Two adversaries of happy, successful relationships are deceit and insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s declaration of high ideals and her/his actions, disinformation and distraction must be used to attempt to win the favor of others.
It is easy to parrot or posit a set of ethics and ideals, but only people who are honest and sincere with themselves are actually able to follow them. This is only the first recommendation of the ancient philosophers and wisdom teachers. A second recommendation is to not only follow one’s set of ethics and ideals, but to do so without sanctimony. That is, one can exercise lofty ideals and do so without riding on one’s “high horse”.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”–Matthew 7:3 English Standard Version of the Christian Bible
I’m reticent to quote biblical scripture because Christian scripture has been cherry-picked almost to death by people trying to justify their opinions about nearly every topic under the Sun. However, I use the above, quoted verse not to validate my observations, but as a prompt for further contemplation regarding the exercising and preaching of lofty ideals.
I’m aware that it is common for people to profess their admiration of peerless ethics and profound wisdom. If when these benchmarks of behavior are expounded upon in essays and lectures only as intellectual, religious exercises, they are mere drills in technical skills and personal sanctimony. This is one of the hazards of trying to write short articles such as today’s blog post.
The point of writings such as this one is not to exclaim a sermon nor to proselytize for any particular ideology or spiritual dogma. Such expositions are rarely well received. This post is meant to trigger some contemplation of beliefs and behaviors that are well-intentioned but not fully carried out by certain others and myself. Frank, inner reflection is valuable in our efforts to become the best versions of ourselves.
For example, as a people, we place a high value on the concept of freedom; and rightly so. We might imagine a freedom that allows us to say and do things mainly for our own benefit without considering the freedom of others. It is common practice to expound upon the beauties of charity, patriotism, love, and freedom. On the other hand, we overlook that we have responsibilities as well as rights. So we thirst for the freedom that asks mainly, “What’s in it for me?” When we feel that craving, perhaps it is time for introspection. This will help us to explore our beliefs about freedom and other lofty ideals. We do this not to condemn nor validate beliefs, but mainly to evaluate them according to our personally professed set of values.
Lofty ideals are not only the province of ethics and behavior. We humans express ourselves in the arts and sciences, too. We appreciate masterpiece paintings and sculptures. Lofty ideals are often expressed in breath-taking architectural creations built for public and private use. It is also important to note the scientific and medical research that is conducted for the benefit of society. Those that are, at their cores, performed to manifest high ideals.
As we observe hierarchy and society we see and hear certain charismatic, attractive individuals who are brimming with passion and idealism. We may even admire and envy them. However, we know in our hearts that there is a dark aspect about them. We suspect that brutality, cruelty, and violence are simmering just below the surface of their personas. It is this potential for rage and power that tempts us to become their followers.
The morphing of lofty ideals into fanaticism and hubris causes the eventual downfall of the leader and her/his followers. This is one of the dangers of attaching ourselves to points of view. Whenever lofty ideals lead to ideology, the creation of “the other” and the enemy takes place. In the past, such ideologies have led to ethnic cleansing, massacres, pogroms along with forced doctrinal and religious “purifications” of society. These atrocities have taken place since the beginnings of civilization.
An effective, satisfying life comes about through relationships with others and ourselves. However we tend to make life difficult and hideous by stubborn possessiveness. We do not find viable solutions to our problems through beliefs, escapism, and ideals. We find answers through seeking understanding what causes our dependent, possessive tendencies.
It is good practice to examine our hearts and the manners in which we express our highest selves. When this comes from our cores and not from second-hand ideals and ideologies, life will become a grand adventure. Of course, this is only the way I interpret it right now–take it or leave it as you see fit.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th century German revolutionary and American statesman, journalist, and reformer, Carl Schurz. “Ideals are like the stars: we never reach them, but like the mariners of the sea, we chart our course by them.”