Archive for the ‘Common illusions’ category


April 2, 2012

It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.–Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (Good Omens)

Good and bad are labels, they are judgements. Fudamentally they are both ways of dismissing people. We label them and then we don’t have to think about them anymore. There’s no need to be present when we deal with them, we know exactly how to treat them.


April 1, 2012

I don’t always know what I’m talking about but I know I’m right.–Muhammad Ali

We always think we are right about everything. In our hearts we know that we are unlikely to be right about everything, but we ignore that fact. Instead we look at things one at a time thinking: but surely I’m right about this one. And we apply that thinking to each of our thoughts and beliefs. We fall into the fallacy of composition.


March 29, 2012

In my shop I handle all kinds of merchandise. If someone comes looking for rat shit I’ll sell him rat shit. If someone comes looking for gold I’ll sell him pure gold.–Zen Master Yang-shan

As it turns out, the price for pure gold is high, very high indeed. Even the downpayment is steep, you must give up all of you illusions. Ind the end you must give up all that you have and all that you think you are even your very self.


March 28, 2012

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.–Mahatma Gandhi

The “forgiveness” of the weak is not real forgiveness. Rather is is a way for the weak to feel superior to the strong. True forgiveness means taking responsibility for our feelings, and our lives. It does not mean saying that our oppressors are okay it means recoognizing that while our oppressors can cause us pain, they cannot cause us to suffer unless we let them. Only the strong can do that.


March 27, 2012

Cynic: A disillusioned idealist who regularly passes judgement on the world for failing to live up to his high standards/–me

Normally we think of a cynic as a pessimist with a sour view of reality. This is not the case. A cynic is someone who thinks the world is not as it should be, as it would be if he were in charge. The payoff for this view is the feeling of superiority they get because they are the only one who knows just how things should be. They are the ones who could fix things if only the fools running things would get out of the way.


March 26, 2012

It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward.–Lewis Carroll

It really doesn’t work backwards all that well either. Memories are the stories we made up about what happened, not what actually happened. Some of us make up more accurate stories, but they are stories nonetheless.


March 22, 2012

All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.–K. Vonnegut (Cat’s Cradle)

We don’t actually have direct acces to reality. Everything we percieve is filtered through our unconscious beliefs and expectations before it reaches us. This is only the first step in the process in which our minds make up a story about what is happening and what it means. As a result, all the true things we “know” are conclusions we’ve drawn about the story we made up in our minds. If they happen to be actually true that’s pretty much a coincidence.


March 19, 2012

Only by reconciling with our own darkness can we see others as they are rather than projecting our darkness on them.–me (

I’m not talking here about learning to love your dark side, about letting it run your life. It’s already doing that anyway. The extent to which we deny or repress our dark side is the extent to which we permit it to act through us unseen. And one of the ways it acts is by causing us to dislike others who remind us of our darkness. We dislike them, we dehumanize them in our minds, which permits us to treat them as less that human. The only way to avoid this is to look at ourselves clearly, to stop pretending we are better than we truly are, to find a better way of dealing with our darkness than pretending it’s not there.


March 16, 2012

Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.–Abraham Lincoln

We know that might does not make right, although it clearly gets to decide who writes the history. But enough of that. This quote expresses the hope and belief that right makes might. Faith in this case amounts to acting on that hope that belief. More generally faith always amounts to action based on hope and belief. That is, faith is more than belief, it is belief combined with action.


March 13, 2012

If only we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.–Edith Wharton

We think we should be happy all the time or, at the very least, most of the time. This is nonsense, the world simply does not work that way. Wanting to be happy, when you aren’t is a major source of suffering in this life. See “Holding on to Happiness“.