Remove Things Every Day

The human mind is too complex—too unpredictable—to be reliably molded into a state of perpetual satisfaction. Religions have attempted to manipulate the minds of the masses for millennia. Simultaneously, psychologists and their predecessors have tried to harness the power of suggestion to corral thoughts into desired channels. With only occasional, but temporary, success, the latter have been just as successful as religion. Which is to say, they have failed miserably. But sufficient numbers of people have been persuaded to believe religious dogma and psychological proclamations and witch-doctors’ mumbo-jumbo that partial successes have been embraced by many as evidence of the infallibility of religious faith or scientific “proof.”

The idea that simply adopting a set of beliefs can guarantee everlasting happiness is absurd. But a lot of people seem to buy into the concept. A lot. Most? Ultimately, we have no real choice but to accept the chaotic randomness the universe; but do we have to like it? No. Yet we continue to try to wrest control of this uncontrollable beast through willing but utterly irrational self-delusion. But that self-delusion is not universal. Humankind has seen fit to form hundreds, if not thousands, of limited pockets wherein unified mass-hysteria is promoted and rewarded. From Southern Baptists to Sunni Muslims to practitioners of various forms of Voodoo, humans have each determined that their rigid beliefs are the sole “right” beliefs and that the rest are either insane or blasphemous or both. Irreverence in any form is not tolerated. But the same thing is true of science, though science usually is willing to change to conform to evidence. Until then, though, “evidence” is treated as “proof.” Bah! We know nothing! It is past time to admit it. I know nothing. Or, as the Zen Buddhist (who spoke at my church recently) said repeatedly about what he was taught and what he teaches: “I don’t know.”

I wonder why we (collectively, as in all humankind) seem unwilling to accept the impossibility of universal, perpetual satisfaction? Is periodic dissatisfaction too painful, too upsetting? Is the idea that we will never get the answers we think we deserve so unbelievable that we refuse to accept it? Don’t get me wrong; I, too, am unwilling to accept that I will never know what I want, desperately, to know. So I am just like the followers of Jim Jones and Pat Robertson and the Pope and Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and on and on and on. I wonder, though, whether those other followers frequently experience doubt so powerful that knowledge about everything seems uncertain and unbelievable?

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.

~ Lao Tzu ~

The goal of universal peace is a waste of energy. It is a pipe-dream unworthy of its own pipe. Should we be satisfied with, or at least tolerant of, periodic wars, genocides, dictatorships, and all the other blatant examples of humanity’s deeply flawed psyche? No, of course not. But if not, how can I argue against the philosophies that claim to seek an end to those horrendous human foibles? I can’t. Yet I do. We have to stop seeing the world through the eyes and look at it, instead, through the mind. But will we?


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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