The Dangers of Dogmatic Thinking

People have had a lot of brilliant and noble ideas throughout the ages. The best of our intentions have—on our finest occasions—come through to provide us with incredible esoteric insights, high-minded ambitions, inspiring works of art, and other enlightened insights into the human soul and condition alike.

Then, we tend to wreck it all.

The legal system, for instance, is certainly a respectable and necessary structure for any society. Arguably, this system was created initially as a general system of laws, rights, consequences, and limitations on human behaviour with the intention of keeping the playing field even and the right to life and freedom secure. Laws were laid out to protect the sanctity of civilized existence, and the means to judge and enforce those laws were clearly defined.

So too with religion. While the source can be argued to death—and certainly has been—the foundation of most earthly religions is a set of considerations, principles, and inspiring examples of humanity’s spiritual potential. Most of these sacred texts address the nature of sin, self-control, love for one another, and other such entirely admirable ambitions.

So with such incredible aspirations, how does humanity continue to get it all so wrong?

Well, in short, we are creatures of habit. Worse yet, we adore taking shortcuts.

With most any system devised—and the two above are shining examples—we may reach fantastic heights in our state of being. But successive generations tend to skip out the hard work of exploring and understanding the nuance and reason behind such systems, and begin to rely on hard and fast rules instead.

These become mindless and dogmatic restrictions on human behaviour. More destructive still, they often become guided by a matter of precedent. Here, laws and religious tenets are continually reinterpreted to fit the needs of whoever is presently in charge of their interpretation. Then, these new bastardized definitions become the benchmark for further misinterpretation. The original good intentions are lost, and the guiding principles of law and religion alike quickly shift away from the nobility of human betterment, and become just another system of maintaining otherwise unjustifiable power structures.

In both scenarios, we see a series of great intentions written down in stone, then systematically misapplied, misinterpreted, and misused. Each new iteration of this misuse is then made sacrosanct, to be further abused and distorted. Eventually, we are left with none of the good effect, all of the high-minded self-righteousness, and very little of true grace or justice.

So what can we do to avoid these ever so common failings? Well, we can start by taking a very serious look at our own intentions. Growth and insight are never easy, and achieving any real sense of decency, grace, or virtue is seldom possible when taking the quickest path.

Without fail, the easy ways will lead to the most common of results, and with us people, that is seldom a respectable scenario. Rather, we must constantly consider the truth of our intentions. We must examine the reasons behind our needs and desires, and, rather than turning to dogmatic principles and knee-jerk reactions, we would do best to consider all angles, remind ourselves of the deepest principles we hold dear, and move forward not with expediency or—heaven forbid—righteous indignation, but simply with patience, love, and an ever-present sense of respect for our fellow humans.

This is what must surely lie at the root of all such systems after all, be they religion, law, or others. So to leave them out is a terrible oversight, liable to result in the enforcement of something else entirely.

-Brad OH Inc.

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A Fool Not Just in April

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

There’s a funny thing that happens right around this time of year. On the first of April each year, we observe a weird little day called ‘April Fools’’. This glorious day is a long-time favourite for pranksters and mischief-makers the world over—as jokes are played, tricks enacted, and terrible deceptions perpetrated by one friend upon another all in the righteous pursuit of naming another as a fool.

The possibilities are endless! Saran-wrap over the toilet seat? Check! Sardine Paste in the toothpaste tube? Check! Brutal lies about the health or general well-being of distant loved-ones? Yeah, even that might pass. But recently, one phenomenon has illustrated an especially troublesome habit of humanity—and shown us perhaps that the day of fools is a boon for the few wise people among us.

See, one irresistible opportunity for news pundits and bloggers alike is to post semi-believable yet entirely unreal stories for public consumption on April Fools’ Day. The writer will let the speculation and doubts run roughshod until noon, then coolly—and doubtless with an air of overplayed coyness—reveal the truth: namely, that it was all a ruse.

This all seems harmless enough. The thing is, it’s been going on for a significant enough stretch of time that anyone with half a clue and access to the internet for more than a year knows just what to expect, and rises each April 1st donning the armour of suspicion, and brandishing their sword of rational-inquiry. Each article they see is taken in with a discerning eye. Facts are weighed against probabilities, and anything doubtful is cross-referenced against other articles.

Dates are checked, names researched, local obituaries are pored over for accuracy, and for one day, all sources of information are taken in with a critical eye, hell-bent on sussing out the truth from the trash.

All things considered, it’s a pretty wonderful day!

But then something unfortunate happens. The sun rises on the second of April, the bathroom floors are disinfected, toothpaste tubes replaced, and loved ones are given a brief check-in call with a pre-arranged excuse to hang up after a few minutes small-talk. Then, everything returns to normal. People eat their breakfast, kiss their spouses and children, go to their jobs, and then sit slack-jawed and dumb-founded at the torrents of bullshit flashing across their screens in the name of ‘news’.

‘You won’t believe what…’

‘What happened next will leave you speechless…’

‘Local mom makes $900,000,000 in one hour, when you learn how you’ll…’

‘THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!’

They sit with eyes glazed over as they work their fingers along their mouse, taking it all in, following the currents of their newsfeed like Job waiting on fairer winds. It’s all accepted, all welcome, and none of it is ever second-guessed.

It’s a sorry fact that when not actively warned by our calendars that the news just might not be as accurate as it’s purported to be, people forget the concept entirely. But rational thought is not a novelty to be toyed with once a year, only to be dusted off and returned in mint-condition to its little glass case marked ‘Open April 1st’. Rather, it is a tool to utilize daily, to ward off the perils of misinformation—deliberate or not—and exercise the full potential of our humanity. As rational creatures living in an often irrational world, the onus of critical consideration of news media is on us as consumers. It is a matter of education, of self-protection, and more importantly, of intellectual integrity.

So let us not forget, good people, that there may be but one day a year where we are free to name each other as fools, but that leaves 364 days each year where the names do not fly so readily, and we are left simply with an opportunity to prove the fact for ourselves.

-Brad OH Inc.

Everything is Everything

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Yeah, it’s a Bruce Springsteen lyric (Link), but that’s not what this article is about. Well, I guess if ‘everything is everything’, then it must perforce be at least partially about that, but really, now you’re just being pedantic, and should be ashamed of yourself for such childish behaviour. Still, it’s a line you hear often enough—usually eliciting a stoic nod or an enlightened shrug, and little true thought is every really put into it. So, what do we mean when we say ‘everything is everything’? Well, just that in a way, yet not quite….

Certainly, everything is connected. From societal values, to child-rearing theories, to tax levels, to individual self-esteem, to war, to faith…one thing affects another in an unending and unwieldly domino effect. With clear vision and an open mind, it is all but impossible not to see the interconnected nature of all things. We’re not trying to go full ‘Butterfly Effect’ here, because we all know that butterflies affect nothing but children, but it must certainly be acknowledged that to have a serious and insightful discussion about any one topic, we must necessarily call upon and consider infinitesimal other issues.

Let’s start with an example. A popular issue these days is gun control. The argument in its shortest form is whether allowing easy access to guns creates a safer or a less safe society. Proponents of easy access to firearms, when not ranting about the constitution, focus on the old adage that ‘if you make guns illegal, only criminals will have guns.’ Well, that’s a tautological truth to be sure, but does it get to the heart of the issue?

Opponents of easy firearm access take a different route—claiming rather that by increasing access to guns, we allow for a more violent and reactive culture. That, combined with the ease of access, leads to greater gun violence.

Both sides have some relevant points, but to focus on the limited standards of these political movements alone is to miss the nuance and depth of the issue—and this is the case with most anything that is debated towards a specific, pragmatic end while lacking due reverence to the holistic ‘big picture’.

This article is not about gun-control per say, but rather the ways which we currently discuss the hot-button issues of our times. By keeping on the blinders and considering major topics within the narrow confines currently prescribed to them, it is easy to entirely miss how our decisions affect the world around us—and conversely—how they are affected by the very same.

In our recent article ‘The Key to Improving Our Collective Future’ (Link), we discussed why we consider education to be among the key factors in improving the world for all its sorry inhabitants. This notion remains a prescient topic in our current considerations. We’ve now established how everything is affected by everything else, but perhaps the single most impactful factor of any era is the reigning attitude of its people.

Humanity is a malleable lot—able to adapt not only physically over the long term, but also mentally, emotionally, and intellectually in the much shorter term. This is why our decisions must be more universally informed. From education, to taxes, poverty, war, governance, media and more—it is all connected, all around the world. The way we fashion our society is the way we raise our people. So what do we want humanity to be in the long run, and what is sustainable for us? Greed and envy and violence? Likely not, but this is what our present society breeds.

To have a culture predicated on the pervasive tenets of fear and greed, and then act appalled when its citizens turn feral and succumb to vice is disingenuous. People are the product of their environments, and we must arrange for a society which fosters the sort of people and values we claim to hold dear. Everything is everything, after all, and it’s imperative we take this idea wholly to heart.

It is a broad picture to consider, and certainly no easy solution will present itself. It is therefore beholden upon us to engage in open dialogue—and not just among our own familiar peer-groups. We must consider the worldwide implications of our values, and reflect honestly on how the standards we set, and the systems we create, work to shape the masses of humanity around us. It is, like it or not, entirely on us to make these decisions, for fate is an unreliable guide, and apathy the surest source of misdirection.

The considerations are vast, but not insurmountable if our will is harnessed in common cause. From improving our economic and fiscal balance (Link), to fully accounting for the vast potential of our nature (Link), we must give due consideration to what sort of culture we truly want to be, and then explore the most effective holistic steps to achieving it.

For in the end, the goal of a society must be finding and realizing the best way to raise the human animal in its masses. How we are raised is what we become, after all. What must humans be to thrive and to live in harmony with the planet? It’s a lot to weigh, but tell me what sort of people you wish to be surrounded by, and I will tell you what sort of world we must devise.

-Brad OH Inc.