11 April 2015
5 April 2015
Three idiotic quotes:
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation itself but our thoughts about it. Eckhart Tolle
For there is nothing that is good or bad but thinking makes it so. Shakespeare (Hamlet)
To end your troubles, stop thinking. Lao Tzu
By way of an anecdote:
One day, a few years ago, I found myself surrounded by a group of youths. My thoughts at the time, and afterwards, was that the situation was - most definitely - not good.
However, according to Eckhart Tolle and William Shakespeare, I should have been thinking - as I was being punched repeatedly in the face - "My, what a charming and delightful interlude!" That is, I was simply thinking about this real-world event in the wrong way.
And according to Lao Tzu, any unhappiness (let alone confusion, physical pain, humiliation, and so on) was my own fault, not just for thinking about it in the wrong way, but for thinking at all.
Well. Thanks a lot.
In what way are these quotes profound, true or in any way helpful?
In what way are they not industrial-strength, weapons-grade, ocean-going, crass, vacuous, inhumane, victim-blaming nonsense?
And yet, as evidenced from Twitter, people seem to like this sort of stuff; particularly the Shakespeare quote, which they appear to interpret in some quasi-buddhist way "other" than what the words themselves actually say. The Tolle quote says it plainly though: The situation itself is never the cause of your unhappiness. It is your thoughts about it.
One of the two people who blocked me on Twitter for (bluntly, I admit) disagreeing with the Tolle quote, describes himself as a holistic therapist. Of what sort, I don't know, but I would like to have been able to ask him: Is that what you tell your clients who come to you for help, and perhaps in distress? That their suffering is, actually, illusory, imaginary, purely the result of their faulty thinking? Do you?
In the real world, to tell people that: is it true or helpful? Is it, indeed, ethical?
Real life is full of events and situations that may cause us pain (of different sorts). Surely, it would be better to accept reality and thereby have a chance to develop some resilience, than to be told: No, your situation (whatever it may be) is entirely neutral, neither good nor bad; it's your mind that's the problem.
Now, your attitude to what happens to you in life is, indeed, important; and we can get caught up in damaging ways of thinking (religions being a prime example) - but the starting point has to be that life, as we experience it, is real. Good things, from the inconsequential to the glorious, and bad things, from the trivial to the catastrophic, do happen, on different levels, and do affect us. Saying that there is nothing that is good or bad but only thinking makes it so, is a denial of the reality that we as humans experience. It betrays a contempt for this world, this life, and for people themselves. It diminishes us, utterly.
Depressing, too, is the Lao Tzu quote: To end your troubles, stop thinking (- assuming that he is not just being annoying and saying, "Cheer up, you'll soon be dead." These are not words of wisdom. Thinking is what humans do, and yes it can be both blessing and curse, but it is an extraordinary ability that humans have. To advocate not-thinking is to seek to deny our own human-ness.
But that is just a typical way in which religions and other philosophical systems demonstrate their contempt for the human race and disdain and disregard for this world and this life (the only one we know we've got). The Abrahamic religions teach that we are born mired in sin, and that we need a Saviour to redeem us; and that this life is nothing and that our eyes should be on the afterlife. And the eastern philosophies teach that we are ignorant and that enlightenment necessitates cultivating detachment from this world. Where is there a system of thought that values people, reveres this world, celebrates this life, and marvels at how far we, as rising apes, have come?
Incidentally, I found a variant translation of the Lao Tzu:
"To end your troubles, stop learning."
That about sums it up.
(this is probably a temporary post, most likely to be deleted fairly soon. i just needed to write something down in order to get it out of my head where it was causing me some trouble :-)