READ ME ... yeah, right. Right?

I'm sick of everyone else having on-line diaries. I want one too.

What is this all about? Maybe you should read the READ ME READ ME.

july 31, 1998:
two rough essays on delusion and desire

Posted on my Web page today with the disclaimer that I may change my opinion tomorrow.

How can we ever know what it is that we want?

All I usually feel close to grasping is what I do not want. And one of the many things, right now, that I do not want is to behave in a manner similar to that of the person I recently dated, because I think that if I behaved that way, I would hate myself.

Except that I wouldn't hate myself, because if I truly behaved in that way, I would be comfortable in a state of self-delusion about my faults.

A deluded person will not examine his own actions because he sees no need to do so. And he will not learn from his mistakes because he will not identify them correctly (much less see them). And because he is not able to take responsibility for his own actions, he will continue to act the same way, even when his actions endanger his own life and that of others.

People want to believe that their actions do not harm others. Ironically, when that belief is obtained, it is not usually not a description of experience, but rather, is obtained in a manner harmful in itself: by convincing themselves that nothing they did harmed others; that others harmed themselves.

What begins as "mere" delusion becomes a real-life hazard with immense capacity to harm others and little capacity to recognize either the harm or its origin, while actively attempting to convince itself and those around it of the truth of its delusions.

When said about a specific individual, that might be a cruel thing to say. I concede that.

But, if it is cruel because it results in pain, and if the pain is caused by the absence of the comfort of delusion, and if the delusion masked that person's awareness of the ways that his actions harm others, then isn't it the less cruel thing to try to exterminate that delusion and thus reduce the hazard?

I cannot say for sure, but being cruel in this instance strikes me as far better than the alternative: settling into a compatible delusional denial. This seems the path of least resistance -- usually thoughtlessly easy but painfully unwise.

As I complain to excess, the ability of humans to deceive themselves never fails to impress me. I would propose, in fact, that self-delusion is potentially the character trait that defines human existence. Can we stomp it out without rendering the species extinct? If not, maybe we would be better off extinct.

Delusion, it seems, is both a bug and a feature. We have countless reasons for deluding ourselves, ranging from the hedonistic to the nihilistic. If we think we are happy, are we not happy? If we think that we enjoy something, don't we? Does our belief in our happiness or our enjoyment change after the "actual" enjoyment or happiness change, or before?

It amazes me that people are self-deluded enough even to think that they have an answer to those questions. Comfortable in our blind and deaf state of denial, if the answers existed, could we even see them?

The more that our opinions tend to further our happiness (real or imagined, if there is such a difference) the more that we should be suspect of those opinions. Then why is it that my strongest opinions -- such as the belief that most people are blind and deluded -- make me the most unhappy?

I suspect that most people live their entire lives believing that they know what they want, and die without seeing that all they wanted was the comfort created by nothing else than mere delusion.

I hope not to join them.

Hey, check out a response.

What would you teach children?

How to survive, with their soul intact. I guess that's it.

(from Ruby in Paradise)

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