Due to gratification’s blinding nature, it’s possible that we end up ironically pursuing particular things in the genuine belief that they’re what’s best for us, yet in reality we’re actually contributing to our own detriment. We are capable of ignorant proactive self-sabotage.
An extreme version of this is evident in serious addiction to substance abuse. When an individual reaches a place where they can’t see anything beyond the next fix, they are convinced it’s what they need to survive and free them from current pains, when in reality, each fix just ends up entrapping them further. I would like to highlight however, that the addiction cycle is much more prevalent in our every day lives than most of us realise.
We generally think that because our addictions aren’t as debilitating, obvious, self-evident, or culturally unacceptable (a huge contributing factor, in my opinion), that we’re not really addicted to things like social media, anger, bakeries, youtube, alcohol, netflix, or shopping. I remain convinced that most of us are far more addicted and engaged in proactive self-sabotage than we realise and that’s after we’ve already given consideration to all of the ways we already know we’re engaging in self-destruction.
I came to realise this in a newly profound way when I had a dream many years ago that relates to a very familiar story for those of my faith but in the story I was playing out a very unexpected role.
I was in an enormous building that had really high ceilings and massive, dark purple and white marble pillars with similarly coloured marble flooring. From the centre of the massive hall that I was in, you could see connecting, smaller rooms towards the outside of the building, with relatively small windows, kind of like what you would see in a cellar/basement that looks outside. Some commotion begins to erupt and the people in the room begin to panic and run around. The room shakes like an earthquake is starting and dust starts to fall from the roof like the marble is grinding against itself. Lights are flashing/flickering outside and it sounds like a storm is roaring. As the whole building shakes I’m convinced of the storm’s danger outside so I try as best I can to get to the centre of the building, as far from the exits as possible, genuinely believing it’s the safest place for me to go.
While running however, I catch a glimpse of a light flashing through the aforementioned small windows that look outside, far from where I’m going or want to be. The flash catches my interest so I continue looking for a few moments and realise it’s not flashing but constant. As I focus my view, I see it’s coming from a tree in the distance and without hesitation I’m convinced that the ‘creepy light tree’ is obviously somehow responsible for the chaos, and so a rage and blame begin to swell inside me. However as I fixate my view and attention on the tree, I find myself somehow teleported out of the building and into a field between the building and the tree. As I glance around I realise there’s no storm or earthquake or any chaos at all outside of the building.
The building itself however, is still shaking and obviously ready to collapse. It’s somehow missing a ground floor and as far as I could see, completely disconnected from the ground. It’s completely illogical how it’s standing in the first place, and suddenly this is the primary probable cause for the dangers and chaos going on within, as whatever was holding the building up has been mostly removed/sufficiently crumbled away that the whole thing is about to come down. As I take in the bigger picture, I’m temporarily confused as my previously undeniable convictions as to what was best to do in the chaos and who was to blame have instantly been scoped to a small & ignorant perspective in a much larger context, and I realise just how wrong I was.
I had been trying to head deeper into the danger instead of fleeing the building, genuinely convinced it was the safest option I had. I also held such fury and rage within me for the obscure ‘light-tree’ while being completely oblivious to the lack of foundation under the building. Yet within a single moment of seeing outside my otherwise enclosed box, I became able to realise how wrong I was. Trusting the sturdy structure of the building due to it’s internal appearances was doing me serious disfavour. Neither was holding on to such hatred for the light-tree outside, which just focussing on for a moment, was somehow able to pull me out. But I genuinely couldn’t see any of that at all, until I was free of the place I was in.
Now there is quite a bit more to the dream, but I’ve covered the parts relative to this principle, so I’ll leave it there for now, but I suspect to share the rest at another time.
Before this experience, generally speaking, I didn’t think of myself as the blind one, pursuing something wrong, blaming others or engaged in contributing to my own demise. I had spent most of my life trying to be a decent person even when that was lame or ‘image-shattering’, as it sometimes was. Yes, doing so also included plenty of self-righteous, misguided attempts to ‘correct others’, while I still had countless flaws of my own that I should be working on. I do apologise for all of that and also for any of it that occurs in the future as I suspect my shortcomings won’t see their end today, just because I’m writing about them now. Regardless, I acquired, through the dream, a deeper appreciation for both how ignorant I can be of my own position, as well as how genuine and honest somebody can be while doing what seems from the outside, to be blatantly wrong.
This has allowed me to become more willing to hear opposing views, and created within me a greater love, patience and understanding for those who appear to ‘want’ to do the wrong thing. Another phrase I often find myself repeating is “all wrongs are but progression away“, meaning to assume any evil that others do is beyond our capacity, is dangerously unwise. None of us truly appreciate how little we had to do with the creation of our current existence, whatever that may be. Every single day we enjoy the benefits of relationships, societies, technologies and in general, a life that has been in the works and ever-building over generations and millenniums, long before we came into the scene. We all have such a tiny claim on all the good we experience and have access to, that if we assume ourselves to ‘be deserving’ or having ‘earned the right’ to such things and simultaneously go on believing that others ‘aren’t deserving’ or haven’t ‘earned the right’, is incredibly ignorant and unhelpful.
Of course I agree we can do good things and earn just rewards. We can become worthy of more. That doesn’t however mean that we’ve earned everything we have. It also doesn’t give a sufficiently wide perspective or sufficiently detailed resolution of the image that is the entirety of our existence and how little part we’ve played to be here. None of us have truly earned our place. Nobody has ever presented the math that covers the entirety of variables required to calculate one’s worth which is exactly what’s needed for any of us to be justified either hating others or demanding more from them for ourselves. It’s incalculable. Immeasurable.
If it is therefore true that we’re unjustified in demanding good of others, we’re definitely not justified in demanding evil of others. Gauging the worth of others against their current circumstances (either good or bad) and then ransoming our willingness to help them isn’t something that’s going to benefit anybody. If, however, we are all capable of appreciating just how ignorant we all can be, a shared commitment to just be as helpful as we can, in each circumstance we find ourselves in, just may be enough to guide us all through this thing we call life. Considering we don’t all share the same failings, ignorance, experiences or strengths, then it’s fair to say if we’re at least working together we should collectively be as prepared as we can be for the widest scope of problems that may arise.
Long story short: It seems our own ignorance is one of the largest contributing factors for why we pursue gratification and our own destruction. Therefore, to be wise, we must always both assume there’s things we don’t know and be willing to be helpful no matter our standing. This is the way. If we’re wrong about something, people will still want us around and we’ll eventually figure out that we’re wrong. If we’re right, people will still want us around and they’ll eventually figure it out for themselves. Remembering that truth is self-revealing, we don’t need to try to convince anybody of anything except perhaps our love for each other. Let everyone pick up and put down whatever truth they want, the good stuff survives the garbage that fades with time.
- Do you find yourself regularly engaged in anything that you know isn’t good for you?
- What is it?
- Are there alternative ways to feed the underlying need without gratification?
- Is it at least on your infinite list?
- What things in your life have you always trusted to be ‘good for you’ but that you have recurringly felt might need more investigation?
- Foods; traditions; work environments; relationships; philosophies etc.?
- What things in your life have you always trusted to be ‘evil’ or been comfortable blaming/hating, but that you similarly recurringly feel might need more investigation?
- Foods; traditions; work environments; relationships; philosophies etc.?
- Have you ever been dead-certain of something, only to discover later on that you were wrong?
- What was it?
- What can we do, even when we’re right, to cover our bases in case we’re wrong?
- What regular review or self-assessment tools are you using to provide at least a recurring opportunity to double-check conclusions and assumptions made in the past?
- Daily/weekly conscience alignment activities?
- Family truth wall?
- Study of alternative perspectives (philosophy/idiology/faith/culture etc.)?
- Regular apologies for failures and recommitments toward improvements?