Misled by example

The world around us is full with the wrong kind of attitude. Most people will make you think of the wrong things as valuable: not just when asked directly, but in thousands of small ways throughout; not just in their words, but also in their actions, and in their emotional reactions. They will stress their perception of the value of wealth, power, and celebrity. They will make a career, fame, status and the like look desirable. It's not these things in themselves that seduce us into forming the misguided opinion that they are of value. It's how people treat them that communicates this misguided opinion.

The way it ingrains itself is in emotions: we get emotional about what we value, and when they include mistaken valuations, emotions will drive us in the wrong direction (a direction that isn't good for us). We're trained, by the example of other people around us, from childhood onwards to get emotional about all kinds of things that do not warrant emotion. We center the way we live our lives around the wrong things. We take our decisions under the influence of the wrong perspectives. It's the bad influence of already entrenched opinion that prevents us from successfully walking the path. Thus learning to get independent from that is one of the first skills we acquire.

Again, we're not talking here about articulated views. This is about how people around you will likely behave, in daily live, all the time; it's the vast sea of habits and unconsidered opinions that sweeps us away every day with attitudes towards the wrong objects: namely, those external concerns that are of no real value, and yet are treated so by almost everyone you'll encounter. Even those who tell you (and themselves) that their career is not at the center of their lives will stop talking to you whenever the boss enters the room, and care only about the boss's perception of them: becoming anxious to make sure they get credit for all their ideas, seeing to it that all their mistakes are glossed over, that in the eyes of the boss their image remains immaculate and commendable all the time. Even those who say that money isn't everything will suddenly become hesitant when they face expenses that are higher than they thought, or when they get a good offer they didn't expect. Most of them won't even notice that their responses contradict their considered views; many will follow through on those misdirected feelings with actions; and afterwards, they might even rationalize such actions with adjustments to their views that make them seem reasonable.

And since almost everyone around us has such tendencies, it's likely enough that they will rub off on you, too. Remember also that every time you let yourself be influenced and walk down the path that is suggested by a false emotion, your actions will influence others in turn, thus multiplying the effect. So it is clearly not enough to just contemplate your own position in the abstract. It has to be lived.

Received opinion can have two forms: sympathetic and negative. People who care for you will encourage you to invest more energy in your career because they think it will do you good (which it won't); people who are interested in a good career opportunity themselves, again because they think it will do them good, might throw anger at you and try to muscle you out. Both forms are equally damaging; they both carry the implication, in all their instances, that external things like your career are what should be at the center of how you lead your life. Otherwise, the heat of emotion wouldn't be necessary: the coolness of thought and reason would suffice. Thus when deciding what in the ways of other people you let influence yourself, it's better to ignore whether it is negative or positive, or whether it feels pleasant or unpleasant. (The good can feel unpleasant, and the bad can feel pleasant.) What you have to find out is where it comes from, and in what direction it will move you. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.