Self-Enlightenment Limiting wisdom by hiding in dogma BY: Troy Murphy
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Life beckons action in opposing directions, with no clear path. Although we desire a clear demarcation between right and wrong, both positive and negative outcomes accompany most choices. Black and white thinking grossly over-simplifies our complex world. The simple metaphor of the fork in the road doesn’t aptly describe most choices; rather than black and white, our options fall within the multiple shades of grey. Strict dogma alleviates the mental strain of complex choice. Predetermined mental heuristics frees energy for more important work—but the short-cuts also blind us to new applicable information. History has painfully replayed the dreadful consequences of societies unquestioningly following generally accepted dogma.
Our lazy mind wants automatic answers, cursing careful examinations, and functioning from habit. Constructive living requires more, stepping beyond the automatic, skeptically examining before committing to action. Simple responses following unbendable rules conceal enlightened deviations from popular thought. But we are afraid to stray. Creativity emerges from experimentations into the many shades of grey.
We, much like plants and animals, find comfort in simplicity. An unchanging environment provides security. Structure and strict rules relieve anxiety. But we live in a hectic world. Our environment continually changes—flooding with abundance one day; but suffering from draught the next. Grudgingly we change when necessity forces it upon us. Even after changing, in the face of hurt, we eventually slip, returning to the comfortable, enjoying escape in the habitual behaviors of the past—even behaviors partially responsible for the original hurt. Like a dog to his vomit, we medicate our weary souls, dull our senses, and relive the painful pasts. We follow trajectories set in motion because moving with momentum is simple and spontaneous.
To avoid guilt, we give superficial effort to change. With a steady diet of noble vagueness and memorized jargon, we cover the crumbling walls of human frailties with a thin coat of paint. Instead of tackling the difficult habits of behavior, we prefer self-justification and concealing and deflecting interpretations.
Actions, the doing, begin in the imaginative corners of the mind. We need hope. We need positive thoughts. Sometimes the fresh coat of optimism sets change in motion. But positivity is not the end goal—changing the circumstances of our life is. When learning to ride a bike, balancing is important, but to move we must peddle, consequently making balancing easier. Positive thoughts and self-confidence grow in conjunction with working success. We need to peddle. No matter how positive the interpretation, when our behaviors are destructive, growth is inhibited, limiting the richness of experience. Positivity is a tool, a tool best used in conjunction with work.
"With a steady diet of noble vagueness and memorized jargon, we cover the crumbling walls of human frailties with a thin coat of paint. "
Acknowledging the proclivities of the self-deceptive mind may slightly dishearten the gleeful fool; but knowledge or reality doesn’t need to be disastrous. Habitual thinking is not unchangeable. We can recognize and challenge thoughts. We can courageously change unhealthy patterns. We can respond differently to the disrupting triggers. We can skeptically challenge the accepted beliefs, replacing some of them with complex answers.
The grandiose promises of untold riches and the glory of uninterrupted happiness temp our fragile wills, drawing attention to the wasted theories of simpleness. We fall to the succulent lure of paradise where dreams effortlessly explode into reality. Most such claims distract from the necessary sweat needed for change. Product designers, marketers, and even well-being authors cater to our desires. These ideas rapidly spread. History proves that the popularity of an idea doesn’t correlate with its effectiveness. Gain the body of your dreams in 5 minutes a day, appeals more to consumers than comprehensive weight-loss and muscle toning plans.
We must courageously challenge accepted ideas. None one has exclusive right to the truth. We are susceptible to deception. Challenging treasured beliefs is difficult, especially when we invested energy in those beliefs. Political loyalty provides a perfect example. How often during election season does a political pundit reverse support; no matter how discrediting new emergent evidence appears. Opposing evidence, instead of persuading change, usually promotes more ardent support and boisterous defense.
Accurately appraisal of growth suffers at the hands of self-protection, leaving vast areas unexplored, hurtful behaviors and sensitive reactions are justified and hidden. We never escape the challenges of human limitations. But through conscientiously listening to others, and quiet self-reflection, we achieve some enlightenment—issues conveniently ignored come to the light. Through the sporadic glimpses into the canyons of our soul, we see the small deformities—the rough edges; with insight the real work begins. Not immediately visible, the changes begin to take hold. As we look back glimpses of the expanded self-understanding becomes visible from the larger perspective of years—not days. We see our growth and the accompanying blessings. We held hands with experience, made tough choices, sought personal insights and we changed the bland trajectories of our lives.