A Psych teacher told us a story of what he called “a gestalt of expectations.” A man from a city in the East is driving out West, and he passes a gas station – despite being low on fuel. (He’s used to gas stations being everywhere.) Anyhow, he runs out of fuel. He can’t see anything around except desolate desert bisected by a line of asphalt. He decides to walk back to the gas station he passed ten miles back. There is no one traveling on this remote stretch of desert road. As he’s walking in the intense heat, it comes to his mind that the employee at the service station is really going to gouge him on the price of gas and a jerry can. As he walks and walks, skin prickling with the heat, he keeps thinking about how he’s going to get screwed by the gas station attendant and also how he’ll be chided and ridiculed for running out of gas in the middle of the desert. He imagines it in great detail. Finally, bedraggled and with heaving breaths, he arrives at the station. The gas station attendant rushes out to help this poor man, and the man punches the attendant square in the nose (for all the offenses taking place solely in the man’s mind.)
In a broader formulation, I think this is the most important lesson any human can learn. Our personal perception of what we experience is not equal to what it is that we experience (the exterior world.) This is why some people dealt a crappy hand can turn it into a wonderful life, and also why some people who seem to have it all commit suicide in the prime of life.
I could be angered or dismayed that the single most important lesson I learned in secondary school was via off-curriculum ramblings during an elective class, but I choose not to. Instead, I’ve been trying all my life to make that bit of knowledge into wisdom.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Exuberance is Beauty.
Without Contraries is no Progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.
I also asked Isaiah what made him go naked and barefoot three years. He answer’d: ‘The same that made our friend Diogenes, the Grecian.’
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
NOTE: William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven in Hell” is available in many collections of his poetry, and is in the public domain and available via Project Gutenberg at: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/45315
What will be your master,
and what will be your slave?
Will you court disaster
to be perceived as brave?
Will you call your pastor
to hide that which you crave,
or be your own ringmaster
and own how you behave?
And will you choose virtue,
or live in fear of vice?
Will you choose to be true,
or default to being nice?
And when there's much ado
will you jet their paradise?
Or just defer your view,
as act some men and mice?
You're my Analects,
my Dao De Jing,
and my Republic
all rolled into one.
You are the scripture by which I live.
You present a path to that rare place:
which tears no one down,
but, rather, lifts all.
You achieve this by crushing
Nothing is common.
Everything is a miracle.
(Even those leaves of grass
you repeatedly reference.)
No one is so rough
as to be lowly.
Your author's unbridled enthusiasm
glowed with the insane confidence
of an adolescent boy,
but his awesomeness was never gained
by subtracting from others.
Rather by seeing the bright, beautiful spark
in each body,
pair of hands,
& burdened shoulder.
You are America,
the America we want to be.
The America that labors,
but which takes time to see
its natural wonders.
The America that heard what Jesus said,
and became less excelled at stone-throwing,
and more at cheek-turning.
The America that could see beyond dogma
and hard-edged tribalism,
and could learn from all the
grand & glorious people
who reached its shores --
So that we could be the best version of ourselves
through the strengths of all of us,
and not be stymied by missing
the great beauty & knowledge
You pair away the extraneous burdens
which tax the mind,
and show us what the world looks like
You teach one to see a beauty
that is so well hidden
that its own possessor doesn't
You are the song of a life well lived.
Bury the ordinary,
but make sure to
chop it out at the roots.
Nothing grows back more tenaciously
than the commonplace or the quotidian.
Sometimes what grows
back from those roots
looks entirely different,
but it's still mundane.
It has the same feel,
even when it has a
very different look.
Chop it up.
and let it die the death
of the forgotten.
Don't fill your vaults with glowing, shiny stones.
It's invitation to all cheats and thieves.
Don't know by mind what you don't know by bone.
Make sure you've lost before you up and grieve.
Then when you grieve, take time to fully feel.
Don't let your mind write stories so untrue
that they turn melancholy like a wheel
that gathers and grows with each turn anew.
Be kind and true, but not so kind and true
so as to kill with gifts or a mean tongue.
Don't do what would be best that you not do,
and only sing of those heroes unsung.
Oh, every piece of wisdom has its day,
so don't hitch so tight that you're led astray.