Why Honesty Is Not a Moral Value: Conclusion (let’s call it) to a Series of Essays Inspired by the Book, “The Dawn of Everything”

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

But the cosmic vision can’t replace the narrow vision or the mid-range vision. We need to move freely between all three vantage points in order to scan the world as honestly as possible. So it’s a nested hierarchy of perception, where the cosmic puts the narrower communal and personal vantage points in their proper place. Without this fluidity of perception, our limited stories lose that tether to reality and become deceitful to the point of self-destruction.

Refusing to see the world honestly is the quickest way to be killed.

For instance, we could call this a dangerous world or we could call this an evil world. Both would be fictions. But the first one is more consistent with life in a wilderness, and we’re always living at the edge of a wilderness, because life always exceeds the idea, because they are two different substances, and never the twain shall meet

As in any earthly wilderness, it’s best to approach the unknown as a danger, but not as an evil. If we were to live by the fiction that the woods are evil, then the animals we encounter would increasingly live up to that billing. This is how schizophrenia becomes so convincing. The world responds to our stories, whether they’re honest or deceptive stories. Even positive thinking is deceptive. What it produces is a false front, a positive deception. Even if we’re not technically schizophrenic, the same principle exists. An “evil” interpretation would corner the beings we encounter into living up to that billing – they’d sense our fear aggression and respond in kind, seeing us as a threat — or they’d simply refrain from helping the flailing and drowning world (Chomsky’s Martians, for instance) and let it drown.

But if we approach the wilderness as dangerous, but not evil, then we’ll be able to notice other non-aggressive qualities in our fellow animals, and learn to avoid provoking them. We might learn to become friends with some of them, as we did in befriending wolves and wild cats.

The world responds to our stories. The deceptive stories can be too rose-colored as well. If we approached the wilderness as a paradise of love, we’d blind ourselves to the dangerous potentials that are also there and not live long either.

The problem with the bullshit of “positive thinking” is that the naively rose-tinted glass-wearers end up eaten.

But – and this we don’t acknowledge enough — the same is true for the cynics, for the ash-tinted glass-wearers (who think positively still, but only in dark directions). We give the cynics far too much credit for a “worldly intelligence” they Do Not Possess. They also end up provoking a world that eats them. It’s the naïve Literalism, the ignorant certainties, the stupid belief in something called “non-fiction”, which is the deeper problem. The problem is a lost perceptual fluidity. 

Somehow the breath-taking significance of this is lost on most of us most of the time. We don’t see the implications of what we’ve discovered here. This discovery of a prismatic capacity to see everything as honest fictions erases the need for conflict. And this relationship to fiction shows us how it’s possible to move through the world as blindly as Helen Keller, knowing nothing in a positive sense, tapping the canes of our metaphors and stories to obtain negative information (tap, there’s an obstruction, tap, there’s a limit to our metaphor, tap, change direction), and from that negative flow of information, we re-design our theories, stories, myths and metaphors, with no intention of finding conclusion, except perhaps in limited fields of inquiry, and even these may alter radically as more dots of data emerge, and this underlying uncertainty allows us to “keep going” deeper and deeper into this weird, miraculous and unfathomable world.

The Predator is Real: Learning to See Prismatically

By a prismatic perspective I mean realizing that nothing we think is actual. I think most humble human beings accept that their ideas are not perfect.

Now look at the same realization a little more intensely, that’s all.

What that means is I can only observe a small bandwidth of stimuli even at my best. And from what I Can see, I only remember a smaller fraction. And of those memories, I can only stitch together the few that make the most sense to me. So all I ever know are fictions.

That’s not what we usually think, but it’s the same thing as realizing that our ideas are only interpretations. Interpretations are fictions.

And they can be honest or dishonest fictions. But facts that aren’t the product of some interpretation are few and far between. And they’re usually negative, such as “the emperor has no clothes”. But in this case the negative discovery is that thought is not actual.

So ideas are only at best insightful, not literal.

Without the delusion of absolute truth there’s no motive to lie. Think about that. We lie when we’re trying to convince someone of an absolute truth, even if it’s only the absolute truth of Selfishness, the need to lie to protect my sense of Self. But if we see that nothing is conclusively true, including our sense of Self, but only at most a helpful way of distorting an otherwise ungraspable whole to make it meaningful, then there is no competition between points of view. They all add information, that’s all.

And if nothing can be taken literally, then thoughts become more creative, conjectural, metaphoric, prismatic.

Each word is like a different refraction of an unknowable actuality. Each word provides a slightly different slant or insight into qualities of the world.

So I could have called this a “metaphoric mentality” instead of a “primsmatic perspective.” The word “prism” emphasizes the ability to spin the issue around to get insights into different qualities. When I use the word metaphor, this emphasizes the suggestive nature of thought, the absence of Literalism. But neither of them are the actuality. They are merely different qualities that each metaphor reveals in what would otherwise be a mysterious, ungraspable whole.

So when thought stops trying to be actual, it becomes more creative, trying out different angles to discover wider potentials in the world. We shift from a narrowing search for answers to a widening, adventure-loving exploration, which can’t have an agenda because it doesn’t know what’s coming next. But in this spirited exploration of the world we begin to discover new powers, like the freedom from competition that this prismatic angle provides; the creativity it encourages.

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