THE ANTI STUPIDITY BOOK
by Duane L. Ostler
Published on Shakespir by Duane L. Ostler
Copyright 2012 Duane L. Ostler
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, copied or distributed without the express permission of the author.
The author was formerly identified in prior versions of this book under pen name “E. Reltso.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What’s This all About, Anyway?
Stupidity is one of the most profound subjects known to modern man. It is never admitted by anyone, but is practiced almost universally. Everyone thinks they don’t have it, but that everyone else does. It is the trademark of politicians, the lifestyle of most modern entertainers, and the literary style of most tabloids. It is the favorite accusation of those possessing it the most, and the constant worry of those possessing it the least. It is one of the best understood concepts of modern times (since almost everyone seems to know how to do it), but almost no one will acknowledge knowing a thing about it. It is the supreme paradox, the ultimate irony. It is the symbol of the modern age.
What is it about stupidity that makes it such a fascinating subject and the topic of this book? Perhaps it is curiosity to know why there are so many people out there doing it all the time. Or maybe we want to know more about it so we can use our knowledge as ammunition, to accuse our least favorite neighbors. Or perhaps we simply recognize that stupidity is such an unavoidable aspect of life (like TV commercials, traffic jams and paper cuts) that we simply need to know more about it.
At the outset, it is important for you to know that I am not an expert on this subject. In fact, I know almost nothing about it. Everything I have learned about this subject has been through observing others and not through personal experience. I’m exactly opposite to the dozens of divorced marriage counselors or poverty stricken economists out there. Unlike them, I don’t have personal experience in this subject, and therefore don’t have any idea what I’m talking about. Naturally, this makes me extremely well qualified to write this book.
You may expect this book to be full of specific examples of stupidity, such as standing in a bathtub while plugging in a frayed, wet extension cord; or taking a sunbath in the passing lane of the freeway. However, in preparing this book, I quickly realized that such examples—instructive as they are—are simply too common. Readers would soon tire of such things, and would still lack an understanding of the fundamentals of stupidity. In order to truly understand the complex nature of stupidity so that you will know how to properly accuse your neighbors, more is needed.
What follows in this book is a discussion of the deeper aspects of stupidity which often go unnoticed, but which truly provide a foundation to understand this all important topic. These are the roots of stupidity, the very fundamentals on which most stupid choices are based. The precepts of stupidity are often deep and difficult to grasp. It takes hard work to learn about stupidity, just like any other worthwhile task. But the reward that will come to those willing to put forth the effort is beyond anything you can imagine….
One final note. For ease of reference, the chapter headings and much of the discussion in this book are presented from the point of view of choosing stupidity over nonstupidity. This approach makes it easier to identify stupidity, since we often understand things better if we look at their opposite.
However, it cannot be overemphasized that if a person’s choices fall within one of the fundamentals of stupidity identified in this book, that does not mean they are a stupid person. Rather, they are a person with an unlimited potential for good that, for whatever reason (and it is rarely our place to judge the reasons), has become caught up in one of the fundamentals of stupidity. Simply put, we must distinguish between the act and the actor, and avoid the temptation to label someone who made a stupid choice as being a stupid person. This is particularly pertinent since all of us, no matter who we are or how hard we try, make stupid choices at times.
Indeed, one of the great beauties of life is that, with the dawn of each new day, we can choose anew, and break away from the fundamentals of stupidity that may have trapped us in the past. That is really what life is all about—discovery, learning, growth and change, and the forsaking of stupidity. This process is discussed in more detail in Chapter Seven.
With this understanding in mind, we are now ready to embark on the grand adventure of exploring the deep realms of stupidity …
The First Fundamental of Stupidity:
Pretend that there are no Moral Values
The first and most important of all the root fundamentals of stupidity is the sincere belief that moral values do not exist. In other words, there are no ultimate truths, no standards of morality, no values that societies, families or individuals should uphold. If this philosophy is firmly planted in the mind of the aspirant after stupidity, he will obtain a new freedom. No longer will he be enslaved by right or wrong, good and bad, moral or immoral.
With this philosophy, anything goes. You can do what you want without worrying about a penalty. You can give way to your baser desires without needing to feel guilty. Or to be more specific, you can have sex out of wedlock without any worries, you can take whatever you want whenever you want it regardless of who owns it, you can lie to your heart’s content and take advantage of people where possible.
Why is choosing to believe that there are no moral values the first fundamental of stupidity? A partial answer for this question can be found by looking at society as a whole. If there are no moral values, then there is no need for laws and governments in society. After all, governments are built on laws, and what are laws anyway but just moral codes created by a bunch of moralistic legislators? The formation of law involves a moral choice between what should be and what shouldn’t, based on concepts of what is right and wrong.
To be more specific, why should an ex-spouse be compelled to pay alimony if there are no moral values? That just takes away his freedom and his property. Why should someone who robs someone else be punished? Isn’t he entitled to the object just as much as anyone else? Or why should someone who sells drugs be thrown in jail? Isn’t he just selling a product that is in demand and is designed to help people find fulfillment like the dozens of other venders out there? To say these are acts that should be penalized by law is a moral judgment, which those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity shouldn’t be subject to.
Consider animals, as a comparison. They aren’t possessive or moralistic like humans. They get along great taking things from each other and fighting each other. You don’t see them making laws among themselves to protect against assault and battery or theft of property. If there are no moral values, humans should be like them.
I can see you shaking your head at me in disgust. You’re not satisfied with my whole line of reasoning, are you? You think I’ve taken things to extremes, and that I’m a bit off my nut. A total absence of all moral values is a bit too much for you.
O.K., maybe you’re right. Maybe some moral values are o.k. after all. The question is, whose moral values should prevail?
Some people think R-rated movies are not immoral, but others would disagree. Which of these two groups do you think should set the moral values of society? Would it bother you if they banned all R-rated movies? Perhaps that example seems a little strange to you. Well then, how about abortion? Some people think there is nothing immoral about it, while others very strongly believe otherwise. Should it be outlawed? Or should it be legalized? Whose values should prevail?
By now you’re probably getting mad at me. “Why should one set of moral values prevail?” you ask. “Each person should be free to set their own moral compass and let everyone else do the same. Why insist on one set of moral values? Why not six billion—one for everybody in the world?”
So the problem is solved, right? Let everyone choose their own moral values. Well, I hate to disagree with you, but there are still a few little problems with this idea.
First, what do you do when someone insists on pushing his moral values on someone else by using force? The terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center had a very firm set of personal moral values. So what do you do if a person’s moral values infringe on the rights of others or hurt others?
“O.k., o.k.” you grumble hotly. “So maybe some moral values have to prevail, sometimes. That’s when you make laws, and force everyone by law to respect each other’s values, or they will be punished.”
Now we’re back to laws again. We know where they come from—a small group of politicians. So essentially what you are saying is, “I’ll let my elected representative choose many of my values for me. If I don’t like his choices, I’ll elect someone else. That way, at least the majority voice will prevail and the moral values of the majority of society will rise to the top. And then people can live together with some degree of peace.”
That sounds o.k., doesn’t it? Of course, it means we have to compromise a little and let some of our values go that the majority doesn’t agree with. But having a majority choice of morality will at least allow society to function without everyone running around killing each other, or stealing from each other. We should make laws, because without them we’d be reduced to living in small tribes or gangs of like-minded people for our own safety. In short, laws will let everyone live by their own moral value systems without infringing on the rights of others.
So the problem is solved, right? It looks like we’ve found a solution for society as a whole. But there’s still something wrong, isn’t there? Society may function well enough based on majority values, but many individuals will still be unhappy even though they’ve freely chosen their own moral value system. What about them? After all, you can’t legislate happiness.
“Who cares!” you cry. “If that’s what they want, fine! Let ‘em be! Live and let live, I say.”
You’re right again, but only in part. It’s true we shouldn’t try to make laws to force values on others, unless their values put us in danger. But our purpose in this book is much broader than the formation of laws, or a ‘live and let live’ attitude. Our goal is to find the core fundamentals of stupidity so that we can better understand and avoid them—or at least be better prepared to accuse our neighbors. In short, we have to dig deeper.
So let’s get back to our original question. What about people who have chosen a moral value system, but are still miserable? Well, if that is the case, we can guess why, right? It’s because either they’ve adopted a moral value system that is wrong (in our view) and leads to unhappiness, or they might believe in moral values that are right, but they just aren’t living according to those values.
Now that is odd, isn’t it? Why would someone choose a moral value system and then not follow it, thereby making themselves miserable? That doesn’t make any sense. Why not just change it, if it makes them unhappy?
Or could it be that secretly many people believe that there is a higher set of moral values independent of themselves, and that this higher moral value system cannot be changed by mere individual choice? In other words, although you can pretend to choose any value system you want, that doesn’t make it real. And choosing your own moral value system does not mean you can force the consequences of choices to be what you want them to be.
Now you’re upset at me again, aren’t you? You’re not sure you like what I just said. Maybe you agree with me to a point, but you still don’t like it. But does what I just said make sense? Does happiness and contentment come from living according to a higher moral value system that wasn’t made by you? Or does it come from choosing a different moral value system or trying to live free of any moral value system? What do you think? (It must be remembered that the choice to live free of all moral value systems is itself a moral choice, whether we admit it or not. The opposite of morality is not amorality—the total absence of morality, which is impossible—but immorality, or living contrary to morality).
Have you ever known someone who said something like this: “I thought if I did this or lived this way, I’d be happy—but I was wrong.” What they’re saying is that the value system they chose did not make them happy. On the other hand, haven’t you known people who seem to be sincerely happy and contented? Have you wondered what makes them happy? Have they told you? What type of value system do they have? Do they follow it?
“Well,” you say, “they’re probably happy because they love someone, or because they’re serving someone or caring about someone more than themselves. They value others and let it show. That’s what makes them happy.”
A very astute observation. That’s a moral value system, isn’t it? Caring, serving, being unselfish. And where did that value system come from? Legislation? Of course not. Legislation is just to keep people with hurtful value systems from harming others. It is a system of force. Happy value systems can’t be forced.
Did these happy people make up their value system by themselves, or did they get it from somewhere else? Are there true value systems that lead to happiness, and other false ones that don’t? Do the happy value systems come from a higher source? Or are they merely a matter or choice? Can moral value systems be overcome or successfully ignored? In short, do we each possess a moral value system, independent of ourselves, which must be honestly followed in order to be happy? Or is our moral value system merely a matter of our own choosing?
Now we’re getting far afield, aren’t we? You’re supposed to be learning about avoiding stupidity, and lesson number one is that those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity must believe that there are no value systems. Yet here we are questioning whether that is true, talking about what value system you should follow to be happy and where it comes from. You’d rather choose stupidity than happiness, wouldn’t you?
Oh, all right. Don’t get mad at me. We’ll go back to happy value systems and where they come from.
You. That’s the answer. They are found in you. Deep inside you. Your value system is written deep into your soul, so deep that usually you don’t even realize it’s there. You didn’t create it yourself. You just have it. Everybody does. It is the same value system for all of us. It is not independent of us. It is part of us. You cannot successfully pretend you don’t have it, or that you can replace it with a value system of your own choice. It is written too deeply inside of you. To live honestly with yourself, you must simply recognize it and follow it.
That’s what conscience is—a link to the value system written in your soul. Conscience can be dulled by repeatedly replacing your inner value system with an external one of your choice. That’s what causes most unhappiness—not being true to your inner values, such as love, virtue, honesty, and service. People who are supremely happy have learned to accept this inner code of values, not rebel against it. Rather than rationalize these values away or consider them bankrupt or old fashioned, they see them for what they are—the very essence of their being, the inner fiber of their heart, their very soul. To pretend there is no value system is to deny one’s inner self so completely that there is nothing left but a hollow, counterfeit shell. And that is why pretending there is no value system is the very first, the very most important, the very ultimate foundation of stupidity.
“Now, hold on a minute!” you cry. “How do you know this? What proof do you have? Aren’t you just making all this up?”
My answer is simple. You are the proof. You don’t need to look for theories, studies or research. Just look inside your own soul (if you dare). In the wee hours of the morning, or at other quiet times, sit down somewhere that is peaceful, close your eyes, set aside all feelings of doubt or arrogant disbelief (See Chapter Five), open up your mind, and then ask yourself if this all isn’t true. That’s all you have to do to get your answer. And it will come, gently as a whispering wind on your shoulder.
“Balderdash!” you cry (or you might use equivalent words of profanity). “You’re just talking through your hat—making it all up!”
To which I respond—
Great! I’m so glad to hear you say that, because for a minute there I thought I’d lost you. You’re supposed to be learning about stupidity, and the most important lesson is to pretend there are no value systems. If you had searched your soul and found one, we’d be out of business, wouldn’t we?
So we’re back on track and ready for lesson two, and it’s a doozy. Remember a minute ago when I said you didn’t create your value system, even though it’s an inner part of you? If that’s so, where did it come from? You’ll find the answer in the next chapter …
The Second Fundamental of Stupidity:
Deny the Existence of God and His Involvement in Your Life
I can tell you’re mad at me already and we’ve barely started into Chapter Two. “I knew it!” you cry. “I knew you’d drag religion into this!”
But that’s where you’re wrong. There is no place for religion in the life of a person who chooses stupidity over nonstupidity. So, you see, I’m not dragging religion in—I’m dragging it out!
“What?” you say dumbly. Then you add grumpily, “Sometimes what you say is all so backward, it’s just plain … well, stupid.”
Thank you for not forgetting what this book is about. But if you’ll forgive me for making a suggestion, rather than making general comments about stupidity, what you should really be asking is why we’re dragging religion out.
Of course, ‘why’ is a very risky question to ask. Look where it led us in the last chapter. If you’d rather not ask ‘why,’ that’s fine. Just go put some ice cream in the oven to bake instead (try the broil feature—it works best with ice cream).
O.k., o.k., don’t get mad at me again. I’ll tell you why religion has no place in the life of those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity.
If a person denies the existence of God, then he won’t have to worry about sin and going to church, and swearing, and the ten commandments and the day of judgment, etc., etc. He can just go about his merry way without any fear of consequences.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We kind of covered this in the last chapter. God and moral value systems go together. Take one away and you take both away. And by now you’ve probably figured out the source for the value system we each carry around deep inside. God put it there, in every human soul, no exceptions. (This is your conscience, or in Biblical terms, the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ that came from the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve. See Genesis 3:1-7, King James Version, or ‘KJV’). If you don’t like this value system, blame Him.
Does that sound funny, to blame God for giving us an inner moral code? It doesn’t to those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity. They will scream and rant and rave and say, “It’s not fair! Why did God have to plant this sense of morality deep inside me? That takes the fun out of everything! I can’t sin and enjoy it! I can’t lie or hurt someone and feel peaceful and good and happy inside. That’s just not fair! I should be able to choose both my actions and the consequences.”
Now you’ve really hit on something. Choices. What are they? Are they God’s greatest gift, or His greatest curse? Why did He give us free choice but deny us the ability to feel happiness when we deviate from our internal code of morality? Why can’t we just choose to rip the moral code out of ourselves so we won’t be bothered with it anymore? Why can’t we choose the consequences to our actions?
And as long as we’re asking for all that, why can’t we also choose to change the law of gravity so if we jump off a cliff we won’t fall screaming to our death?
What are consequences, anyway, and how do they relate to our inner moral code? Do they have to be there? Are there absolutes (or unchangeable laws, if you will) in the universe that are consistent with our internal moral code? If so, how did they get there? Did God make them too? Can absolutes and consequences be changed by choice? Is either of them even necessary at all?
What if there weren’t? What if we could choose to live free of all constraining laws and absolutes and moral codes and consequences in the universe? No gravity. No morality. No pain. No guilt. No responsibility. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it, almost like a utopia? But if we go that far, isn’t it also true that there would be no joy, no hope, no happiness, no light or darkness, no purpose in life and indeed, no ability to even choose at all? You can hardly eliminate some absolutes without eliminating all of them.
There have to be some absolutes and opposites and alternatives, don’t there? God couldn’t give us a meaningful internal moral code that didn’t include both the ability to choose, and the reality of alternative consequences from our choices. Consequences, good or bad, are absolutely required if we have the gift of choice, since otherwise there could be no choice. In short, opposites and consequences must exist if choice exists. Hence, light opposes darkness. Truth opposes error. Joy opposes sorrow. Clean opposes filthy. Mercy opposes justice. Responsibility opposes blame. Hope opposes despair—
—and ketchup opposes ice cream, although those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity enjoy eating them both together.
At this point, you’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “The guy who wrote this book is a nut. How did we get from God to ketchup and ice cream? Pretty stupid.” Well, let’s not forget what this book is about.
But anyway, getting back to where we were, did your question of ‘why?’ get answered? Does it make sense now why a person who chooses stupidity over nonstupidity will deny the existence of God? If he denies God, he denies everything, even his own existence. He denies both consequences and choices that lead to consequences. Accordingly, he even denies his ability to deny. That’s like looking at the sun and saying it’s not there. It’s an ultimate act of stupidity.
“O.K.!” you shout in frustration, “so maybe God does exist! Fine! But why can’t He just leave me alone? Why is He going to condemn and judge me for all the things I do wrong? After all, I’m not perfect!”
The answers to your little tirade are very simple, and are as follows: (A) He does leave you alone; (B) you will judge yourself; and © He knows you’re not perfect and He loves you anyway.
Starting with (A), when was the last time you saw God send down a bolt of lightning to strike someone who did something naughty? Or when was the last time He dropped a mountain on someone who broke all His commandments and even killed people? God just doesn’t work that way. He respects our freedom of choice so much that He will even let us hurt each other in this brief moment of mortality and not intervene, so that our ultimate destiny in the hereafter will be what we truly deserve (and what we have truly chosen).
In fact, people tend to complain more about God’s NOT interfering than the other way around. Why doesn’t He intervene and stop suffering? If He’s really there, how could He let some things happen? Why doesn’t He protect innocent children from acts of cruelty? Why does He allow young mothers or fathers to die, leaving a bereaved spouse to try raising children alone?
You’ve heard these types of questions before, haven’t you? Asking these questions isn’t stupid, since we all do it at some point in our lives. But when we conclude that God isn’t there or doesn’t care about us because He doesn’t intervene, we’re back on the road to choosing stupidity over nonstupidity.
To better understand the answer to these questions, pretend that you’re God for a minute. Aside from having a solid gold palace the size of Texas, what would you do? You’ve lived for billions of eternities, and you’ll live for billions more without end. All the children ever born are your kids, good and bad. You love them all, but some make you sad.
You want your kids to learn and grow like any good parent, so one day you get this great idea. Make a new world and send all the kids down there so they can learn how to get along on their own, and make their own choices. Even better, make them forget their life with you before they were born—that will be a real test of their integrity! You don’t want them to suffer too much, so make earth life short—a mere snap of the fingers compared to how long they lived before earth and how long they’ll live after.
Now do you get the picture? Suffering from our perspective is long and horrible. But from God’s perspective, it’s like the blink of an eye. And terrible as it sounds, we learn more and we learn it faster by suffering and trouble than we do by sitting leisurely in front of the TV with the remote control.
This is all too much for you, isn’t it? You’re not so sure about this ‘living for eternities before and after earth’ thing, or about the way I described God? You probably think I’m getting too much into religious doctrine. But even if you put aside all that I said, you at least have to admit God lives at a somewhat higher level, don’t you? I mean, if He made the universe, He’s probably got a pretty good IQ, and can probably see a few things we can’t. Maybe He’s got a good reason to allow so much suffering. Maybe it’s to help us learn and grow.
But there’s more. How many of you parents have thought something like this: “That darn kid! He keeps hitting his brother! Well, I’ve had enough. Next time he does it, I’m going to let him have it!!”
Sound familiar? But you forgot something didn’t you? What about the brother that’s going to get hit? Isn’t he going to suffer? Do you really want to wait for the hit to come before you let the other kid have it? But then, letting him have it before he hits wouldn’t really be fair either, would it? What if he’s changed his ways unknown to you, and he’ll never hit his brother again?
Maybe God thinks the same way sometimes, where His intervention would deny meaningful choice and consequences.
But that’s still not all. Who’s to say that God doesn’t intervene and prevent suffering a lot of the time—maybe a lot more than we realize. I mean, when was the last time you saw Him write a message in the clouds, “Hey down there! I just saved Suzy from an accident!” God does things quietly. Miracles happen right under our noses, and most of the time we don’t even know it. Maybe He intervenes a lot more than we think.
Getting back to item (B) from your little tirade of a few minutes ago (that you’ve probably forgotten about already), you will judge yourself according to the moral code written deep inside you. Remember the stories of the people who die and then meet a being of light and see their whole life pass before their eyes? They feel the shame of every bad act and the joy of every good one, and meanwhile the being of light doesn’t say a thing, but just stands there, loving them. Who do you think is doing the judging in this little interview?
O.K., so that’s too much for you too. You’re not so sure about all that death experience stuff and you’re beginning to think I’m a religious fanatic. Well, before you start using the pages of this book for the cat’s litter box, let me put it another way.
Let’s suppose you like to drink and watch dirty movies and swear a blue streak and lie a little when it’s handy. And then your boss assigns you to a work team where everybody else doesn’t like liquor or dirty movies, doesn’t swear and is impeccably honest.
How comfortable will you feel working with those people? Would you invite them to your home for a social visit? Would you go to theirs if they asked you?
Do you really think God is going to force you to live an eternity with people you’re not comfortable with, even though they’re good people? You’d probably rather associate with those that make you feel more at ease, wouldn’t you? If you’ve spent your life defying your inner moral code and not living up to your potential, you’d probably be miserable living forever with those who lived to a higher standard.
God isn’t going to force you to go where you’re not comfortable. You are judging yourself by the way you live each day and when you die you will review that life and confirm the judgment you created from a lifetime of decisions. You can’t just expect to somehow be magically changed from wishy-washy to dedicated, deceptive to honest, immoral to virtuous. After all, you are who you are. And what you have been sending out your whole life—that is, how you have been treating others, what you have been thinking, the inner desires of your heart, good or bad—will be fully restored to you.
But don’t worry. If you sincerely want to change and do better while you’re here on earth, to overcome bad habits and reach your higher potential, it’s not too late. Just keep trying to improve, little by little, at a pace you can handle. In fact, that’s what God intended that mortality is all about—second chances, learning and growth. Life is about choices and change—changing for the better, as is discussed in more detail in Chapter Seven. (In the Bible, this process of ongoing change is called “repentance” and requires the help of Jesus Christ to truly be effective, as will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Seven. I realize that’s a rather strong word for some people, but if it’s a problem, just follow the title to this chapter and you’ll be fine).
What’s that? You think I’m off my rocker and you’re convinced now that I must be some kind of religious fanatic? Well, just remember what I said at the beginning of this chapter—that there’s no place for God or religion in the life of those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity. So if my discussion sounds a bit too preachy for you, I’m still on safe ground, aren’t I?
O.K., so you think religion is fine, but you disagree with some of my ideas. Like the idea that people in the hereafter will go where they feel most comfortable. “Isn’t there just a heaven and a hell?” you say, “without anything in between?”
That would be dreary, wouldn’t it? There’s got to be something more than that. If that’s all there was, then you’d only feel comfortable if you were perfect—perfect in goodness like God and the people in heaven, or perfect in evil, like the devil and people in hell. What about all the people in between? And you can’t expect God to change you in an instant to what you ought to be if you’ve been unwilling all your life to work at it. If you were somehow changed like that, it just wouldn’t be YOU anymore.
And that leads us to © from your little tirade above, that God knows you’re not perfect but loves you anyway.
What is perfection? Certainly it is at least freedom from error or sin or improper behavior, right? And if that’s true, could God be perfect if He didn’t love us in spite of our imperfections even though He Himself is perfect? It is men who are intolerant and look down on each other, not God. Do not confuse the behavior of those who demean others and yet profess to follow God, with the attitudes of God Himself. He can think for Himself.
But perfection surely must be more than freedom from anything negative. Perfection is the ultimate positive, the sum of all good. For a person to achieve it, they must not only avoid all negative things that pull them down, but must incorporate all that which is positive. This requires living up to that person’s highest potential, to live true to their inner moral code—in other words, to live a life of integrity, rather than a life of hypocrisy, in which the internal moral code is denied and ignored. They must come to truly love others like God does. Indeed, such God-like love is the very essence of our internal moral code, and the purpose behind it. This code is the ultimate code of happiness and love, and that is why God placed it within each one of us.
You’ve had it, haven’t you? I can tell by the look on your face. I can hear you muttering, “Not only did you drag religion into this, now you’re getting all ‘lovey-dovey!’ It’s enough to make me sick!”
Well, in that case, you’d better head for the toilet. Or if you’d rather choose stupidity over nonstupidity, go to the buffet table at the nearest restaurant and hover over the salad bowl.
“Stop that!” you cry. “Or you really will make me sick!” Then you run your hand through your hair in exasperation, take a deep breath, and say, “And I suppose all I need to do to know whether all this stuff you’ve been telling me is true is to search my inner soul again, just like the last time? And then I’ll magically know, right?” Then you smirk at me.
I smirk back, and say, “You could do that and it would work, but I know of an even better way. Ask God. He knows. Go where it is quiet, set aside all feelings of doubt or arrogant disbelief (See Chapter Five), then ask Him in sincerity and wait for Him to tell you in His own time and way. He will confirm the truth of all this. And you won’t be waiting long. He’s the best source for this type of information.” (But remember that it is very unwise to mandate to the most powerful being in the universe how and when he can communicate with you. In other words, don’t tell God He has to answer you in a certain way or under a time limit—unless, of course, you want to be stupid. He’s smart enough to know the best time and way to answer your questions)
And now, getting back to what you said a minute ago about getting all lovey-dovey, just take a look at the title of the next chapter …
The Third Fundamental of Stupidity:
Treat People as Badly as Possible, Especially Your Family
I can tell you’ve refreshed yourself since the last chapter. You tossed this book aside (not in the garbage, thankfully), ate, relaxed, slept, went to work (you’ll notice I didn’t say you actually ‘worked’), and now in a fit of boredom you’ve picked up this book again with the off-hand comment to your spouse/roommate/whoever, “Let’s see what other stupid things this guy has to say.”
And then, the minute you see this chapter title, you remember. This is the ‘lovey-dovey’ chapter you wanted to avoid.
Well, I’ve got good news for you. Just as there is no room for God or morality in the life of a person who chooses stupidity over nonstupidity, there is no room for love either. So if your goal is to choose stupidity, go ahead and cut love and kindness completely out of your life. Swear at people. Kick your dog. Send relatives you don’t like boxes full of rocks, C.O.D. Introduce a virus to your computer system at work. And above all else, make sure you treat your spouse and children/parents/siblings and loved ones as poorly as possible. They should be the primary target of your anti-love crusade since they deserve it the least.
What’s that you say? You think I’m being extreme again? You think that treating others badly is not necessarily the opposite of love, and that true love is more than treating others well. At any rate, you think maybe its normal to sometimes mistreat people you love without really meaning to, but that doesn’t mean you don’t love them.
That sounds true enough, doesn’t it? As an example, how many men have said, “Gosh, honey, the fact I stayed out late/or worked on the car all afternoon/or watched the game all day doesn’t mean I don’t love you?” Surely they didn’t mean to communicate lack of love by doing these things. Did they? Or did they?
Or could it be that the truth lies in between these two extremes? Perhaps love is not what is in someone else’s mind of what you should do if you truly love them, but neither is it a set of conditions in your own mind of the minimum things you need to do or not do to show you love someone else. Love is not from the mind, but comes from the heart. True love is unconditional, and at the same time it is very strict. It is much more than a mere feeling, and requires action. There is a connection between how you treat someone and whether you love them, but that connection is not dependent on what they think you should do to show you love them.
In other words, love is yours, not theirs. And then you give it away. And then in a way, it becomes theirs, but not because they think it should be that way, but because you gave it. Love cannot be forced. Love will not force. But love is the greatest force of power in the universe.
My, we have gotten all ‘lovey-dovey’ haven’t we? Time to dig out the old love letters and burn them, along with all of your old valentines. After all, love is too much work if it’s that hard to understand.
Well then, put aside all that I just said and consider this—how do you know someone loves you? Because you feel it, right? You feel it coming from them. Someone can give you a Ferrari while slapping you in the face, and—although they may be generous—you know they don’t love you.
Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t bring me flowers anymore, so you must not love me!” Don’t get sidetracked—what they’re really saying is, “I don’t feel love from you anymore.” If they could still feel it from you, flowers or not, do you think they’d say anything? (Unless of course they care more about flowers than they do about you).
What’s that you say? You think my skull is cracked because I said you can feel it when others love you? You point out all the husbands and/or wives who thought they felt love from their spouse, only to get a summons from a process server saying they were being sued for divorce. “What about them?” you say with a snide curl of your upper lip. “They didn’t really feel love, did they?”
The answer is simple, really. They didn’t feel the true and deeper love that I am talking about. Love is not infatuation, or passion or the mere tolerance of differences that you might feel coming from someone else. The most powerful love is the joy and goodwill that bubbles up inside you, so much that it can’t help but flow out to others. And they can feel it when it’s that powerful. And you can feel it from them when their love bubbles up in the same way.
For example, consider your favorite teacher. It doesn’t matter whether this teacher was a he or a she, or what subject they taught, or whether they were a first grade teacher or a college professor. What did you feel coming from them? When you looked into their eyes, what did those eyes say to you? Did you feel like this teacher really cared about you? How could you tell?
What we’re talking about is simple and obvious, and everyone knows all about it. We can all tell when someone sincerely cares about us, as compared to when they are just politely pretending to pay attention while their eyes glaze over and they are obviously thinking of something else. Love is simple caring. It is putting aside self for others. We can tell when someone does that for us, and especially when their love for us is so deep that it seems to flow out from them and envelop us.
There are different levels of love. At the lower levels, people treat each other badly and live a life of turmoil. Yet, they usually stay together even though life is hard, since at least they are receiving attention. The middle levels of love have a pleasant atmosphere of polite, semi-sincere caring, but with a good deal of selfishness too, and with occasional blow-ups of anger. The majority of people live at this level. And then there are a very distinct few—and believe me, they are few, but almost all of us have met someone like this—who live at the upper levels of love. They seem to give out so much unconditional, nonjudgmental love, without demanding anything in return, that we all just gravitate to them. And from them in particular, we learn the one true lesson of love, the ultimate irony, the one thing that those who chose stupidity over nonstupidity will never acknowledge. And that is that we feel and receive love from others to exactly the same degree that we send it out. The love we send out bounces back to us like a reflection from a mirror. Because of this, we alone determine how much love we receive, by how much we give. The few who reach the highest levels of love know this, and give everything they have, holding nothing back. (See Luke 17:33, KJV) Most of all, they love God with all their hearts, since they know he will send love back their way tenfold. (See Matt. 22:37-39, KJV) In this respect, you could almost say that absolute love is absolutely selfish precisely because it is absolutely selfless.
I can tell by the scowl on your face that you don’t believe me. “Prove it,” you grunt with a sneer. “Sure, I’d like to feel more love in my life, but I don’t believe if I send it out that I’ll feel more in return. All that will likely happen is that people will take advantage of me for being ‘soft.’
All right then, try this as an experiment. Pretend that you somehow put your “self” on a shelf for just 15 minutes a day. During that time, don’t consider yourself or your needs or even your own personal thoughts or desires at all. Just focus completely on those around you. Not about silly things like what they’re doing or wearing, or what they think of you, but really look at them. Are they happy? Is there anything you could say to lift their spirits? Is there something that everybody knows they need to hear, but everyone is too afraid to tell them? Is there a way for you to say it without pulling them down, that makes them feel good and positive about themselves rather than depressed? What are their positive points? If they seem to have a lot of negative points, have you ever considered why? Are they rude because of the way they were raised, or because they’ve been hurt, or because they’re afraid of being considered weak if they’re nice?
“Humbug!” you cry. “It’s too much work to try and figure all that out! How am I supposed to know the answers to those questions? I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know what they’ve been through.”
True enough. But the purpose of this little exercise wasn’t for you to find answers about the persons you were looking at, but to find compassion within you. It was to get you thinking in a more positive and tolerant way of others, one that is not blind to faults, but is willing to overlook them rather than make a mountain out of them. For the love you feel toward others (and therefore the love that you will get in return) must be generated from within you, and that can only happen when you are willing to set aside yourself and look outward. It is one of the supreme ironies of true love that you cannot receive it from others until you no longer care if you do, because all you care about is others.
It will take time and patience to develop this type of love, and may seem hard at first, but it is possible. Love is the key to life. It is the very essence of our internal moral code, and the one true source of happiness. Love is what God is, and what we can become. The ultimate example of the type of love we have been talking about is seen in the life of God’s only begotten son, Jesus Christ, since he poured out His life even unto death because he loved us so much. When we develop this type of love, we will experience a fullness of joy, just like Him.
I can tell by the gurgling deep in your throat that you’ve about reached your limit. Then, with an effort, you cough politely, scratch your head, and say (out of an obvious effort to change the subject), “But I thought love was just about romance and holding hands and all that. You haven’t really talked about that at all.”
Is there a difference? Can spouses love each other in truth in any other way than the unconditional, nonjudgmental, unselfish way we’ve been talking about? Isn’t the romantic love you’re talking about better labeled as mutual attraction, passion and infatuation that initially brings couples together, so they can get started on the road to discovery of true love?
Now you’re looking at me with a steady gaze of pity that says without words what you really think—that I haven’t lost my mind because I never had one to begin with. But before you toss this book into the sink disposal and flip the switch, let me throw something your way that seems to hold everyone’s interest. It is the underlying theme of most TV shows, movies and music today. Let’s talk about passion for a minute. (I could use a more exciting word like ‘lust’ or ‘sex,’ but I think you get the picture)
What is the highest expression of love between two people? TV shows, movies, books and music all give the same answer. However, just think about the question for a moment. What would be the ultimate act of love one person can give to another? When we put the question that way and really think about it, we get a different answer, don’t we? The carpenter from Galilee probably said it best: “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (See John 15:13, KJV) That is far greater than the passion expressed between members of the opposite gender, isn’t it?
If we had to identify just one word that sums up the essence of this greater love, what would it be? ‘Passion’ really doesn’t capture it, since it focuses more on physical expressions than the deeper feelings of the heart. ‘Kindness’ isn’t strong enough; ‘caring’ comes closer, but still doesn’t quite seem to summarize this greater love.
Commitment. That’s what it is. Someone who is willing to die for someone else is obviously totally committed to them. Not even the ultimate sacrifice would be too great. Total commitment to others is the ultimate expression of love. Indeed, the opposite of love is not hate. It is lack of commitment.
Just how different are passion and commitment? We’ve already seen that the highest form of love is the totally committed, “forget self” kind. There can be little if any real selfishness by those who are truly committed to each other, but the same is not true of passion. Unbridled passion can easily be very selfish. Indeed, we all know people who are only concerned with the personal gratification of sex without any real concern for who they do it with. Hence, passion can be totally lacking in commitment, and therefore totally lacking in true love. With that in mind, if one had to choose between passion and commitment, which would be the better choice?
“What are you driving at?” you say with a suspicious furrow of your brow. “All this talk about choosing commitment or passion. You don’t have to have just one or the other—you can have both at the same time.”
True, it is possible to have both at once, but it’s not guaranteed. In other words, passion and commitment are independent of each other. Someone who is committed to someone else can have passion, but as we have seen, a person obsessed with passion can be totally lacking in commitment.
Consider for example a young man and woman who seem to fall in love and decide to live together, but not get married. Do they have passion? Probably. But are they truly committed to each other, so much so that there is nothing they would hold back from each other? In other words, do they truly love each other? Obviously not, or they would have married and committed totally to each other.
Commitment can sustain a relationship forever, but passion cannot. And those who trade passion for commitment, or in other words, who put passion first and commitment second, not only sell themselves short, but decrease their chances of ever experiencing true, committed love. The old saying still holds true that “if you won’t commit to me, you must not really love me.” Indeed, it is difficult, although not impossible, for a relationship where passion was put first, and commitment second, to ever reverse itself, and for the parties to feel that their partner is absolutely committed to them. This is true both of those who lived together without marriage and those who married without very much commitment and more out of passion, although their willingness to marry does show a higher level of commitment to begin with.
On the other hand, for a man and woman who have put their commitment to each other first, and who value and nurture that commitment as their primary goal, their mutual expressions of passion (which they wisely reserve until after the commitment of marriage is complete) reach a higher level of joy and fulfillment that is unparalleled, and that cannot be experienced until the price of total commitment has been fully paid. Therefore, ironically, those concerned only with passion will never fully experience it, since one only can do so after paying the price of commitment.
“Ok! Ok!” you say through clenched teeth. “So commitment and selflessness are the ultimate expressions of love. I can live with that. But you still haven’t really answered my question about ‘feeling’ love from others, and about a spouse who thinks they feel love from their mate, then suddenly get a divorce summons. What about that?!” And then you look down on me in haughty triumph.
The answer is again very simple. Think once more of your favorite teacher, or of someone you know that seems to radiate unconditional love. Can you picture them catching their spouse by surprise with a divorce summons? Or can you picture them on the receiving end of one? Is someone living at a higher level of love likely to have that type of experience?
Even if they did somehow receive such a summons, how would they react? Certainly they would be hurt, but would they respond with resentment or with love? Would they be willing to set their spouse free without rancor, or would they want to get back at them, fight over property, and hurt them?
The issue is not so much whether we can feel love from others as whether we can feel it within us toward others, and towards God. When it bubbles up inside so strong that we can’t contain it, then it tends to radiate so powerfully that others can’t help but feel it. That is the essence of love. And that is why those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity will treat others badly, and then complain when they demand love without giving anything in return.
You look at me with a piercing gaze that would almost melt granite. But then a slow, sly grin steals its way across your face, and you say, “You think you’re so smart. Well, I’ve really got one for you now—something that will turn everything you’ve said upside down. What about gays? They seem to be committed to each other. Lots of them would marry if they could. Therefore, they must meet your definition of love, even though they don’t meet what you said about a moral code. What do you say to that, eh? So much for your claim that commitment is the highest expression of love. Hah!”
To which I reply, “Thank you for giving me the perfect way to lead into the next chapter …
The Fourth Fundamental of Stupidity:
Yield Your Life to Addictions as Much as Possible
“So,” you say, raising your eyebrows, “I can see by the title that you must think that gays are addicted, eh? They’re not really in love or truly committed to each other, but are just addicted.”
Precisely. Indeed, large deviations from our internal moral code, such as gayness, inhibit the development of the higher love that we discussed in the last chapter, since we cannot grow in love and peace when we are so far out of harmony with our inner self. In spite of all they say, gays are not truly in love with or committed to their partner in the way we described in the last chapter, but are instead committed to, obsessed with and addicted to sex and gayness itself. It is almost constantly on their minds.
When it comes to addictions, to better understand them we need to know what causes them, and what people become addicted to.
“Well, that’s obvious,” you respond. “Addiction is being hooked on something, so you can’t stop. It controls you.”
And now it’s my turn to say, ‘Hogwash!’ or ‘Humbug!’ or similar words of profanity just like you’ve been doing through this whole book. Addiction is willful yielding of control, not inescapable control by an outside force. Addiction is by choice. And while overcoming addiction does get harder the longer you indulge, you never—let me repeat, NEVER—lose your ability to overcome it. Your will is more powerful, and always will be. God made you that way. (See I Corinthians 10:13, KJV)
Why do people become addicted? Well, naturally no one starts out planning to become addicted. After all a single indulgence in something that is addicting isn’t harmful, is it? And if one use is o.k., surely a second use is all right too. And so is a third. And a fourth. And then before you know it, the addiction has taken hold, but never with the knowing intent that it do so. The process is subtle, and always starts with the premise that the user is in control, and won’t become addicted.
Hence, the real question is, what are the reasons for the early indulgences in something that is addictive? The reasons people give are almost as numerous as roaches in a dirty restaurant, but in actuality there are only a few main motivations which, oddly enough, often tend to contradict each other. Many enter the road to addiction to show they are part of the crowd, in order to be accepted and not ridiculed. Ironically, others do it to show they are unique or different, that they are not part of the crowd, but are supposedly independent thinkers. In actuality, their motivation is that they want attention, usually to make up for a lack of love or fulfillment in their life. Some indulge in addictive substances or practices out of rebellion against parents or spouse or society or church, etc. Yet others do it because they are essentially forced into it by parents or family or someone with influence over them. Indeed, some addictions are so prevalent in society that people are caught in their snare because the addiction is cultural, and everyone does it—indeed, you would have to be a rebel to not indulge.
In short, the beginnings of addictions are subtle and are often contradictory and paradoxical, like two sides of the same coin. When viewed in isolation, some of these motivations seem a bit ridiculous, and one wonders why someone would ever buy into them. But when faced with the pressures of the moment, the reasons somehow seem to come alive and to be fully justified. Addictions usually occur when the inner yearning to fulfill a real need is coupled with the misperception that indulgence in the addictive substance or act will somehow help to meet that need. The fallacy of this notion only becomes plain after it is too late. In the end, no matter how an addiction starts, it soon creates a life of its own that continues to demand satisfaction long after the initial motivation is gone.
There are different levels of addictions. The most harmful addictions are to substances that not only make you want to use them again and again, but which also remove your ability to choose while you are under their influence, such as alcohol and drugs. These addictions are the most deadly and the most foolish. Those who use these substances knowingly cast their internal moral code and God-given ability to choose into the dirt, preferring instead a brief moment of uninhibited ‘freedom’ which is supposedly devoid of any consequences. Hence, they voluntarily yield themselves to the influence and control of alcohol or drugs, even though this influence largely takes away their ability to choose and may lead them to harm others or themselves. This risk of harm from the addiction is usually ignored by the user out of a depression-motivated or selfish desire to simply ‘feel good.’ However, the realities of life after the supposed ‘fun’ is over create a sense of depression that increases the desire to defy common sense, cast personal choice to the wind, and do it all again. In short, use of these substances is extremely reckless and knowingly self-destructive.
The next level of addictions relates to substances that do not remove choice during their use, but do no good and create a powerful craving for repeated use. The most obvious example is tobacco. Choosing to use these types of items tends toward stupidity because of the waste they create. Huge amounts of money and time are lost because of addiction to things such as tobacco, not to mention damage to health. (Coffee and Black Tea are also addictive stimulants, due to their high caffeine content) But the most harmful thing about all addictions, far more than loss of money or time, is the willing yielding of control and choice by the addicted person to the addiction.
“Now listen here!” you say hotly. “I think you’re starting to get too personal. There’s nothing wrong with having a cigarette, or an occasional drink at the bar. Those things don’t control me—I control them, just like you said earlier.”
That’s a wonderful sentiment. Do you also enjoy playing with matches, running across busy freeways, or juggling with razor blades? Why fool around with something you know is dangerous and addictive, that tends to take over and require a supreme force of will to overcome? In particular, why indulge in something that removes your capacity for meaningful choice while you are under its influence, thereby increasing the risk that you will harm someone else or yourself?
After all, how many people do you know who happened to wake up one morning and say to themselves, “You know, I think I’ll become an alcoholic just for fun,” or “Gee, I think I’ll smoke 3 packs a day and risk lung cancer since I’m bored.” It starts just one small use at a time, which is easy to justify, followed by another, and then just one more, and then another, and so on.
“All right, I get the point,” you say gruffly. “Some stuff should probably be avoided, even though a single use may not cause harm.”
The next level of addictions have to do with things that also create a craving to be repeated, but are good and even desirable as long as they are done in the right way and are not indulged in to excess, like sex or food. Sex and eating are good things in their place, but if natural cravings are not bridled and are allowed to run unchecked, they can be taken too far and become very addicting. If you don’t believe it, just ask someone who’s indulged in hard core pornography how easy it is to stop.
Another word for a sexual addiction is an obsession. An addiction or obsession with sex can manifest itself in many different ways, including pornography, masterbation, sexual abuse of spouse and other family members, fornication, adultery or homosexuality. Men are more prone to become addicted to sex by nature. Once started on the road to one of these sexual addictions, it is very hard to stop. But it can be done.
“But what about this ‘same sex attraction’ thing?” you ask. “I’ve heard that some researchers say it is hereditary. Isn’t that what gayness is really all about?”
Absolute hogwash. God doesn’t predispose any of His children to stupidity—it has to be our choice. As we discussed above, there are a number of reasons why people start indulging in addictions. But your question about the same sex attraction idea does raise an important point. What you’re really asking is why some people seem more strongly inclined than others to a certain addiction, like homosexuality. There is a very clear reason for this added push to indulge, although it’s probably the last thing in the world you would expect.
Now I’ve got your curiosity aroused, haven’t I? You’re ready and anxious for an answer. But before I give it, I just wanted to say that it’s been nice knowing you. I admire that you’ve hung in there through the first three chapters of this book, even when we got into some pretty dicey stuff. Well, what you’re about to hear is even dicier and might be too much for you, and that’s why I’m saying farewell—and good luck at trying to flush this book down the toilet, since it’s a bit too big for the pipes. Anyway, here goes.
Remember in Chapter Two when we talked about people who died and met a being of light and judged themselves? Their spirit kept on living even though their body had died. Death isn’t the end of everything. It’s just stepping through a door into another sphere of existence. We live in a mortal world, a physical world, in which we cannot see the spirits of those who have passed on. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not there. They may have left their body behind, but they’re still living, thinking people.
Now, what about those who pass beyond who were addicted during their life? Does their addiction completely go away? Even though they left their body with its cravings behind, doesn’t it seem likely they would still want to experience the thing they were obsessed about in life? Simply put, if they are still unwilling to fully forsake the addiction and embrace the light, they will want to enjoy the satisfaction of their craving again. Obviously they can no longer do so with their own body, so …
… so maybe they’ll seek to fulfill their desires with someone else’s body. The most natural person to pick would be someone involved in the same addiction, or who is at least leaning in that direction for one of the reasons we discussed at the start of this chapter about why people become addicted. (For more on this, see by George Ritchie & Elizabeth Sherill) Once such an unseen spirit joins in the body of the addicted person, the craving the mortal person feels will naturally intensify and increase—without his knowing anything about the real reason why. All he knows is that the craving seems overpowering. (However, no matter how overpowering the craving is, even if unclean spirits are present, we can still say ‘no’ to the addiction and stop. It may be hard, but it is ALWAYS possible. God guarantees it. See 1 Corinthians 10:13, KJV) So called ‘same sex attraction’ is nothing more or less than this.
I can tell by the look on your face that we have passed far beyond your limits of tolerance or willingness to accept. “You know something?” you say coolly. “You are really a fruitcake. An absolute nutso. A freak! I can’t believe I came with you all this way, only to end up with such an outlandish, bizarre idea.” You shake your head in amazement and prepare to toss this book in the fireplace.
I told you it would be dicey, didn’t I? But is it really all that bizarre or outlandish? After all, you’ve admitted there is a God—what’s so outlandish about admitting His opposite, the devil, and that people, because of their choices, become aligned somewhere in the spectrum between these two beings?
“Now wait a minute!” you cry (and I’m glad to see you’re still with me). “You were talking a minute ago about addicted people who die, but still want to fulfill their cravings in someone else’s body. Are you saying now that these people are the devil’s angels?”
Not exactly. Even though they allowed him some control in life by yielding to an addiction, an alcoholic or gay or chain smoker who dies usually isn’t really a knowing follower of the devil, and therefore cannot quite be called his angel. Rather, they simply made choices about addictions that put them in his camp to some degree, where they will remain until they are willing to forsake the addiction and embrace the light. They are the unfortunate ones, enslaved in a web of addiction and obsession of their own weaving, which can carry on beyond this life.
The distinction between the devil’s true angels and these unfortunate ones can best be found in the stories of Jesus. Isn’t it curious that when you read about His life, almost every other day he was casting out a devil or an unclean spirit? If there were so many then, where did they all go? Why don’t you hear about them today? Or are they around now just as much as then, but no one wants to admit it? If they were here then, they are here now, helping the addicted become even more addicted, and generally causing trouble right and left.
You didn’t pick up on it, did you? In the last paragraph I offered a distinction between the devil’s true followers and the unfortunates who died with an addiction. Notice the words ‘devils’ and ‘unclean spirits’ that are used in the stories of Jesus? These are two distinct types of beings. The devil’s angels are devils indeed (also known as evil spirits or demons), but the unclean spirits are the unfortunates who once had a body and were addicted or who made other poor choices in life, and are still unwilling to accept responsibility and embrace the light after death. (The question may arise about how to eliminate such unwelcome visitors if you feel they are present. While Hollywood movies like to dramatize this sort of thing, the answer, is very simple—just consistently deny them the satisfaction they are seeking by refusing the addiction and all other harmful desires, concentrate on doing good and living up to your inner moral code, and they will soon leave)
“Well,” you say rather loudly, while looking around at the clock. “Will you look at the time? Did you know the game is on? I’ve gotta go.” And then you swing your arm back to throw this book over the neighbor’s fence, aiming for his garbage can (or his cat).
Well, before you throw, let me say that I know we went into some pretty deep stuff in this chapter that you may still be wondering about. So how about a truce? We can forget about all the stuff about unclean spirits if you want, and I won’t mention them again. But there’s still more that needs to be said about addictions, and about why those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity embrace them.
Addictions reduce (but do not entirely eliminate) choice, because those who are addicted willingly yield their choice to the addiction. Without choice we cannot truly progress or reach our potential, or live up to our inner moral code. But of course, those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity prefer it that way. They would rather yield control of their choices (which is itself a choice), and then blame the addiction for controlling them.
However, as we said before, although additions get harder and harder to overcome with time, there is never a point at which the addiction cannot be overcome. Each son or daughter of God can always exercise his choice to overcome them. Of course, this is not a single one-time choice, but will probably end up being 1,000 times 1,000 choices each day, to not go back to the addiction. That is the prison, the torture if you will, that the addicted choose for themselves.
We’ve already talked about three levels of addictions, and a lot of things that people get addicted to. Want some more? Of course not. I can tell by the scowl on your face that you’d rather try to hold a cat under a hot shower than hear any more about addictions. Well, I’m sorry, but there’s still a bit more, like it or not.
The final level of addictions, and clearly the most common, has to do with using or focusing on something to excess, more than is good or healthy, even though there is no physical craving involved. Take swearing, for example. Have you ever talked to someone who couldn’t say a single sentence without profanity in it? He or she is obviously addicted (If you want them to stop for awhile, just offer to pay them $50.00 if they go a whole day without profanity. They’ll obviously lose, but the first few hours will be quiet and peaceful).
How about gambling? After all, if you just put one more quarter into that slot machine, you could hit the jackpot! So if one more doesn’t work, how about two more? After all, you’re bound to win eventually, right? There’s a very big market for this form of addiction, as all owners of multi-million dollar casinos in Las Vegas know very well.
So, you’re not a gambler or a heavy swearer; well, let’s hit closer to home. How about music? Can a person be addicted to it? Have you ever known someone who was? They have a radio in the shower and the car and in every room of their house, and of course at work. They wake up to music in the morning, have it in the background all day, and go to sleep with it at night. If they could exchange their CD collection for the money they originally paid for them all, their storage space in their house would double and they could afford a new car.
“Oh, come off it!” you cry. “There’s nothing wrong with playing a little music! What kind of extremist are you?”
I’ll tell you what kind—the kind who likes to choose his own moods and thoughts. Don’t try to tell me music doesn’t influence both, because it does. If you hear a stirring rendition of ‘God Bless America,’ what do you think about, and how do you feel? Or how about weight lifters or joggers who listen to strong, exciting music, that motivates action? On the other hand, how does a blaring rendition of ‘I Wanna Blow my Nose’ by the Garbage Dumsters strike you? Is it uplifting? Does it make you want to think about God or show love for someone? What does it motivate you to chose, or to do? Music can be a powerful addiction if indulged in too much, even though it is unquestionably a good thing if not taken to extremes.
I can tell if you could reach through the pages of this book and belt me in the teeth, you would. You’re disgusted with my criticism of your little vices, like a drink at the bar or music. You’re proud of your vices. They make you what you are—they show you’re not a conformist, that you can think for yourself, and you’re nobody’s puppet.
Fine. I have no problem with your little game of make believe. Keep it up. Just remember that those who market addictions, no matter what kind, want you to actually believe all of that nonsense. Indeed, I have to wonder who the real conformists and rebels are when I see good people choose to join the crowd and become addicted in order to show they can ‘think for themselves’ and are ‘different’ from the crowd, and that they’re nobody’s puppet. And what is most amazing of all is that they sell themselves into the slavery of addiction in the name of freedom by pretending that somehow they show their independence by becoming addicted and dependent! It is a supreme irony, isn’t it, and an excellent con game for the purveyors of addictions. If you really want to show your independence, to demonstrate that you truly are an independent thinker, you will simply stay away from all addictions.
By now you’ve probably caught the drift of what I’m saying. Anything taken to excess can be an addiction. While there are a few things that should never be indulged in, many addictions relate to things that are quite harmless if used with self control, but can be addicting if pursued without restraint. Addictions can be for things like sports, work, spending, movies, TV, exercise, gossip, bragging, nagging, being rude, violence, criticizing, negativity, cars, hunting, clothes, the pursuit of pleasure or comfort, anger—the list goes on and on. Each can become an addiction if not controlled.
The central point about addictions, the thing that those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity purposefully overlook or ignore, can be summed up in one word. Responsibility. Accepting responsibility for one’s choices and actions, while not yielding control to addictions. Those who choose stupidity shun responsibility; the wise embrace it. Those who choose stupidity offer excuses or blame others (blaming can also be an addiction), but are never willing to confront their own reality and accept responsibility for their choices. They fail to realize that they alone have the power to avoid addictions, or overcome the ones they have. They alone have the power to change their life to become whatever they want it to be.
Until people reach this higher level of thinking they often view themselves in a negative way, believing that they’re powerless or worthless, exploited or unappreciated. Indeed, they often see themselves as actually being stupid, rather than being good, but having mistakenly chosen stupidity in the past. Feelings of lack of control because of their addiction tend to feed this view of themselves. But the truth is that if they could only see their potential, and view who they really are, they would see that they possess a positive reality, and are good, capable, wonderful people, the veritable offspring of God. They would see that they have the inner strength to accept responsibility for their actions and choices without being overwhelmed, and that they have the capacity to grow, improve and change. If they just reach deep down inside, they will find untapped wells of self control and strength and power to overcome addictions that will surprise even them.
I can see you rubbing your chin thoughtfully. “Well,” you say slowly, “there may be something to all that. “I guess I’ll have to think about that for awhile …”
To which I respond, congratulations! You’ve proven your open-mindedness once again, and because of that you may be able to skip the entire next chapter since it may not apply to you. But before you do, let’s at least take a look at what it’s about …
The Fifth Fundamental of Stupidity:
Establish Pride, Vanity and Ego as Watchwords to Live By
“So,” you say with a pleasant smile (the first pleasant smile I’ve seen on your face since you started reading this book), “you don’t think this chapter applies to me, eh? Well neither do I!”
Better watch out. If you keep saying things like that, this chapter will apply to you.
Pride, vanity and ego are the opposite of being teachable and open minded. Those who choose stupidity over nonstupidiy prefer closed minded pride to open minded growth.
“Boy, isn’t that the truth!” you exclaim. “Almost everyone I know has that same problem. They won’t listen to reason—they’ve got to do it their way. They just won’t listen to me!”
Strike two. Maybe this chapter does apply to you after all. We’re not talking about the need of others to be open minded and not proud or vain. You can’t force them to change anyway. We’re talking about you. Whether you are open minded or proud; whether you are vain or teachable. In other words, whether you are convinced you’ve got all the answers and everyone should listen to you.
“Now, hold on!” you cry defensively. “I’m not proud! I’m not like everybody else out there! I don’t need any of this stuff!”
Strike three, and you’re out. Only one who possessed unacknowledged pride would say such a thing. You definitely need this chapter, so you’d better read it carefully.
I can tell you’re fuming. Your ears are twitching, and your face is the same shade of purple as an egg plant. But slowly, a sly smile spreads its way across your face. Then with a sneer you say, “Well, if I supposedly need this, then so do you! If you’re going to say I need help but you don’t, then you’re doing the same thing you accused me of a minute ago! Hah!” And with the ‘Hah!’ you jerk your finger at me in triumph.
You’re absolutely correct. I need this chapter as much as anyone, maybe more. So when I say ‘you’ in this chapter, I really mean me as well.
Got you there, didn’t I? You didn’t expect me to actually agree with you, did you? But you’re right. I need this chapter. We all do, since almost all of us carry around more pride and vanity than we want to admit, and since pride is so deadly.
“Deadly?” you say, raising an eyebrow. “How can a little vanity and pride be deadly? So what if most everybody’s got a little bit of it. No big deal.”
Perhaps. But what is it that destroyed the Roman Empire? What was it that caused the First and Second World Wars? For that matter, the Civil War? What is it that holds most people back from making personal progress in the things they really need to change in their lives, and from reaching their potential? What is it that, according to the old saying, ‘goeth before a fall?’ Indeed, when it really comes right down to it, what is the single most pronounced human failing that leads to choosing stupidity over nonstupidity?
“All right!” you sputter, waiving your hand as if trying to ward off an annoying mosquito. “So maybe pride can be deadly. A little bit. But I’m not sure it’s something I need to worry much about. Oh, I know,” you say hastily, “that sounds like a proud thing to say. So maybe I’m a little bit proud. But I don’t have anything really serious to worry about. A little pride isn’t going to hurt me.”
Now you know why pride is so insidious—and so deadly. No one wants to admit how deadly it really is. The reality is, this should have been the first chapter in this book, not the fifth. But we had to lay the right foundation in all those other chapters, to be ready for this one.
Pride is deadly because it emphasizes self over truth. The proud care more about who is right than what is right—and assume, of course, that they are always right. In a word, the proud pit their puny egos against their God-given internal moral code, and set it in defiance, asserting that their view is more important and somehow more correct. Pride is a state of opposition to God and His moral code, and is the opposite of the first and great commandment, to love God with all our hearts. (See Matt. 22:37, KJV) Hence, pride inhibits our ability to develop the higher form of love discussed in Chapter Three.
To better understand pride, consider what it is not. Would someone without pride put himself ahead of others? Would he see others more clearly because he would not be preoccupied with himself? Would someone without pride feel like he needed to teach others, or to learn from them? Would someone without pride be easy to get along with, or obnoxious? Would he be easily offended, or not? We can tell a lot about pride by identifying these contrasts.
“Well, that does it for my boss, then,” you say hotly. “Talk about obnoxious! He’s always making extreme demands, and then blaming me when they aren’t met. He’s the one that needs to read this chapter, not me!”
Perhaps so. In fact, you’ve identified one place where pride tends to flourish in leaps and bounds—the workplace. In the olden days, most people were independent farmers, and had no boss. If things went bad, they had no one to blame but themselves. The modern age has transformed society. Most people now are subject to the decisions of others in their jobs, making a fertile field for pride to flourish. Few people can resist the urge to throw their weight around a bit and exercise their pride if given authority over others.
“My feelings exactly!” you cry, beaming at me. “Maybe I’ll get my boss this book for Christmas, and cross out the word ‘anti’ on the cover!”
But wait. Is pride in the workplace all one-sided? Or is it possible for a boss to fulfill his duties without pride, only to be stymied by employees who proudly won’t cooperate unless things are done their way? And what about employees who won’t take criticism or instruction, even when their boss is patient in trying to help them reach their potential?
Now you’re glaring at me again. “I knew it was too good to last,” you grumble. “You just don’t understand my boss and how he treats people. You have no right to put the blame back on me!”
Maybe so. Pride is undeniably more tempting to those with power. But what if you were in your boss’s shoes, and had to deal with an employee like you? Would you consider such an employee to be proud or teachable? Indeed, could you do anything at all without being criticized?
The cycle of pride in the workplace usually starts with a request given without much thought by the boss, but which the employee interprets as being unreasonable. When the boss perceives resistance in the employee, he has a choice—either consider the reason for the resistance, or go the way of pride, interpret the resistance as a threat to his authority, and escalate the conflict.
But the employee also has a choice. Not all demands by the boss are as unreasonable as they may seem at first. Perhaps from where the boss sits, either because of his experience or his view of the bigger picture, a demand resisted by the employee may not be unreasonable at all.
Of course, this type of pride doesn’t exist just in the workplace. It can be found in any organization (club, church, school, government—you name it) where people interact. And then there’s the home. What better place for a vain and egotistical person who has a little authority to let his pride go unrestrained? After all, what happens in the home is usually much more private than the workplace. For the most part, there are no laws and policies to hold a person in check like there are at work. Someone can be an absolute dictator at home without anyone outside knowing anything about it.
“Well, I’ve got no worries there,” you say with a confidant smile. “I treat my spouse and my kids pretty fair. I don’t lord it over them like a dictator.”
Would they agree with you? When your spouse is doing a menial household task, and you’re tired and just sitting, watching TV, do you offer to help? Or do you think that’s their job, not yours? And if a child wants help with homework, or just wants to spend time with you, what do you say? Is it the same as what a nonproud person would say?
I can see you waving at that imaginary mosquito again, an annoyed look on your face. “There’s no need to drag my personal home life into this!” you cry. “I thought we were talking about what caused the downfall of great civilizations, not who gets upset at home. After all, things at home can be pretty stressful sometimes, with kids screaming and always wanting things. Anyway, not everything bad that happens at home is related to pride. And it all blows over. It’s no big deal.”
Still haven’t caught the full concept of pride, have you? Pride is an attitude that almost always goes unrecognized. Its influence is very subtle. It affects the way we think and how we act, without our usually realizing it. At its very core, it largely determines how we treat others and how we approach life.
The harsh reality, which almost none of us want to admit, is that pride can be behind almost every act we take in the home and in our relationships with others. Again, it is an attitude, an internalized point of view, that we develop gradually over time through our choices, and that we build our lives on. And when we analyze it carefully, we realize that pride on a small scale is no different from that which brought down great civilizations. There is no place that it is not dangerous.
Consider petty annoyances, for example. You’re driving along and someone cuts in front of you and you have to slam on your brakes. And then you miss the light and sit at the intersection for five minutes, fuming about how much farther down the road you’d be if it weren’t for that jerk that cut you off. Or how about when you come home hot and thirsty only to find that everybody else drank up all the juice, and nobody remembered to buy any at the store. How do you react?
I can see you scratching your head, wondering how these examples are related to pride. But consider where a person is focusing his attention when he is proud. Is it on himself or others? How does a nonproud person who is focusing on others react when faced with a petty annoyance like running out of juice, or being cut off while driving? Doesn’t the annoyance just serve as a reminder of how fortunate he is, and make him grateful for good drivers and juice when he has it?
This is not to say, of course, that annoyances don’t exist. But the bottom line is that an attitude of selfishness, of being annoyed at trivial things, or of thinking that my point of view is more important than others, is a sure sign of pride. And pride like that is the main thing that holds us back from progressing, from changing ourselves to be better, and from treating others with greater respect.
From the look on your face I can tell that if you could put itching powder in my laundry soap, you’d do it. “Now you’re getting too personal,” you say grumpily. “I can get annoyed and cuss at people if I want to. Why don’t you deal with real pride, like what everybody knows. You know. Rich slobs, or professors who think they’re better than others because of their money or their education?”
Is there really any difference? Is it any different to treat someone poorly because they annoyed you, than because you think you’re better than them? Aren’t these one and the same? Aren’t you looking down on someone in either case?
Pride may be more tempting to someone with money or power or status, but merely possessing these things does not guarantee pride, any more than the lack of these things guarantee its absence. This is because pride is a choice, not an unavoidable personality trait. It is not determined by our circumstances, but by how we react to them. Indeed, we all know people who lack any reason to be proud, but who still act arrogant and vain. Likewise, there are people who could easily be proud because of their circumstances, but who are truly humble.
A sure way to tell how proud someone is (including yourself) is to see how grateful they are for what they have. The proud are too busy complaining to recognize how incredibly blessed they are, and how grateful they should be for everything they have. Even our ability to walk around, to touch things, to see, to hear, to talk, to think, to feel, are tremendous blessings from God that we should be grateful for. We should focus on good things like these rather than spend all our energy on complaining about what we don’t have.
All of this becomes clearer when we again consider what is the opposite of pride. It is not self-abasing humility as most people think. Indeed, those who are self-abasing or down on themselves are usually as self-centered as those who are vain or proud. Rather, the opposite of pride is confidence, coupled with a realistic view of one’s true place in the world. A person with such a viewpoint recognizes their weaknesses, but is not overwhelmed by them. They have no need to place themselves above others or put people down since they already are comfortable and confident with who they are. They do not depend on the number of things they own, or social status, or any perception of what others think of them as the source of their self worth. They know that real worth is intrinsic, and cannot be changed by anything in this world. And because of their realistic view, they see all others as sons and daughters of God, with a divine potential and possessed of a tremendous reservoir of good, no matter how well it may be concealed, and no matter who they are. Knowing this, they treat all others with respect and in a way that acknowledges each person’s value and worth.
The word that sums this up best is ‘meekness.’ Contrary to the misinformation of the world, a meek person is anything but a spineless pushover. Rather, a person who is truly meek is absolutely fearless of what others think, but does not push his views on others and is not proud. The ultimate example of meekness is Jesus Christ, who twice drove money changers out of the temple with a whip, and had no hesitation in publicly calling the chief leaders of His day ‘hypocrites.’ Because he was absolutely selfless and meek, he was also absolutely fearless and confident, with an exceptionally realistic view of the world and his place in it.
I can see you rubbing your chin and squinting your eyes as you ponder what I just said. “Well,” you say slowly, “I never really thought of confidence being the opposite of pride, but I guess there’s some sense to that. But then I guess that means that my boss and all those proud rich people and professors lack confidence and don’t have a very accurate view of the world. And I guess that means that deep down inside, they’re insecure!”
Very perceptive, and very true. While no person who is proud would ever admit being insecure, those who are confident, with a realistic view of the world, can see such proud people in no other way. This is because they know that it is not status or power or education or money or anything else that gives a person worth or determines how they treat others. Those with a realistic view of the world never treat others poorly. Only those who are insecure and proud, and are trying to ‘validate’ their worth do so.
How is pride overcome? Pretending to have a self-abasing attitude won’t work. Neither will yielding to others no matter what they want. Rather, the best and surest way to overcome pride (even though it’s probably the last thing you would expect) can be summed up in one word—forgiveness.
“Forgiveness!” you cry. “That’s crazy! What does forgiveness have to do with pride?”
In a word—everything. Think for a moment of someone you know who is unforgiving. Why are they unwilling to forgive? What is holding them back? Is it anything other than pride?
Granted, they will make lots of excuses. They will say that they can’t forgive because the person who hurt them hasn’t changed, or doesn’t deserve it, or hasn’t asked for forgiveness, or that forgiveness is simply too hard to do. But true forgiveness, sincere forgiveness, is not conditional. Indeed, as those who forgive know, the power and freedom that comes by forgiving others comes by doing so unconditionally.
Forgiveness is the surest and best way to overcome pride because it forces us to let go of ourselves, and to redirect our focus away from our selfishness. We cannot truly forgive while still holding on to bad feelings about someone, or while considering only our own selfish, hurt feelings. And it is only when we let go of the negative and the hurt that we come closer to a realistic world view, one which values all people regardless of their imperfections. By letting go and forgiving, our perspective becomes clearer and we can better see our own position in the world, as well as that of others. This in turn builds nonjudgmental confidence, tempered by the realization of our own limitations. Only the nonproud will forgive. Those who are proud think they don’t need to.
Is forgiveness easy? Most people will say ‘no,’ but upon reflection they are forced to admit that it is much easier in the long run than endlessly holding a grudge. We have all seen such people, and how the bitterness which cankers their souls is holding them back. They simply cannot move forward to reach their divine potential, or even be a pleasant person to be around, until they overcome their stubborn pride and forgive. And if and when they finally do forgive, they will feel so liberated and so suddenly free and happy that the last thing they would do is treat others badly.
True forgiving brings peace and hope and happiness, and a sense that the world is good, and that people are good. Forgiveness is like being reborn, and gaining a fresh start. Forgiveness is change and progress, and is absolutely demanded by our internal God-given code. Forgiveness renews the soul. The bold, the creative, the movers and shakers and true leaders will forgive. Lack of forgiveness is stagnation. Forgiveness is life.
“Well,” you say with a contended twitch of your nose, “I pride myself (A poor choice of wording on your part, given the topic of this chapter) on being a very forgiving person. I don’t hold grudges. I even forgave the lady who ran into me last year for talking on her cell phone instead of watching her driving!”
Excellent. Now for the 24 dollar question: how do you feel about her now? When you picture her in your mind, do you still feel peaceful, or does your stomach start to churn like an overcharged hairdryer? If something bad happened to her, would you jump for joy or feel sad? If something good came her way, would you feel pleased, or say she didn’t deserve it? Your answer to these questions will tell if you have truly forgiven her.
Forgiveness is usually not a one-time event. When someone has hurt us badly, we must forgive them more than once in order to maintain a true spirit of forgiveness toward them. Especially in the beginning, we will need to forgive them again and again and again—in fact, just about every time we think about them. As Jesus said, the number of times we may need to forgive could be as much as 70 times 7. (See Matthew 18:22, KJV)
Nor is cursory or pretended forgiveness sufficient. Forgiveness must come from the heart and be sincere to be true. It takes emotional effort to forgive, and can be an emotional struggle at first. It helps to actually say out loud or at least in your mind, ‘I forgive you.’ Usually you will need to say more, such as ‘right or wrong, deserved or not, regardless of whether you have changed, I forgive you. I wish you well in all that comes your way.’ When you believe every word of this, and can think of the person without feeling upset, you will know you have forgiven.
Forgiveness is beneficial for the person doing the forgiving much more than for the forgiven. Usually the forgiven person will not even know about it. But you will. You do it for you, to gain freedom, to cut free the cancerous feelings of bitterness that are holding you back, which are not hurting them at all. Lack of forgiveness is like a paper cut that never goes away. You don’t forgive others for their sakes—you do it to free yourself from a needless and heavy burden. Just as we said about love in chapter 3, forgiveness is absolutely selfish precisely because it is also absolutely selfless.
Forgiveness does not mean submission. Just because you have forgiven someone does not mean you must continue to submit to their inappropriate behavior. Where needed, you may have to remove yourself from any association with them if their behavior continues to be harmful to you and is not likely to stop. Forgiveness is an entirely separate issue from whether or not you continue to associate with the other person. It may be necessary to both forgive and change your behavior, making clear the limits beyond which they cannot pass and the consequences if they do. You can forgive someone, and still love them, but also avoid association with them because that is best for you. These are not easy issues, and your efforts to resolve them may take time and may not always work. But no matter what happens and how much you struggle to deal with these issues, if you want peace and progress in your life, you must forgive.
But this is not all. In all our discussion so far we have not mentioned the one person that is the most important for you to forgive, and who you will need to forgive the most often and the most sincerely. That person is yourself.
“Me?!” you say loudly. “Well, I’ve heard of that before, but never thought much about it. That can’t really be more important than forgiving those who intentionally hurt you, can it?”
You must forgive them too, but forgiveness of self is still of greater importance. The reason has to do with responsibility, and with pride.
Forgiveness of self requires us to acknowledge and accept responsibility for having done something wrong. An amazing number of people are very good at convincing themselves that they are not to blame, but are the victims of circumstances or the acts of others, and therefore they have little to forgive themselves for. In short, they blame others for everything. This is an attitude of pure pride. Our internal moral code knows whether we have measured up to what is right. When we know we haven’t, deep down inside, and yet we are unwilling to acknowledge this or forgive, our feelings of inner discord increase and our self worth suffers dramatically. In blunt terms, we are living a lie and do not feel good about ourselves, and are insecure. In consequence, we treat others badly, intensifying the problem. The way out of this vicious circle is to accept responsibility for our acts, and then to forgive ourselves as well as others.
Alternatively, there are those who take the opposite approach, and instead of blaming others, blame themselves for everything, even for the acts of others. Because they assume more responsibility than they should, they often carry very negative feelings about themselves. They too must learn to forgive themselves for excessively blaming themselves, and adopt a realistic view of the world that acknowledges their inner worth and sees what they are personally responsible for, as well as what they are not.
No one knows how to make you feel bad better than you. Indeed, some people are experts at relentlessly putting themselves down. If a person feels down on himself, it is easier to then justify addictive behavior, or choosing stupidity over nonstupidity. Forgiving ourselves will lift a tremendous load of guilt and negativity off our shoulders, and help us feel much better about ourselves and avoid addictions. This in turn softens our behavior towards others so that we treat them better. And it both helps us to see our relationship to the world much more realistically, and increases our confidence. In a word, assuming personal responsibility and forgiving ourselves and others tends to eliminate the pride that otherwise will clutter and burden our lives.
“Well, I don’t know,” you say while absently flicking a speck of dandruff off my shoulder (quite an accomplishment, considering how far apart we are while you read this book). “All this forgiveness stuff sounds like too much work. I mean, I know it helps and ya gotta do it, but sometimes I think I’d rather go drive my car or watch my TV rather than deal with people who may hurt me, and who I will then have to forgive. After all, I never have to forgive my TV or my car, even if they aggravate me at times.”
To which I respond—I’ll bet you wouldn’t have said that if you had taken a look at the title of the next chapter …
The Sixth Fundamental of Stupidity:
Make Sure Things (Like Money) are More Important Than People
I can see you yawn and stretch and even smile now that you know what this chapter is about. “I’ve got nothing to worry about,” you say contentedly. “I’m not one of those people who worships their car or their clothes or their house. My family is more important.” Then you cock your head and give me a sly look. “And now I’ll bet you’re going to try to convince me I’m wrong like you did in the last chapter, and that somehow I’m more interested in things than people.”
You’re absolutely correct. You’re coming to know me pretty well. But before I do, I will concede that you may be partly right. Like most good people, you probably do appreciate your family and value them more than things. That is, sometimes. When it’s convenient. When you remember or are not distracted. Or when you’re not mad at them, or not thinking only of what you want, or—
“O.k.! O.k.!” you cry. “I get the picture, and think I know what you’re hinting at. But you’re wrong this time. Dead wrong. I love my family, and the people I associate with. Nothing in the world is more important to me than them.”
If that is really so, then I’m sure you’ll have no trouble with these simple questions:
1. Suppose you’ve just bought an expensive house in a good neighborhood, and then you find out that a poor family with 5 kids just bought the vacant lot next door and intend to put a manufactured home on it, which will reduce the value of your home. How would you feel? If some neighbors said they were going to try to stop them, would you join the effort?
2. You and your sister agree to split the cost of a new computer for your parents for Christmas. You suggest that she buy it at Store A, which has good prices. Then you find out she forgot and bought one at Store B instead, for $300 more than the same unit sells at Store A, and she is now asking for your share of the cost. How would you feel? What would you say to your sister?
3. You’re visiting your brother who is showing you his new monster TV that takes up half his living room. While he’s talking, are you listening, or are you trying to think of things your family can do without so that you can afford to replace your little 20 inch set that you’ve had for 8 years?
4. A show is about to come on that you want to see. Right before it starts, someone else in your family say they want to watch something else that you don’t care for at all. Do you object or hand them the remote? (Many readers will assert, perhaps correctly, that the answer to these questions, and especially the last one, depend on one’s gender)
“Well,” you say rather grumpily. “Those are hard questions, and I don’t think they’re really fair. I mean, you obviously slanted them so they’d be impossible for anyone to answer. But that doesn’t mean I love things more than people!”
Perhaps. But I never said you didn’t. It’s only that, just maybe, sometimes your focus might be on things—like money, or houses, or entertainment, or even physical appearance—more than people.
“Well, what about you?” you splutter angrily, spraying me with saliva. “I suppose you claim to be immune from this type of problem, right? Like, this is just my problem, and not yours too!”
Not at all. Like the last chapter, I need this one as much as anyone. I’ll even admit that, just like you, I used to think I was immune to this problem. Then one day something happened that made me realize—to my surprise—that deep down inside, I’m just as distracted with things and lacking perspective on what is really important, as about 99% of the people out there. Someday, somehow, I hope to join that blessed 1%, who aren’t distracted by things in their lives.
“Hmmm …” you mumble while glancing absently at the white spots on your fingernails. (Some ‘experts’ say that white spots on your fingernails are evidence of a calcium deficiency. Not that that has anything to do with the present chapter. Unless, of course, the thing you focus on to the exclusion of people is health fads) “O.k., so maybe there’s something to this chapter after all. But I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal. I mean, everybody does it, and they still love their families and have good relationships.”
Perhaps. But just because it is universally practiced, that doesn’t make it right. Decay is no less offensive just because it’s everywhere.
Consider, for example, where this type of materialism leads. For many, the only way to keep up with the ‘things’ they have to have in order to be like everybody else is through debt. For the sake of a few trinkets that quickly wear out and fade away, they enslave themselves to an indebted life of worry and stress, the victims of ever-spiraling interest. Debt is financial prison, with the brick walls and barbed wire put in place by the debtor himself. Money and credit are tools that have no feelings. Everyone must decide whether they are in control of their credit, or whether it controls them.
But possessions are not the only thing that people can get sidetracked with. Consider the obsession with youthful beauty that everybody nowadays seems to crave for. Fighting the battle of forced beauty comes not only at a heavy financial price, but a much heavier emotional one, since many allow their feelings of self worth to suffer if beauty is not achieved. Only a few well endowed persons will win the fight, the rest being left to feel dissatisfied with their looks and down on themselves just because their physical appearance does not make the opposite gender swarm around them more than they would probably feel comfortable with anyway. And in the process, they miss out on the greatest beauty of all, that which flows from within and comes out of the eyes, that draws people like bees to honey regardless of physical appearance.
Or consider honesty and integrity. At first integrity may not seem to fit what we are talking about here. But consider what motivates people to be dishonest. Isn’t it usually to get ahead, to get some THING? Indeed, the main goal of the dishonest is to get gain at the expense of truth, setting in defiance their internal moral code. Dishonesty is the ultimate demonstration of valuing things more than people, since the dishonest value their deception more than their own inner peace, or the respect of those around them.
Finally, consider your self-imposed deadlines. We all have them. Deadlines like finishing a home improvement project by the end of the month, raking the leafs before the snow flies, or losing 10 pounds before the dawn of a new year so that we can actually use all of the clothes in our closet. When the self-imposed deadline draws near and it becomes obvious that the goal will not be reached, how do you feel? Are you down on yourself and grumpy all the time? Does your frustration and anger at not achieving it spill over into how you treat others? In short, is the deadline and goal more important than people?
Remember earlier where we talked about your pretending to be God for a minute? (If all you remember is having a solid gold palace the size of Texas, you probably need to read this chapter twice) As God, you love each of your kids so much there isn’t anything you would hold back from them—no amount of gold or luxuries or beauty or anything. But in order to make sure they don’t get spoiled and take it all for granted, you came up with this great plan to test their integrity by sending them to earth for a few years, providing them with a few natural blemishes and challenging circumstances, and then making them forget their past life with you. Now you’re up there watching them to see whether they focus their energy on what’s really important.
Sadly, what you see is that most of them seem to be squabbling over trifles—like money or houses or an inheritance or beauty, etc., etc. As God, what would you think? Especially when you consider that the richest person on earth is a pauper in rags when his possessions are compared to all the things you (God) plan to give him if he leads a good life! And also when you consider that the length of earth life is as short as a snap of the fingers, and when a person dies they can’t take even the smallest trifle with them!
From this perspective, it’s pretty obvious how ridiculous it is for people to fight over the little things of this world, no matter how big they may seem to be. What man in his right mind would want to enrich himself by a few thousand dollars at the expense of other people, knowing that if he does, he will loose the trillions of dollars worth of wealth awaiting him after this life? This is absolute stupidity, short and simple. Fussing over earthly trinkets can keep us from our real treasure—the riches of eternity.
When we look at things from an eternal perspective, only people have lasting value. Things do not. You cannot take anything with you when you die, but where you go after death there will still be lots of people. How you treat people is therefore of lasting importance and value. How you treat things is meaningless.
And of all the people you should treat well, God is at the top of the list. Indeed, that is the first and great commandment. (See Matthew 22:37-38) All of the things you think you own actually belong to Him. He has just let you use them for awhile. If you show you love Him more than trinkets, and honor Him by doing His will and treating His other children with kindness, He will honor you, and fill your life to overflowing. You will receive from Him not only all the things you truly desire, but more importantly, you will have an inner peace, and hope and joy that is of far greater value than any ‘thing.’
In light of all this, consider the shame, the absolute foolishness of someone who would actually hurt someone else—perhaps even kill them—just for money! They are literally choosing to throw away their birthright, their eternal inheritance, for a few grains of worthless dust. They are forsaking their own hopes and joys and damning themselves—for damning simply means to stop their progression—for the sake of worthless baubles. If that isn’t an ultimate act of sheer stupidity, it is hard to image what would be.
“Hmmm …” you say, rubbing your jaw. “That sounds pretty convincing. But whether I like it or not, money is still kind of a big part of my life. I mean, I’ve still got to go to work everyday and pay the bills. And then things happen, like maybe the car breaks down, or a kid needs braces, and so on, and so on. What you’re saying may be true, but if I don’t spend some time focusing on money, my family and I could get in trouble pretty fast.”
True enough. That’s part of life. Indeed, that’s part of the test of integrity we were sent here for. We have to deal with money and things whether we want to or not. But what’s important is whether we can keep it all in perspective rather than get carried away with things, and let them become more important than they should be. The simple reality is that we can tell a great deal about the internal character of people by how they deal with money and things, and especially how they react if something happens that threatens to make them lose a lot of money or the things they cherish.
“Well,” you say calmly, hitching up your pants, “for once I agree with you. Which is amazing. But I really do. So … we don’t need to fuss any more about this subject, do we? I mean, since we’re in agreement and all, and we’ve covered everything in this chapter.”
Maybe. Maybe not. Have we really covered it all? We’ve talked a lot about money and physical things, and how we shouldn’t focus on them to excess. But have we said enough about other things that people focus on more than they should?
Not all of the things that people focus on more than they should are physical, touchable items. We’ve already seen some examples above, of people who become overly preoccupied with beauty or unfulfilled expectations. There are more examples. How about those who love sports more than people? Or movies or music or any type of entertainment? Or who are obsessed with their career and getting ahead, even if people are hurt in the process? These things can become just as damaging if we let them become more important than the people around us.
Those who seek for fulfillment through sports or entertainment or work will never be satisfied. They may experience a brief moment of satisfaction, but are soon left feeling empty inside. Yet those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity will value such things as the loftiest goals in life. Whenever we treat ‘things’—including goals, desires and expectations—with greater interest or reverence than people, we choose to join with the ranks of stupidity.
“Yeah, that’s probably true,” you say while scratching your ear. Then you look at me curiously. “It seems like we talked about something like this before. It sounds familiar …”
You’re absolutely correct. We could identify the source of this problem in terms of failure to follow our internal moral code (Chapter One), refusal to acknowledge God and his gifts in your life (Chapter Two), lack of love of people (Chapter Three), obsession or addiction with things (Chapter Four), or pride and vanity (Chapter Five). Each can cause people to lose sight of what is really important, and each can be the source of this type of stupidity. We have now come full circle and can see that the core fundamentals of stupidity tend to feed on and lead to each other. If we choose stupidity over nonstupidity in one area, it is hard to not get involved in another. The ultimate, of course, is when we allow choices for stupidity to build in our lives, and we jump from one core fundamental of stupidity to another, being proud, becoming addicted, treating others badly, or focusing excessively on things. It’s like a series of dominoes hitting each other. And if we continue on this road, we will eventually reach a perfection of stupidity in our lives, allowing us to enjoy the misery that total stupidity brings.
I can see you shaking your head again as if to clear it from a fog. “Perfection of stupidity!” you grumble. “Enjoying misery! Now I’ve heard everything.” Then slowly, a light begins to dawn. “Hey!” you say with sudden excitement. “If we’ve come full circle like you say, and reached a perfection of stupidity, that must mean we’ve covered it all! We’re done! The fundamentals of stupidity are finally behind us! There’s no more stupid chapters that you’re going to hit me with!” And then you do a little jig and jump in the air. “I’m free!”
Well, not quite. You see, while we have covered all of the core fundamentals of stupidity, there’s still one more point (and a very essential point at that) that we still need to discuss. Indeed, without this last element, most of what we have talked about so far would be meaningless. This final and extremely vital element is covered in our concluding chapter …
We all Need Christ’s Help to Overcome Stupid Choices
Although we have now come to better understand the core fundamentals of stupidity, we still need to learn how to overcome all the stupid choices in our lives, past, present and future. That is the purpose of this last and most important chapter.
I can see you scratching your head and looking at me quizzically. “I guess I must have missed something,” you say in an exasperated tone. “I thought we already talked about how to overcome stupid choices in each chapter. You know, stuff like, don’t allow yourself to become addicted, don’t be proud, learn to love people. All that stuff. So what more is there to say?”
Only the most important thing of all. You see, we all make stupid choices at times no matter how hard we try not to. Because of this, we need to be patient with ourselves, and forgive ourselves throughout our lives while at the same time diligently trying our best to avoid the core fundamentals of stupidity. We can’t allow ourselves to give up, but must keep trying. Like you said, we need to be more loving, forgive others, avoid pride, not be materialistic, avoid addictions—in short, to get in touch with our inner moral code and live by it. But in spite of our very best efforts, no matter how hard we try, we’re still going to fall short at times. We just can’t do it alone.
We need help. Divine help. Heavenly help. The help of the only person to walk the earth who did not succumb to stupidity, and who knows how to help us overcome it. In short, we need the daily help of Jesus Christ.
“Hey, now!” you say grumpily. “I thought we agreed at the start of this book that you wouldn’t get all preachy and religious. What are you trying to pull?” (Sounds like you need to go back and read Chapter Two again)
Nothing and everything. If talking about Christ is too preachy for you, then perhaps you had better put this book down now, because the rest of what I have to say is about Him. But if you do put this book aside, you’ll be missing out on the master link, the grand key if you will, that ties all the rest of these concepts together. I’m not talking now about churches or the doctrines taught by any organized religion. I’m talking about Christ. And about you. I’m talking about you and Him together—a team of good friends, set on the goal of eradicating stupidity from this world by working on the one person you know best and have the most control over—you.
“Hmmm…” you mumble while rubbing the mole on your chin. “Maybe so, maybe so. I guess after all I’ve put up with from you so far, that may not be too much to ask.” Then you look at me sharply. “And I wouldn’t want to be accused of not being willing to talk about Christ.”
Well said. As we discussed in Chapter Two, only those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity will deny the importance of God and Christ in their lives. You’ve learned your lessons well. Maybe you don’t need to reread Chapter Two after all.
How Christ helps us overcome stupid choices is very simple, really. It consists essentially of this—He washes them clean from our lives if we let Him. That was His mission in life—and a completely unselfish mission at that—to atone and pay for the sins of all men and women, so that if they repent in the sincerity of their hearts, their lives can be cleansed from the stains of sin. And while the terms “repent” and “sin” may seem too strong or religious or preachy for some, they are essentially nothing more than what we have been talking about in this book. “Change” and “stupidity” are almost interchangeable with the words “repentance” and “sin.”
You remember the moral code we talked about in Chapter One? This inner moral code, placed within us by God, is nothing more than an ‘anti-stupidity’ code written deep into our hearts. We may rebel against it, fight it, ignore it, or pretend it isn’t there, but each of us knows, deep down inside, that it is real, that it cannot be completely ignored or stamped out, and that it greatly impacts our lives. We may resent it, but it is there, and it is there for a reason.
If we fail to live up to this “anti-stupidity” code, which could just as easily be called an “anti-sin” code, we will be miserable. But God did not plant it so deep in our hearts to torture us or to make us feel guilty or uncomfortable all the time. He planted it there because it is the one and only true way to ultimate happiness. If we live true to this inner code and free of stupid choices and sin, we will ultimately experience inexpressible joy. The same joy that God and his son Jesus Christ experience every day, and want so badly to share with us.
It should be clear by now that we cannot live up to this inner moral code without Christ’s help. We all fall short. We commit acts of stupidity—we sin. We stumble and fall, and need to be lifted up and freed from the old stains of sin and stupidity that bind us, and then set on the right path again, and given another chance to live true to our inner self. We need Jesus Christ everyday in this ongoing, lifelong process of change and repentance that will raise us to our highest potential—a potential and a destiny more ultimately joyful and far more dazzling than we now can imagine. All the riches of eternity await us if we will simply do this. And to the extent we do not, and ignore Christ, and carry on in making stupid choices, and fail to live true to our inner self, we will sell ourselves short, forego the happiness we could experience, and choose instead a destiny of regret, and of lost opportunity.
The choice is ours, but not forever. Christ is there to help us during our lives, but after that our chance for meaningful choice to determine our eternal destiny will be largely behind us. The day of this life is the day for us to choose eternal life or eternal damnation, after which we will reap the consequence of that choice for eternity. Damnation is a strong term, but as we noted in the last chapter, it means nothing more than stagnation and loss of progress and potential. A lake that is dammed is one that is held back. When we are damned we are held back from what we could have been.
We choose every day, stupidity or anti-stupidity, life or death, happiness or misery. These choices become part of us, determine who we are, and whether deep down inside we want to live up to our destiny and potential or to settle for something less. In short, we shape who we are by our choices everyday. And the person we choose daily to be will be the person who faces eternity at death, either carrying the stains of stupidity and sin and addiction and pride into eternity, or facing eternity free of such stains because of having turned to Christ in order to be made clean.
How does Christ do this for us? How can He free us from the choices that have stained us? How can He lift the burden of stupid choices and sin from our souls, so that we are fresh and clean and whole like a little baby that has never been bound or tied down with stupidity and sin? By His priceless atonement and sacrifice of His life for us, whereby He vicariously assumed our sins and suffered for us, and for each stupid, careless, sinful act we ever chose to commit. He knows us so intimately because He personally suffered for every one of our senseless and stupid acts. He did this because He loves us, and wants so very much to see us reach our highest potential. Indeed, he loves us so much that there is nothing—no pain, no error, no heartache—that he was not willing to suffer for us. And because He did this, we can be set free from our stupid sins forever, if we will but turn to Him, ask God our Father in sincerity for forgiveness through His son Jesus Christ, and then humbly let Him clean us.
Through Christ we have hope. Without Him, there is no hope. No matter how hard we try, we cannot clean ourselves or free ourselves of stupidity and sin without His help. And again, to receive that help, we must call in sincerity upon our Father which is in Heaven and Jesus Christ for forgiveness and help through the merits of His atonement, and then forsake the ways of stupidity. In short, we must repent and change.
It is not enough to simply profess acceptance of Jesus in our lives. We must change our thoughts and our behavior, live up to our inner moral code, work, put forth effort, and then use Christ’s atonement to drive stupidity and sin out of our lives. Only when we do so will we be transformed through Christ into a new creature, free of sin and stupidity, and fully in line with our internal code of supreme happiness. And only then, when we have gone through this life-long process of calling upon God and relying on His son Jesus Christ to clean us, can we hope to hear God say at the end of our lives, “Well done, my son or daughter, well done. Come dwell with me and my beloved son in never ending happiness.”
And now we’re through. We made it. You actually stayed with me all the way, and we covered stupidity from top to bottom, as well as how to overcome it through Christ. We’ve taken a long, painful journey through the valley of stupidity, and now we’re at the end of the road.
I can see a slow smirk making its way across your face. Then you say slyly. “You said at the beginning of this book that you didn’t have any personal experience with stupidity—that you learned all this through observation. But I wonder, I just really wonder, how that could be so. How could you possibly know all this without personal, first-hand experience? Just tell me that, and then I’ll be happy to lay this book aside.”
To which question I have only one response:
Best wishes to you and I both to live a life free of stupidity from now on.
… However, I cannot resist the urge to have the last word (which should not surprise you), which word is this: Only those who choose stupidity over nonstupidity refuse to learn from observation and the advice of others, and insist on learning everything the hard way, through their own personal, hands-on, painful experience. Whether I did this or not is for me to know, and you to forever wonder about.
Miss Lydia Fairbanks is the newest teacher at Inner City Junior High School, the deadliest school in the state. While the school principal believes she won’t last a day, Miss Fairbanks quickly surprises everyone by not only surviving in the midst of her killer students, but actually thriving in the classroom. But even someone as weak and small as Miss Fairbanks can harbor secrets from the past …
On a dark night in a lonely park in LA, crazy old Pete saves a teenager named Kelly from a suicidal encounter with a street gang. While Kelly initially resists Pete’s kindness, he is gradually drawn into the life and service of his unusual mentor—a lifestyle of total concentration on others, and forgetting of himself. But even Crazy Pete has secrets, and one day, with a shock, the boy learns the terrible history of Pete’s past that turned him into the saint he has become.
Kate’s journal begins with a very simple entry. “I like pizza and ice cream and going on dates and watching funny movies. I like to swim and text on my phone and go skiing in the winter. Oh, and there’s one more thing you should know about me. I just killed my baby.” Join Kate as she struggles with the aftermath of having an abortion, and the nightmare she never dreamed would follow.
Blake Guv is a starving young attorney fresh out of law school, desperately trying to get new clients. In a mad gamble to obtain some publicity he foolishly enters the race for Governor of his state as an independent candidate. But when a series of unexpected events shove him to the front of the race, Blake is appalled at the prospect he just might win—since he hates politics with a passion!
Shortly before Christmas the tiny town of Afton is shocked when everyone is sued by a man claiming to be Santa Claus. His lawsuit is for wrongfully ‘firing’ him from his delivery job, since he can only come to people who believe. With less than two weeks until Christmas, will Santa’s lawsuit convince them to change their minds?
This book explains how the Ninth Amendment is the key to understanding rights in the United States. The founders created the Ninth Amendment to protect unlisted natural law rights as they were understood in their day. This amendment was never intended to allow future generations to create new rights. Rather, it was to safeguard the morality and natural rights of the founding generation.
American society is obsessed with sex. This obsession has led to extreme results that would be considered appalling by prior generations, such as: rampant premarital sex which increases AIDS while decreasing trust and commitment between partners; gays/lesbians elevating sex to such an extreme it has become their god; and abortions in which innocent unborns are yanked out piece by piece.
A false world is like an apple full of worms. It appears juicy and attractive on the outside, but is in fact disgusting on the inside. This book discusses a number of false worlds masquerading as truth but which are in fact false to their core. Included are the false worlds of politics, international relations, law, sexual confusion (premarital sex, abortion and gayness), entertainment and pride.
(Under pen name “Ansel Hatch”)
Stopping speeders by throwing logs in front of their car? Having a man walk in front of the car waving a red flag, to warn it is coming? Putting the initials of the driver on a piece of metal to act as his license plate? Giving a driver’s license to anyone who has the use of both arms? These are but a few examples from this book of the first laws dealing with new-fangled automobiles.
Fifth grader Blake Drywater has a new wizard science teacher, who promptly turns Blake’s class into roaches and earthworms. But Blake soon learns there is more than science going on in his classroom. An evil wizard is seeking a powerful potion his teacher has made. And when Blake is given the potion soon thereafter, he finds himself facing problems far harder than any science exam! Book 1 of ‘The Stewards of Light’ series.
Blake Drywater and his fellow unfortunate students at Millard Fillmore Middle School once more find themselves facing an unexpected creature in one of their classes. Because of a sudden ‘neck disorder’ suffered by their math teacher, Blake and his classmates receive a chilling substitute. His name is Mr. Coagulate, who has a strange fascination with blood and dreams. Book 2 of ‘The Stewards of Light’ series.
Flo and Mo are not ordinary babies. Although they are only fourteen months old, they can use a computer, trick any mindless adult they want, and help their goofy detective father solve baffling crimes. Then a mysterious girl comes to their father, claiming that her grandmother has disappeared. Will the babies’ superior brains be able to solve the mystery and save their bumbling parents?
Inventor Uncle Ned has discovered that clouds are alive and can be transformed into common objects. He gives his nephew Talmage a cloud turned into a pen, with the assignment to see what it says and does. However, Talmage soon learns that THIS cloud is nothing but trouble since it insults everyone they meet! And since no one believes pens can talk, they think Talmage is the one saying the insults!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Duane L. Ostler was raised in Southern Idaho, where the wind never stops. He has lived in Australia, Mexico, Brazil, China, the big Island of Hawaii, and—most foreign of all—New Jersey. He has driven an ice cream truck, sold auto parts, been a tax collector, and sued people as an attorney. He has also obtained a PhD in legal history. He and his wife have five children and two cats. If you would like to contact Mr. Ostler you can reach him at:
Stupidity. What is it? Is it just something we see our neighbors and members of the opposite political party do? Or is it something more? Why does it seem to be so universal? Are there fundamentals of stupidity that can be recognized? These are the questions discussed in this book. It presents six fundamentals of stupidity that lead to the stupid choices that we see all around us. Included among these are the belief that there are no moral values, that God does not exist, and that it is acceptable to become addicted and to treat others badly and be proud. In the end we see that the only sure way to avoid the fundamentals of stupidity is through the saving power of Jesus Christ.