Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Value of Honesty

When asked, "What is a lie?" Augustine responded: "Any statement meant to deceive another." And he also said, "No lie is ever justified for it sets up a dichotomy between what we say and what is in our hearts."

I would say that I am a very open and honest person, and that I put a very high value on honesty and sincerity. I absolutely despise liars and cheaters, brown nosers and backstabbers, people who will say or do anything to get ahead, when it is at odds with what is in their own hearts.

But honesty is not always kind or pleasant. A person could be brutally honest. A person could be cruel and disrespectful and hateful, while at the same time being completely honest about it. So honesty is not necessarily kind or noble, but it is clear and direct, where you at least know that whether you like it or not, what you see is what you get.

Making your intentions clear from the beginning, saves a lot of trouble later down the road. Dishonesty causes many problems in relationships of all kinds, and is a major reason why I think marriages fail, because people were not being completely honest about things from the start, perhaps trying to be someone their not in order to impress the other, or by trying to force an unsuitable relationship to work. But that only works for so long, eventually the real you is going to make an appearance, and it may not be to the other person's liking.

So it is better to be honest from the start. At least you know where a person stands, and you can decide whether you wish to stand with them, or apart from them, to stand for them or against them.

I'm a strong believer in saying what you mean and meaning what you say. If you are honest, there is clearer communication, and less likely to be misunderstandings. You may not like what you see, there may be disharmony and disagreement, but at least you'll know what you are up against, and be less likely to end up wasting energy in counter productive relationships (whether business or pleasure) with people you are not compatible with or who have conflicting objectives.

Why do people lie? Many reasons, but mostly to get what they want, when telling the truth would fail to do so.

Sometimes people may lie due to a personal weakness, perhaps out of cowardice. They are afraid of owning up to the truth, so they find it easier to lie in order to avoid having to taking responsibility for their actions, or having to face conflicts and hardships or unfavorable outcomes.

Other people lie for more devious purposes, not because they are personally afraid, but in order to exploit other people's fears and weaknesses. People lie to control others, to get people to do what they want them to do, when telling the truth would not achieve those ends.

But a lie is doomed to fail from the start, because just like the sunshine, the truth has a way of coming out, and dispelling the darkness of confusion and falsehood, while bringing the truth into the light day.

The sun is a perfect symbol for truth: light, illumination, clarity, perception, understanding. A lie on the other hand, is more aligned with darkness, misunderstanding, confusion, deception, ignorance, and falsehood.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love and Hell

When asked "What is hell?" Fyodor Dostoyevsky responded, that hell is "the suffering of being no longer able to love."

I would agree. And put another way, you could say that hell is the absence of love, the inability to either love or be loved, to feel love or to express love. Hatred, cruelty, and what is typically considered evil, are all characterized by the absence of love, and as such, are hellish states of being.

Love is about respect, fondness, compassion, kindness and goodwill. There are many degrees of love. Not just romantic love, but the love between parent and child, between siblings, between platonic friends. Or love may take the form of admiration for someone that you may not know very well. Someone you look up to, that you have great respect for, perhaps a teacher, entertainer, humanitarian, or anyone else that you admire.

But love and admiration may not always be mutual. And that is okay. Real love is about appreciation and respect, not about control or coercion. As Sting says, "If you love someone set them free". There is no love in possession, no love in seeking to contain, to coerce, or to control another against their will.

Love is not just a feeling shared between people, it is a state of mind, a way of thinking, and regarding the world. It may be directed toward people, animals, certain activities, experiences, ideals, or things. For instance, I love pizza. I love watching the sunset. I love the scent of fresh flowers. I love looking at beautiful works of art. That is a form of love too, but it is not mutual. The love of objects or things is of a lower quality than that of the love shared, between living consciously aware beings.

There is a critical difference between obsession and admiration, between infatuation and love. Both love and admiration involves the selfless appreciation and respect for another. Whereas obsession and infatuation differs, in that it is entirely selfish, and somewhat objectifying, by seeking the possession and control of another, irrespective of their feelings or lack of mutual interest.

Selfishness is not self love, it is an obsession with self, without regard for the feelings or well being of others. Love is selfless. Obsession is selfish. The inability to love, respect, and empathize with another, indicates the inability to love oneself. Those who are consumed with hatred, and commit acts of cruelty, are in a state of self inflicted hell, "the suffering of being no longer able to love" either themselves or others.

However you treat others and whatever you put out in the world, whether you act in the spirit of hatred or love, is reflected back at you, and retained by your conscience in the permanent memory of your heart.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Going with the flow

I used to get angry whenever things did not go my way. Even little things would bother me. Like going to the store with the idea of getting a specific type of bread, or a specific brand of beer, only to discover that they were all sold out. It annoyed me. Kind of ruined my day. No not really ruined it, but just put me in a sour mood, particularly if that was the only store that carried what I was looking for. Or if I applied for a job, something I've been doing a lot of these past six months, and don't even get an interview, don't even get any kind of a response whatsoever. Not a yes, a no, or a maybe, just dead silence, nothing. This used to bother me. Not anymore.

I'm trying to become less attached to my expectations. This is somewhat difficult for me though because I'm the kind of person that is always thinking ahead, planning things, likes to have some control of the situation, to know exactly what is going on. I like to know the who, what, when, why, where, how of everything I'm involved in. I'm always thinking. I have plans, carefully thought out plans, but then when they don't go the way I anticipate them going, it is hard for me not to be bothered by it.

There is nothing wrong with thinking ahead and making plans, but I've found that no matter what you do, and no matter how well prepared you are, sometimes things just happen that you have no control over. And instead of resisting it, sometimes it is better to just go with it. To go with the flow and to make the best of it. See what you can learn from the change in plans, to see what can be learned from whatever unforeseen events have fallen your way.

I really do believe that every single moment in time, every single experience in life contains a valuable lesson, provides an opportunity to learn something, or to see something in an entirely new and different and interesting way. When you have plans, you have this specific picture in your mind of what you want to happen. But if something different happens, something that is entirely unexpected or undesirable, instead of resisting it, instead retreating from it, or immediately trying to change the situation to go your way, it can be valuable to just stop and look around you and observe what is happening. Look at the situation without resistance, without expectation, and maybe you'll see something there that is important for you to see, something that could be valuable to you, an unexpected blessing, or just an opportunity to look at the situation in a different way, that could give you added insight into something you didn't see before.

For instance, I go to the store and find that my favorite style of bread and beer is all sold out, but instead of getting angry, or trying to figure out all these elaborate plans of going all over town trying to track down some other place that sells these things, it could be seen as an opportunity to do something entirely different, maybe even something better. Maybe you'll use the opportunity to take an honest look at some of the other types of breads or beers you haven't tried before or that you haven't ever paid much attention to. Or perhaps you'll look at something else entirely different, maybe wine, or tea, or whatever.

The point is that whenever you find your routines abruptly altered, and your regular habits suddenly denied, is an opportunity to do something different, something that you may not have otherwise done, but that may turn out to be just as good, if not better than your original plans. Sometimes what at first seems like a misfortune, may later turn out to have been a blessing in disguise.

It's perfectly okay to make plans and to have habits and routines, but when things do not go according to plan, when habits and routines are altered, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, I've found that rather than getting angry or stressed out about it, and trying to resist the irresistible, or trying to change the unchangeable, sometimes it is just better to go with the flow, and see where it takes you. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised that it could be someplace even better than you have ever imagined.

I look at unforeseen events, even unpleasant ones, as acts of synchronicity that are worth paying attention to. It's like, hmm, I didn't plan this, this is not the outcome I expected, or the outcome that I desired, and yet it happened this way, what can I learn from it? It can't be all bad, right? There must be something good in this somewhere. It's like a message, or a sign, altering your course, and pointing your attention in a different direction, that you wouldn't have otherwise noticed, without your plans being abruptly changed, your routines all shook up.

Another thing I do, along the lines of finding blessings in disguise, is when web searching, and I misspell something that brings me to a totally different set of search results, or a totally different website than the one I intended to go to, instead of clicking away right away, instead of quickly correcting my mistake, I stop a moment and look around me, to see what different results synchronicity has brought me to see. And you know what, very often those search engine typos, bring up some pretty interesting results. You should try it sometime. Don't be so quick to correct your mistakes, but instead pause for a moment, look around you, and go with the flow, see what blessings in disguise synchronicity may have brought you today.