We view the world through filters: the filter of our upbringing, the filter of our family patterns, the filter of our societal norms, the filter of our religious backgrounds, etc. These filters bring certain things into focus and filter other things out. Our filters shape our perception of reality.
Some of my friends, for instance, see the world through the filter of Fox News, while others prefer CNN. My Swiss friends see the world quite differently than say, my friends in Southeast Asia. The filters are too many to number and are often difficult to reconcile, hence we have disagreements, conflicts, and wars.
The quest for the right set of filters – the Desire to see the world clearly – lies at the core of the human longing. Clear vision is the Holy Grail of perception. But how do we get there?
I would argue that consciousness is clarified as it is lifted above the fray of human opinion, belief, and superstition. This is hard to do because our opinions give us comfort, security, and a sense of belonging.
We huddle with those who share our worldview and we keep those who do not at arm’s length. Our beliefs have an inertia that is hard to overcome. Moreover, they tend to harden with age, due to confirmation bias more than anything.
How do we set ourselves free? How do we loosen our grip on opinions and beliefs? How do we get a better grasp of truth, of reality? We innately know that truth sets us free, but how do we better acquaint ourselves with truth?
Awareness of truth deepens with personal communion with the absolute. That communion is frustrated by harried living and facilitated by an untroubled heart. You’ve probably felt that in your life. The crazier life is, the harder it is to come to rest, to be at peace, to organize our thoughts, and to reflect inwardly on the meaning and essence of life.
Wise is the person, however, whose inner state is unaltered by the condition of his affairs. Wisdom allows us to be radiant, regardless of what is happening round about.
Wisdom increases our clarity of perception and when there is clear vision, we flourish, but not at the expense of others, as is typical in most of what we call “success” today.
Happiness is the by-product of wisdom in action, not ignorance. Wisdom, the sense of the fitness of things, begins in the heart. We cannot think ourselves into alignment with reality, rather, we harmonize with it when our hearts are untroubled.
Seneca, the philosopher, offered a way to rise above the fray, to have less agitation in your heart. He wrote it in the form of personal commandments, and while they were written in the world of human affairs as they were configured 2,000 years ago, they align perfectly with the demands of our current era. Take a minute to reflect on these commandments and if you wish to live a happier life, that is, a life worth living, then govern yourself accordingly my friends:
- I will look upon death or upon a comedy with the same expression of countenance.
- I will despise riches when I have them as much as when I have them not.
- I will view all lands as though they belong to me, and my own as though they belonged to all mankind.
- Whatever I may possess, I will neither hoard it greedily nor squander it recklessly.
- I will do nothing because of public opinion, but everything because of conscience.
- I will be agreeable with my friends, gentle and mild to my foes: I will grant pardon before I am asked for it, and will meet the wishes of honourable men half-way.
- Whenever either Nature demands my breath again, or reason bids me dismiss it, I will quit this life, calling all to witness that I have loved a good conscience, and good pursuits.