Most of our judgments and opinions are negative ones. The way of the world, according to us, is essentially disappointing in nature. It has, by and large, failed to live up to our expectations.
Despite the best will in the world, we are always liable to undermine the principles of any decision for selfish ends or fearful reasons, and with a solid justification for doing so readily prepared.
Let us suppose that I have decided to buy a new pair of pants, and that I have recently seen a nice pair worn by a man in the street, and the same ones in only one particular shop window.
Hope will not change that which is or will be, and much of the reasoning we might use to justify having it is flawed. To hope is to express a preference that, all other things being considered, one thing rather than another might occur, and that the power of our positive thinking may in some way affect the outcome.
At those times when events or persons conspire against us and our design, we may surrender abjectly and bitterly, or martyr ourselves in a glorious and righteous battle to the death.
“The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist,” wrote the French poet Charles Baudelaire, and this is true of our ego also.
The unmanageability of the world is constantly in violent conflict with the artifice and illusion of the world we ourselves create.
I do not consider my views or my perspective to be narrow or myopic, nor my goals and opinions to be essentially self-interested or ungenerous. But of course they are, for I make the fundamental mistake of confusing what is my own personal view of the world with the nature of the world as it actually is.
The world and our experience of it is in so many myriad ways truly not what we think it is, and neither are we. The architecture of the world is one of our own devising and construction.
Being honest with ourselves becomes especially difficult when we subscribe to a personal philosophy that is shrouded in pretty and inspirational phrases, poetic images, empty gestures and banal ritual. These things do nothing to justify our sometimes unworthy actions or our dishonesty with ourselves and others.
My spirituality – though I seldom use that word or think of it in those terms – also rebukes and admonishes me at times when I have done less than my best, less than what I know is honourable.
A comprehensive investigation of ourselves is essential, I believe, at this stage of our inquiry. We can discuss the buying of pants and the playing of football matches up until a certain point, but then it is unavoidable.
Words put together into a sentence are supposed to mean something. They’re supposed to communicate a meaningful concept or a coherent thought.