A cynic is someone who enjoys criticising those who fall short of (his) false hopes.
Monthly Archives: October 2012
A cynic is someone who becomes critical of people for not living up to his false hopes.
I loved my girlfriend unconditionally until she cheated on me.
It is common to confuse spirituality and religion. Perhaps this is because spiritual experiences are often associated with religious practices or environments. This in turn may be partly due to the fact that most people throughout history were religious in some sense or another. But as societies become more secular, and we gain greater insights into human nature, it is easier to tease apart religion and spirituality and so ‘non-religious’ definitions of spirituality become increasingly possible.
Here is my first attempt at such a definition:
“The seeking, description, exploration and celebration of ordinary reality, which is revealed to us when we no longer imagine ourselves to be fundamentally separate from other people or the rest of the universe.”
Steven Pinker’s article says some interesting things about dignity which – at first glance – appear to clarify it, but in doing so may perpetuate the underlying assumptions which make dignity such a ‘tricky’ concept to deal with in the first place. In other words its a ‘false fix’.
It seems to me that dignity – not unlike self-esteem – is based on a certain set of unquestioned beliefs we have about human beings. These are that : a) people are ‘separate’ from the world and each other b) people have different levels of worth c) the worth that people have is ‘dependent’ on certain situations or states the person is in e.g. being in squalor, out of ‘control’, smelly etc., d) that people deserve at least some ‘minimum’ level of worth as determined by their surrounding situation or personal behaviour.
It is only when I project these beliefs on to others that I think that some people have less dignity than others. A smelly drunk ‘seems’ to have less dignity BECAUSE I have learned to value people in certain ways based on their situation (smelly, dishevelled) or behaviour (socially inappropriate/out of control, slurring speech etc.).
Consequently, if I want to ‘give people back’ their dignity, I merely need to stop taking their dignity away from them – by ceasing to project my beliefs on to them.
After I have stopped taking their dignity away from them by no longer seeing their worth as dependent on their situation or behaviour, I can help them change their situation or behaviour, if appropriate.
I realised recently that I was not as open-minded as I thought I was. Basically I realised that I am mostly ‘conditionally open-minded’ and not so often ‘unconditionally open-minded’.
When I say ‘conditionally open-minded’ I mean being ‘open’ to new possibilities or ideas but ONLY if my current system of beliefs i.e. scientific, spiritual, political etc. can be imaginatively expanded to ‘fit’ these new possibilities without too much disturbance.
Whether or not I choose to ‘accept’ a new possibility as possible, true or right depends on how much I have to ‘stretch’ my current system(s) of beliefs to fit in this new possibility.
So for example if I were to ask whether ‘telepathy’ might be possible, I can ‘expand’ my scientific beliefs ‘analogically’ as follows e.g. ‘We can obviously communicate with radio waves. Could telepathy be something LIKE communicating with radio waves? In adapting to new environments, species come up with amazing ways of taking advantage of any new forms of information or communication that might increase their chances of survival. Could certain species have learned to take advantage of ‘telepathy’ in the same way? Or when it comes to auras, I can at least ‘imagine’ that an aura might be something ‘like’ an electro-magnetic field around a living body.
But when it comes to things like channelling spirits or life existing outside of a physical body* (heaven, reincarnation etc.), I find it much more difficult to see how this might ‘work’ scientifically – it involves too much ‘disturbance’ to my current system of beliefs and so its more difficult for me to accept that these phenomena might be ‘real’.
So what then is unconditional open-mindedness?
Unconditional open-mindedness is when you are able to accept the possibility of existence of something without a pre-existing system of beliefs at all. This is not the same as ‘gullibility’ because you don’t actually BELIEVE that this thing exists either. The issue of ‘belief’ is left out of the question altogether.
It’s the mind that says ‘I don’t know’, or ‘Maybe’ or ‘Perhaps’ and it does not need to classify something as ‘possible’ or ‘impossible’, ‘true’ or ‘false’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
* That said, I might be able to ‘permit’ the relaxing of certain long held materialist assumptions e.g. that the brain ‘produces’ consciousness, if it allowed for a scientific theory of great explanatory power and predictive capacity.