac of assumptions, insecurities & opinions presents immediately within our mindspace under the guise of 'truth', 'facts', 'scientific observations', 'obvious' conclusions, etc. We are not so honest, correct or objective as we tend to believe, but for that matter, neither are the vast majority of other individuals.
Expert opinions are distributed freely (ironically sold at high prices) by the unclothed emperors & empresses hiding behind curtains of credentials, social status, positive reviews, educational achievements, 'scientific research', charisma, clever branding strategies and their ilk. As the average person becomes hip (wise) to this situation, there is arising a social undercurrent (less 'under' each day) of panicked desperation, as yet inabandoned 'All-or-Nothing' thought processes kick in, assuring us that all experts are trash, and that we are hopelessly stranded in a blind-leading-the-blind global cultural scenario. Per uuush (usual), our emotional overreactions drive us madly away from the procedure of regaining cognitive clarity. Our contemporary obsession with disclosure, and subsequently upon methods of discernment, while not misplaced in intention, manifests primarily as a great sea of mirky 'conspiracies' (yes, quite a few true ones in there), 'facts' and 'logical conclusions' (so often entirely devoid of Logic).
Do we realize that Logic represents an unchanging, algebraic approach to thinking? Logic, like Mathematics, is a provable, diagrammable, indisputable system. However, when we commonly employ the term 'logic', we really mean we have been convinced by shiny (sometimes clever) rhetoric. Fast talking does not always a fast mind reflect. 'Sounds Right' and 'Good Enough' thinking are in vogue. When, at a mere glance, we detect the basic elements of a decent argument, we readily accept the whole enchilada as our own 'truth'. This is the 'how' of the aforementioned 'shellacking' process. Rather than questioning our dearly held beliefs about the world, we simply pile onto the dung-heaps of popular opinion we call our minds. Why is this so? Why don't we go seeking for the fullness of Truth? One word: Fear.
The vox popoli (lit. 'voice of the people'), that hallowed authority of democracy, always inevitably comes to parrot that lowest common denominator of human feeling: Fear. As a bit of a tangent, 'making the world safe for democracy' has created endless chaos & violence, the twin handmaidens of Fear... this result is no mere coincidence. Conversely, Elitism, effected as cultural governance by the established men/women behind the curtain, has not worked out well for us either. What, then, is the solution to this muddle-headed, addle-hearted, chaotic-souled world we have created for ourselves, via a combination of both ignorant action & cowardly inaction? Inner self-government. Integrity. Integration. Honesty. A culture does not reflect Her leadership, rather Her leadership reveals the aggregate condition of the Hearts & Souls of the mass of individuals that make up Her limits. There is no use continuing to concentrate energy on roof replacement in a culture where the very foundations are ever-crumbling.
Rebuilding foundations is both a corporate, and an individual responsibility & task. Again, we are afraid. We are afraid of the bald Truth, we are aware enough to realize that it is likely reasonably ugly. "Not today!", we cry. Or else we fight for 'disclosure' on the grander scale... we can all get behind that. "Just don't tell anyone what I've been up to, especially myself. I don't believe any of that, I'm awesome, everyone else is the problem!" Likely story. Go on, keep reassuring yourself that way. No really, I'll wait.
Once we begin to accept our personal 'ugly' truths as more or less factual, we put ourselves in danger of being swallowed by the twin pits of 'Honesty' & 'Humility'. "I've been an absolute prig, it's all my fault! I'm just a worm. A dreadful person, really, you don't even know the half of it!" Honestly is a holistic picture, whereas any selective focus on any particular element(s) removes us from the realm of pure & total accuracy concerning observed facts. Indeed, we have been prigs! Dreadful prigs, yes. True Humility begins with a heartfelt acknowledgement of this fact, and THEN MOVES ON to add & develop an ease with one's strengths, gifts & positive contributions. Extremism of thought, such as an 'all-or-nothing' mindset, throws us off balance. Our 'joy' of determining what is the best in any given situation robs us of the present Joy of an experience, object, relationship or individual. The switch to 'finding the best' is an attempt to counteract our prior lackadaisical 'good enough' problem.
Balance is a foreign concept to our culture, and therefore many of us. We (occasionally) know Balance when we see it, but bringing it about in our lives seems a bridge too far. This view is reinforced, with passionate, yet vain hopefulness, by the confused men/women behind the curtain. I apologize in advance for the disappointment, however: Balance is possible. Perfect balance is ever elusive, but a functional level is not beyond our grasp(s). We have been conditioned to avoid even the attempt at a reach. Like the unfortunately common 'failure' of dieting, self-discipline is the primary factor (a lack thereof). Great swathes of Knowledge, poorly, inadequately or un-applied leads to nothing particularly fruitful over the long haul. On the other hand, the barest glimmer of an honest Truth, earnestly leveraged, will yield storehouses worth of Wisdom & inner growth, ultimately resulting in personal stability.
The Truth is, 'Honesty' & 'Humility' are matters of perspective. Absolute Truth is not relative (perish the thought!), but our points-of-view most certainly are. Our capacity to comprehend Absolute Truth is hampered by our sets of pre-determined 'truths'. "I know", "I get it", "I understand"... these statements are typically half-truths or full-on, bald-faced lies. There is no shame in a lack of comprehension. The Emperors & Empresses don't 'get' or understand much either, perhaps their greatest secret. The first step to Truth is a fair survey of those subjects we feel comfortably certain about, generally to be followed up with a wholesale discardment of our 'wisdom' on the matter.
Logic always works. However, incorrect input can provide nothing more than unchecked conclusions. Our minds are houses of cards, diligently crafted upon sandy shores. All is not lost however. Our minds, at their core, are not broken so much as gathering dust. Deep, hearty piles of dusty conclusions. A few good thoughts can clear out the cobwebs and get the gears turning again. Even creaky, shaky thoughts, when internally-formulated, are worth their weight in gold at the moment. The observation of better-oiled, well-optimized mental equipment, especially through the power of (the right) old books, can ease our own maintenance procedures. We don't know what's best, we don't even really know what's adequate. But... that does not mean we know nothing at all.
Try reading some dead philosophers, Greek, Roman, medieval. Reach back to when thinkers were less cloudy in general. You will find them no more difficult to read than more modern philosophical, theological, metaphysical or spiritual texts. In fact, there is a piercing clarity of thought amongst many of the old Masters that I am sure you will find refreshing (over time). Don't go asking Siri, Alexa, Google, Wikipedia, your professor, your parents, experts, or a 'smarter' person for assistance. Consider it a challenge, like a crossword puzzle. Take the time to chew your mental food. A seed of a thought gleaned in this manner bears an abundance of fruit. Wisdom is useful tool for us in our lives, when applied directly to our daily experiences. Wisdom is no abstract, stuffy, textbookish field of inquiry. She is found as easily in the thrills of hang-gliding as in the old, smelly volumes I earlier directed you towards. What is found in the books, and not so easily mid-air, is a concentration of clearly-honed mental energy elucidating said Wisdom.
I don't care how you obtain your Wisdom, but the old-timey philosophers (and alchemists) represent a handy shortcut. Modern & contemporary explanations, commentaries & 'insights' on these long-passed geniuses shed little light, complicating brilliantly sculpted statements through the application of dull, behind-the-curtain propagandically devised cognitive processes. 'Humility' & 'Honesty' tell you that you're 'not a genius' (potentially true, but who really knows yet?), 'not smart enough to understand', etc. These 'virtues' shortchange our intellectual & personal growth. At a certain point, nothing halts growth more than these bastions of False Integrity. Trust your Mind, and see how that goes. Don't be so scared.