While running through the Facebook thread, I came across the following quote:
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others, you need to accept yourself. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich, as it turns out, is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has gained some vogue in the West – probably initially from the fact that he was one of those dimwits during the Vietnam War who figured that if the United States would just leave and the war just “end” then everything would be just swell. How anyone by the 1960’s could think that a communist regime would (a) seek cooperation with non-communists or (b) be anything less than hideously brutal once triumphant is beyond my understanding. But, of course, Thich wasn’t alone – around the world literal tens of millions thought the same way. In other words, they thought stupidly. But no one ever called them that. Reading the quote listed above, though, got me thinking that we who refuse to be stupid have to be a bit more forceful lest stupidity overwhelm us.
Because someone would only post a quote like that if they thought it wasn’t stupid. You only post something like that if you think it wise. But, my goodness, what a vapid bunch of pantheist nonsense is wrapped up in that short quote! To be beautiful means to be be yourself? What if yourself is a drug addict? Or a thief? Or a lazy bum? It is, indeed, true that you don’t need to be accepted by others but before you go accepting yourself isn’t it rather important to determine if yourself is worthy of respect? Suppose you’re a hooker or a con artist – are you supposed to accept that yourself?
This, I think, is what Chesterton was on about when he opined that “Christianity wasn’t tried and found lacking, it was found difficult and not tried at all”. The key requirement of a Christian – and, actually, of any wise person – is to understand the grave flaws in the self and the need for salvation. Christians hold that the person needs to be washed in the blood of the Lamb in order to fix what is wrong with us – but even wise, pagan philosophers of the past who knew nothing of that realized that human beings are flawed; that the unexamined life is not worth living…that if we are to be anything better than brutes then we’d better be realistic about ourselves and strive to become better. Quotes like that of Thich presume that we’re just fine as we are – and as soon as we get happy about the way we are, the better. That we might be a complete piece of garbage doesn’t seem to work in to the picture.
I saw a sign the other day – “I fear a world of adults who were never spanked and who got awards for merely participating”. It is a world where people aren’t punished nor challenged to win which is the result of having a philosophy of “you just need to accept yourself”. In other words, a world full of stupid people comes about from believing really stupid things. Among the most stupid things a person can believe is that he’s a swell guy – as soon as you start thinking that you can rest assured that you are a piece of filth fooling himself. All of us have to strive – it is a struggle to be good; it is hard to be decent…but the payoff is that the more we struggle the better we are and the better the world is. Just as soon as we lay off fighting to improve ourselves and adopt an “I’m ok, you’re ok” philosophy we start to have an increasingly brutal and merciless society. No surprise, in my view, that as the old Judeo-Christian ethic started to fade (say around 1890) that we started down a path of murder and mayhem.
We really need a movement on this – some commitment to first think about what we read and hear and if, upon pondering the message, we determine that it is stupid we then go and point out that it was stupid. To be sure, none of us wants to be offensive – but do we really want to allow idiocy to go unchallenged? It is time for us to show some guts – to stop allowing idiot statements to slide past. It really is crucial to our survival – if we don’t start insisting upon reality, then unreality will overwhelm us and destroy our civilization.