“If successful, anger breeds arrogance,
if foiled, resentment….
When fortune removes its adversary,
it turns its teeth on itself.”
~ Seneca, On Anger
“Truth is a pathless land….We have built in our images a sense of security – religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these dominates thinking, relationships and daily life.
“These are the causes of our problems, for they divide us from each other in every relationship.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
We are self-determining. We make up our own minds. We think for ourselves. We cut through other people’s b. s. and discern the way things really are. Right?
Wrong. In fact, these concepts are almost completely bogus.
Our attitudes toward life and self are built on our life’s experiences. We are influenced in our thinking and reactions to events by other things that we may not even recall. We did not paint our own picture of the world and reality. In large part, it was shaped by things out of our control: other people’s ideas that they passed on to us verbally and by example, trauma (physical and psychological pain or harm), and the experiences that we have viewed through those questionable filters throughout our lives.
Like it or not, to a huge degree our thought processes are based on experiences that probably have little or no actual relationship to what’s happening in our lives now. These are the “images” that Sri Krisnamurti spoke of: the unconscious acceptance of the “symbols, ideas, beliefs” that were shaped by our perception of them, which were in turn shaped by things mostly outside of our control.
In short, unless we have learned to discern the difference between these ideas that have been colored by our beliefs, prejudices, and fears and the reality of what is happening, and unless we make a concerted effort to apply reason to our observation of the world, we aren’t really thinking for ourselves at all.
The Buddhist teacher Charlotte Joko Beck taught of a man who decided to take his little boat out on the lake one foggy morning. He really loved his little boat and took great care of it. Having just finished a careful paint job, he was quite proud of his work.
As he rowed through the mist, he suddenly felt a bump. Looking around at the bow, he saw that he had collided with another boat. He was immediately enraged: his new paint job had probably been marred, there might have been other damage, and who was that careless jerk who was paddling around on the foggy lake? [I know – but that’s the way we think, isn’t it?]
On closer inspection, he saw that the boat was empty, a line dangling into the water from the front.
“Oh, gosh! Someone’s boat got untied and drifted out into the lake. I’d better tow it to the marina for safekeeping until the owner can be located. Nice little boat; I’m sure the owner would hate to lose it!” In a few heartbeats, he realized that the facts were nothing like he’d thought and his perception of reality shifted.
How often do we fly off the handle when confronted with things that fail to conform to actual reality? How often do we react to our perceptions of fact, instead of considering other possibilities? How often do we disregard out part in something and seek immediately to shift the blame?
Obviously we can’t take the time to analyze every little thing that happens and causes fear or confusion (and aren’t they really the same thing?); but when we do have time, why not move out of the comfort of our pre-judged ideas, our fears, and the things we take for granted and look at life from a different angle? Are we afraid that we might find that we were actually wrong? Is it easier to float along in other people’s mental rut, or is it better to work at really thinking for ourselves?
We, my wife and I and thousands of others, are about to lose a friend. His family are about to lose a husband, father, son-in-law and so forth, as it always is. None of us walk alone, not really, and few of us pass unnoticed and unmourned. In his case, many will notice and mourn.
Bill has terminal cancer. It arose suddenly and was misdiagnosed for far too long. Maybe he could have beaten it if things had been different. But there it is. It is what it is. He and the family seem to be dealing with it about as well as can be expected.
We have never met him in person. I’ve spoken to him once on the phone. We know him from his blog, podcasts, and Facebook. His signature is in a book his wife wrote, signed to Shel and me by the whole family (and their dog). We can’t really claim to know him at all, and yet in many respects we feel as if we do. We do know and love his wife and kids, who are all three the kind of people who make you feel as if you’d known them most of your life and just need to catch up a bit. We know them well enough to be absolutely certain that the man who married that woman, who fathered and helped raise those children to young adulthood, was a good man who lived an essentially good life. None of us are perfect.
Of all the addictions, food has to be one of the trickiest. Let’s face it: we don’t really need tobacco, heroin, cocaine, booze, shopping, sex, religion and so forth in order to survive, although we may think we do. It’s hard to convince an addict who’s shaking it off cold turkey, or an alcoholic who’s in the midst of an unsupervised detox, but people do survive these things every day and, despite how it may feel, no one is going to die if he doesn’t get laid today.*
Food — well, that’s a different issue. Continue reading