Chapter 24 - Attitudes, Opinions & Acceptance - Strength for the Journey
Before we begin delving into the topic, I'd like to present a general statement of disclaimer. Throughout my essays, I often employ emphatic imperatives, such as 'must', 'should', 'need', etc. I want to be clear that these words are to be taken as prescribing instructions, and are not meant to be divisive, nor do they necessarily represent absolutes. There are certainly numerous means of growth, as it is, in many ways, an individualized process. Herein I present specific 'formulas', if you will, that as with medical prescriptions, are not always effective unless strict adherence to directions is maintained.
Attitudes, opinions, 'perspectives', and their ilk cause us more pain & suffering than we realize. That is to say, they are the sole cause of our pain and suffering. Their counterpoint is Acceptance, a state of mental quietude in which we acknowledge situations as existing, exactly as they are. When we decide to take a certain stance on literally anything at all, be it an incident, another individual, world events, the weather, etc, we set ourselves up for disappointment. In our belief that we have uncovered an absolute Truth, we immediately close our minds to further learning on the subject. There IS Absolute Truth, however, WE are not in a state of perfection to completely understand this Truth in its full glory. To us, our discovered truths are always relative, because we are imperfect.
Acceptance is not what we typically understand it to be. Acceptance is not about modifying our feelings, it is acknowledging that while we may have feelings, we simply state to ourselves: "This event has occurred", or "This person has these characteristics". We merely grant ourselves permission to consider the basic facts at hand. We do not bury our feelings, but we cannot allow them to become a factor in the situation. This is especially important when events go against our moral code, for the simple fact that we may be impelled to take action. This action must remain untainted by our inclinations. This concept is reflected in the famous legal idiom, 'Justice is blind' (meaning impartial). We must be as blind as Justice, not to facts, but to our own (or others' opinions).
Opinions are highly prized by the personality. In fact, it may be accurate to state that the personality is fundamentally a framework of opinions, ever limiting ourselves and giving us an underlying attitude of crankiness towards the world at large. It is our proverbial 'thorn in the flesh'. Growth is that continual process of chiseling away at the rough stone, either willingly, through reflection & self-discipline, or else by the endless onslaught of pressure that Nature so graciously provides the reluctant soul. Despite the pressure, we often misidentify the source, and rather than letting go of our cherished dogma, we become resolute in never moving from our position. This rarely goes 'well'. If Nature, through pressure, keeps hinting at our error, it would behoove us to at least consider the possibility of our fallibility on the matter.
Society is doing us all a great disservice at the moment, by continually encouraging us to make decisions. However, we are no less participants in this. To give a minor example, of which there are countless to choose from, we irrationally pester children into selecting a favorite color from the infinite spectrum of light. If they end up deciding to dislike a certain other color, will that make it disappear from their universe? This is doubtful. Are we perhaps participating (ever slightly) in a trend of lowering their future capability to cope with the diversity of situations they will inevitably experience in life? It's worth considering...
Growing up with so many choices demanded, and with a historically unprecedented ability to instantly gratify our desires, while debatable morally, is definitely crippling us from an everyday, functional standpoint. On the one hand, we are becoming paralyzed by too many options, and on the other, we are no longer able to cope with the disaster of not having an option we 'like'. This is what opinions, attitudes, and most of what we call 'thoughts', or even 'facts', are doing to us. We've got to start getting used to the idea that what we feel/think/know is 'best', might not be so after all. Once we accept this, we can understand why placidity is one of the fundamental precepts of Wisdom. The quiet mind is empty of preconceived notions, yet remains useful through the constant development of common sense, unhindered by opinion.