As a person who loves Truth, I also prefer honesty, but honesty is not always easy, person to person. There are things we are trained to abstain from revealing. For example, as a married, sixty-five-year-old man I might find a young woman extremely attractive, but I would be ill-advised to be too honest about my true feelings. Not that I lie, but I “don’t go there.”
Why not? Because honesty has repercussions. If I tell a young damsel she is beautiful, she will respond, and I will respond to her response, and who the heck knows where I might wind up?
Sometimes, out of purely scientific interest, I become curious about where I might wind up. To avoid harassment-lawsuits, black eyes, and divorce, what I do is to write a short story. In the story I allow the responses to play out. (I change the names to protect the innocent, of course.) In this manner, where anyone else might feel guilty for entertaining a fantasy, I get to call myself an “artist” for doing the exact same thing.
When writing such a story there is a tendency to aim for a “happy ending”. For example, as my wife is spiritual and reads the Bible a lot, I might write a story where the wife allows her husband to be like King Solomon, and have six hundred concubines. As I aim my plot towards this happy ending a little voice in my head starts to object. “No,” it states, “This is not going to happen.”
It turns out we have an innate pragmatist in our imagination which is able to envision all sorts of unhappy endings. Call it your “conscience” if you will, it applies the brakes to our unwise impulses. Working in the field of Childcare as I do, I get to watch these brakes be built. Where a three-year-old jumps and sprains his ankle, a four-year-old gauges the height, shakes his head, and climbs down.
The ability to foresee the consequences of our actions is actually a science, and involves the ability to weigh actions and reactions. In the west we say “you reap what you sow” and in the east they speak of “Karma”, but it boils down to the same thing. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t spend the time.” “You’ve got to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues.” “What goes around comes around.” “You’ve had your way; now you must pay.”
The fact which most really don’t want to accept is: This science isn’t flexible. People are always looking for loopholes that don’t exist. People don’t really like the idea that there is such a thing as “Righteousness”, and a “Day of Judgement.” At my Childcare I am always unwillingly put in the role of almighty judge, and hear small children invent the most absurd loopholes, as they build elaborate cases about the ownership of inconsequential items such as sticks, and then later, when I wearily drag myself home, and turn on the evening news after work, I don’t watch all that long before I mutter to myself, “Adults aren’t all that different.”
People need loopholes, because people screw up. Even a gentleman opening a door for a lady may see the lady step through the door into the path of an oncoming truck. Every lifetime has a quota of several thousand apologies, and no one can survive without mercy (which some are more able to accept than others.) However at this point a distinction needs to be made. There are those to whom loopholes are a gift of compassion which they blush upon receiving, and then there are those to whom loopholes are a way of life, which they manipulate for their own advantage.
The difference seems to involve ones relationship with Truth. Some believe there is such a thing as Truth, and some deny that there is any such Reality. Some believe there is such a thing as “Law” and some scorn such belief. Some earnestly strive to conform to higher principles, and some sneer that such conformity is a sign a person is a sucker and a chump.
Personally I believe it is best to strive for Truth, for I believe that if you stand by Truth then Truth stands by you. This does not seem like some sort of esoteric mysticism to me, but rather a sort of practical matter involving sensible engineering. When an engineer builds a bridge he wants honest, truthful measurements, or the bridge may fall down. Of course, all engineers know about “Murphy’s Law”, (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”), but they don’t go out of their way to seek such consequences. Sometimes the criteria engineers are subjected to involves a best-effort built upon sand, even though scripture advises against building on sand, but in such a case the “given”, (perhaps a minuscule budget), is the Truth, and engineers do their best to relate to Truth.
I think the same is true for so-called “social engineering” (which is just a highfalutin way of describing what ordinary folk call “relationships”, “friendships”, “partnerships”, “marriages” or even, in battles, “the rules of engagement”). When people “build” a relationship they employ certain tools and techniques, and some people are more honest in this process than others. My experience has been that honesty is the best policy, in the long run, although I’ve seen plenty of people be sneaky and think they “got away with it,” in the short run. If you are young you will have to just take my word for this: “It all comes out in the wash.”
This can be a bit nervous-making, when an Authority such as Jesus states, “Be on guard against…hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops.”
Yikes. I’m not sure I want stereo speakers attached to my brain, broadcasting my stray inner thoughts. It might be all right to have thought-balloons in cartoons, but, in real life, being psychic would be embarrassing. I prefer to sort out my thoughts, and to go through several rough drafts before publishing them with my big mouth, and, as far as other people’s thoughts are concerned, I know some people who make me very glad I lack psychic powers.
On a more positive note, I have had the good fortune to meet a few people in my life who I wouldn’t mind learning were psychic. Hopefully you have known a few such people yourself, for otherwise you won’t have a clue what I am talking about. They are the sort of person you can talk to for hours. They are agreeable people, even when you disagree; they are people you feel a deeper-than-normal level of understanding with.
Now that my hair is gray I understand such people are few and far between in life. If I had my life to do over again I would have done a better job of staying in touch. Even though I have lost touch with many, they stand out in my memory as people who restored my faith in the goodness of humanity, or at least in the potential which humanity has (and perhaps fails to live up to) to be splendid.
This brings my thinking around to wondering what the heck it was that these old friends, (or “we”), made so easy. To be honest, it was honesty. It is dishonest people, it seems to me, that make life be hard. So then I have to think hard. What in the world makes a hard life seem better, to some, than an easy life? The answer I have come up with is that there was some hardship in the past that hardened some people’s hearts, and convinced them that it was foolish to expect better. Born and bred in corruption, they think corruption is the way of the world, and so they perpetuate corruption. It never occurs to them life could be far easier.
The easiness of Truth is often dismissed with words such as “naivete” or “innocence” or “overly optimistic”, as if only children believe in Truth, as if Truth was a sort of Tooth-fairy or Santa Claus. The cynical distrust that feeds corruption is based on disillusionment, broken hearts, shattered faith, and all the other sad events that harden the tenderhearted by subjecting them to difficulties they did not deserve. Yet, despite the most hardened hearts, the corrupt betray a secret longing they own, a hidden hunger to believe in Santa Claus.
How can I assert such a thing? It is because even after making life ugly, they demonstrate a fondness for beauty, or at least for the trappings of beauty. True, they often destroy the beauty in their attempts to clutch it, building a garish mansion smack dab in the middle of a pristine wilderness, or pawing a young woman in their dotage because they can afford a “trophy wife”, but, all the same, they hanker for beauty, and therefore deny the very cynicism, and the sophist scorn of softness, that they based their hard and harsh lives upon.
The hypocrisy involved can be huge. The wealthy dowager floods her sinuses with phlegm and uses up a box of Kleenex, enjoying a good cry watching a PBS tearjerker about poor and humble people, stuffing her face with caviar and bonbons brought to her on a platter, as she lounges in bed, by a servant she is able to underpay because the servant is an illegal alien, or in some cases a veritable slave, who was recruited from a third-world hellhole with the false promise of a decent wage. Or the billionaire spends millions on a painting by Vincent van Gough, while at the same time underpaying his gardener, who happens to also be a man who suffers, in order to daub upon canvases.
Van Gough loaned us his ear, but such snobs cannot hear, and Beethoven wrote music from the silence of deafness, and the imbecilic wealthy jam into the symphony halls to hear his silence, willfully as blank-eyed as the brain-dead, concerning the very heavenly Truth that makes such music possible: Silent realities, that the rich would call a “cost” and which they refuse to budget for, but which were in fact an “expense” easy as pie for Beethoven to pay. Music was not hardship for Beethoven. Rather music was joy, derived from silent Truth. The hardship in his life involved bringing such an easy thing into a corrupt world which makes that which should be easy be hard.
Beethoven, though as flawed as any human, was in some ways the opposite of the corrupt. Though he could not hear, he gave us beautiful music. The corrupt, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “have ears but cannot hear.”
This logically brings me to the sad state of American politics, where the fundamentally Truth-based premise of the American Constitution is crashing into corrupted concepts, exemplified by the dishonesty of Bill and Hillary Clinton. If ever there were two people who seemingly proved the route to success involved dishonesty, they were paragons for such cynicism. They made millions, and fooled millions as well. They sweet-talked people who should have known better, corrupting courts, charities, the EPA, environmentalists, much of congress, the press, and all but the American voters, who at the last possible moment rejected the sickly-sweet talk of corruption, electing an oddball president, Donald Trump.
It may be a case of too little too late. Though the American people are so disgusted with the corruption in Washington that they refer to it as “The Swamp”, there are many people (tens of millions) who owe their livelihoods to corruption, and these dark people will not go gently into the light, called honesty. They prefer deceit.
This brings me back to where I began, which, in case you forgot, was, how it may be difficult at times to be honest. But why should it be difficult, when I have just wasted a considerable amount of your time stating it should be easy?
The ingredient that makes honesty dangerous is desire. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about the old and wrinkled admiring the beauty of the young and smooth; it is when craving enters the picture that you see old fools hustling off to purchase Viagra. “Desire is the mother of much misery”. It is in recognition of desire’s potential to raise havoc that yogis flee to hide out in the Himalayas, and Saint Paul moans, “Oh what a wretched man am I”. There is no escape from the hankering, which is why Saint John stated, “If we say we have no sin, then the Truth is not in us.” Even if we despise desire, we are desiring, for we are desiring desirelessness.
It then turns out it is best to be honest about desires, and to “confess”. Some enter a Catholic confessional, some sprawl on a psychiatrist’s couch, some lose inhibition and discretion in a tavern, and some chat over coffee with a dear friend, but all find a sort of relief in openness and honesty (even if they rue their big mouth, when they awake the next day with a hangover.)
The trick seems to be to confess the desire without obeying the desire. One must confess craving another’s chocolates without actually snatching them. This is the true test of ones spirituality.
Where corruption enters in is when the desire lurks in the background, demanding gratification. If stamped down into the subconscious, it still influences in sly and devious ways. For the well-meaning, this results in remorse and apology and repentance, but for the truly corrupt, it is simply a way of life. It is the “given”, and results in statements such as “he is given to fits of temper.” It doesn’t matter if you call a wrong a “sin” or a “foible”, the “given” makes life harder than it needs to be.
Once one enters the landscape of fallacy what was simple becomes complex. Even Murphy’s Law turns out to have all sorts of clauses and sub-clauses.
In terms of logic and debate, the complexity of fallacy is a headache for seekers of the Truth, and a sheer delight for lawyers. There are amazingly numerous ways to confuse, complicate, cloud the issue, and avoid Truth:
I urge people to glance through the above link’s list-of-fallacies, but not to adopt an indignant look of disapproval while reading, but rather a sense of humor, and to think of whether you yourself adopt certain argumentative fallacies when caught red handed in the commission of some high crime or misdemeanor, (for example, using the curtains to dry your hands, after washing them). What logic do you produce, when cornered? (“Well? What do you expect? You do say I should wash my hands, don’t you? And don’t you say not to use the guest towels? You leave me with no option!”) (Fallacy # 72).
A sense of humor is a great way to deal with our various shortcomings and failures, and also to deal with the fact there are differences in what different people value. For example, as a long-time bachelor, curtains were never an important thing in my life. I could take them or leave them. Far more important to me was the “delete key” of old fashioned typewriters, which was stuff called “white-out”. My wife, on the other hand, could take white-out or leave it. Then, as we came to know each other better, we had to be in some ways dishonest. I had pretend I cared about curtains, and my wife had to pretend she cared about white-out. We did this because we cared about each other, however our true feelings tended to surface when we were in a hurry and under stress. My wife would buy cabbage and forget to buy white-out, and I’d use her curtains as a hand-towel. Silly things such as these are the ammunition for tremendous marital battles, which outsiders, (especially when they could care less for either curtains or white-out), should steer clear of.
One thing I have noticed is that one can start to keep an account of the times their beloved forgot to buy white-out. White-out can become absurdly important, and, even after one was given an Apple 2C computer and white-out became obsolete (though one might forget and paint the green type on the flickering screen), one might still nurse the memory of the fifteen times their beloved bought food to eat, rather than white-out, and one might use the collected events as evidence the beloved was not, and is not, and will not care in a correct manner. Meanwhile the dearly beloved has her own collection of your own failures, for example the time you lost your temper and stormed off to buy white-out, even though company was coming and she needed help putting up the new curtains. At this point the sense of humor is failing to kick in, and veins are bulging and faces are turning purple about serious, serious things: White-out and curtains. The situation is tragic, I tell you, tragic.
What then saves a marriage is not the sense of humor the couple might have. After all, it is no good to make a joke if the other thinks it is no joking matter. My wife might make a great joke about my (somewhat silly) focus on white-out, but I would just rear up like Queen Victoria and say, “I am not amused.” What is required is something I call “common sense”, but it is not the ordinary common sense of the mind, but rather is a common sense of the heart.
It would be easy, and correct, to simply use the word “Love” at this point, but I am a cerebral fellow and prefer to avoid simplicity. Instead of simply saying we should “listen to the heart”, I want to study the games the brain plays, when it usurps the role intellect has no business pretending it can manage: The Landscape of Love.
What the brain seems to do is to collect bits of what excruciatingly logical people might call “fallacy”, (see above link), and to, increment by increment, built up a totally ridiculous argument. Each particular increment may not be terribly false, but the cumulative effect gets to be great. A little hyperbole in point six, and other examples of incorrect logic in point three and nine, and the slight fallacy gets greater and greater.
Psychobabble is very handy, if you want things distorted. When your wife buys cabbage and forgets to buy white-out, you can get extra mileage if you call it “subconscious hostility” or “sabotage.” Before you know it you have arrived, with your intellect certain it is sane, at the insane conclusion: “You are trying to kill me, aren’t you?”
It is at this point what I call “the common sense of the heart” kicks in (hopefully). The wife and husband face each other, intellectually certain each is out to murder the other, or at least to drive the other utterly bonkers, but some humble voice then says, “Actually I don’t want to kill you, or not right now. Actually I love you.”
You’d be surprised by how many children have been conceived at the end of ferocious arguments. The cynics say this is merely because lust overpowered logic, but you’d be surprised how many of these cynics have never had or raised a child. They tend to be oblivious, when it comes to the common sense of the heart.
Within the compound of marriage, wherein one is confronted with the utter insanity of the opposite sex, witnessing them fuss about absurd things, (white-out or curtains), when the inflamed intellect turns events into a haystack of “final straws”, a power beyond the intellect may appear. It makes no sense to the brainy. It is like lowering a bucket into a black well in a dark cave, and hoisting up sunshine. It is like approaching the sickbed of a person you have carefully cultivated hatred towards for decades, and finding your heart inexplicably overflowing with tenderness and compassion. It allows one to laugh about falling in the mud, and keeps one from laughing when someone else falls in the mud. It is irrational, but a fundamental element of Truth. In fact it gives Truth amazing power, and also makes Truth easy.
One thing I have noticed is that accessing this power seems to involve letting go of desire. The common sense of the heart simply realizes white-out is not all that important, and shrugs off the intellect’s insistence it is the end of the world, of one goes without white-out. Perhaps it is for this reason people who are poor can have excellent senses of humor. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” One is able to be more easy-going when one is not always fretting about losing something. I have lived among people who have no idea where tomorrow’s dinner is coming from, yet who seem to derive far more joy from today’s supper than people who have no such worries. It may not make sense, but it is Truth.
On the other hand I’ve known people who simply can’t let go of their desire. If they are not honest about it, it lurks in the background as a sort of ulterior motive to every conversation, and when they protest their innocence they always resemble greedy Miss Piggy exclaiming “Moi?” to Kermit the Frog.
While humor can to some degree defuse the danger of fallacy, by making it obvious and by (to some degree) “confessing the sin”, the danger remains as long as one puts the desire ahead of Truth. The greatest danger of all occurs when the fallacy, increment by increment, grows into the absurd falsehoods of the “my-wife-is-trying-to-kill-me” sort, and yet the absurdity is not recognized. At that point one is starting to break the Ninth Commandment (Eighth, if you’re Lutheran), because you are “bearing false witness” about another person. Once you step over that line you are cruising for a bruising, and making life much harder than it needs to be.
There seems to be a choice involved, wherein one has free will and decides what they value. In my humorous example the choice is between white-out and Love. The choice is less humorous in the case of a heroin addict, looking at his wife’s pocket book, and facing a choice between withdrawal symptoms and saving money for his children’s food, but even in the case of an addict it is a choice between desire and Love.
In the end, Love is the correct choice. Love is the most high and mysterious and beautiful aspect of Truth, and cannot be comprehended by the calculating intellect. One should chose Love as the “given” in their life, for your “given” determines what you will be given to doing. You can be given to fits of rage, envy, lust, and sly, manipulative back-stabbing, and always be looking over your shoulder, fearing knives in your own back, and resort to slander and propaganda until you can’t remember what Truth is, (IE: Much of modern politics), or you can be given to Love, and discover the more you give the more beauty you receive, and that when you stand by the Truth, Truth stands by you.