By Gary Z McGee
“Here the ways of men divide. If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then search.” ~Nietzsche
What does it mean to be undeceived?
To a certain extent, we are always deceived. For we are only human, all too human. But to the extent that we can become aware of deception—both self-deception and the deception of others—being undeceived means being ahead of the curve of the human condition.
First, it means embracing deception as an integral part of life. Then it means being strategically circumspect while creating our own meaning. It means taking everything that you’ve learned into consideration with humility and a good sense of humor. It means becoming so healthy that your very existence is a catalyst for healthy change. It means connecting courage to curiosity. It means taking a leap of courage. It means putting things into proper perspective by using health as a benchmark.
It is, paraphrasing Bruce Lee, “absorbing what is useful, discarding what is not, and adding what is uniquely your own.” Let’s break it down…
Absorb what is useful:
“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.” ~Benjamin Franklin
What is useful? Well, if your goal is not only basic survival but also progressive evolution, then what is useful is what is healthy. Contrastingly, what is not useful is what is unhealthy.
So, how do you figure out what is healthy or not? Through logic, reason, and critical thinking. You cannot wish something into being healthy. You cannot simply believe something is healthy and, by your strong faith alone, expect it to be valid. You can only reason through if something is healthy or not. Once you have reasoned a thing to be healthy, you free yourself to absorb what is useful.
Absorbing what is useful is absorbing what is healthy. The path is then clear to question with a good conscience. You become undeceived. In a state of undeception, you are free to wield the question mark sword, the Sword of Truth, and to use it in a way that distinguishes what’s healthy from what’s not.
What is healthy is absorbed as something useful for progressive evolution. What is unhealthy can then be discarded as something useless, so as to avoid an unhealthy society.
Discard what is not useful:
“A fool thinks himself wise, a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ~William Shakespeare
How do you know if you were born into a profoundly sick society?
1.) Any society that pollutes the air it needs to breathe is a profoundly sick society.
2.) Any society that pollutes the water it needs to drink is a profoundly sick society.
3.) Any society that pollutes the food it needs to eat is a profoundly sick society.
4.) Any society that pollutes the minds it needs to evolve with is a profoundly sick society.
You must have the self-discipline to daily question what is healthy and what is not. For health is not a matter of opinion. Health is a benchmark. Without this benchmark, you cannot discern what is useful from what is not useful.
As such, belief and certainty are the greatest obstacles blocking us from being able to discard what is not useful. This is especially dangerous when those beliefs and certainties are derived from the cultural conditioning of a profoundly sick society. Hence the importance of vigilance and strategic prudence.
In order to remain undeceived, we must remain circumspect. The Sword of Truth must be unleashed daily so that it may cut through the red tape of wishful thinking, irrational beliefs, and whimsical certitude.
It is only when our naïve beliefs have been shattered upon the hard concrete of reality that we are free to distinguish between what is healthy and what is not. As we begin to piece things together, we become undeceived. We are liberated to absorb what is useful and discard what is not.
Add what is uniquely your own:
“Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.” ~Henry Thomas Buckle
Once you have successfully threshed the chaff (unhealthy/useless) from the grain (healthy/useful), you are free to unleash your creativity. From swords to plowshares, your Sword of Truth becomes a Pen of Truth. With it, you are free to create high art; art that shatters molds, stretches comfort zones, and initiates wake up calls. You become free to prove why the pen will always be mightier than the sword.
Here, still, we must remain vigilant. For even art can become dogmatic. In order not to be deceived, we must always be in a state of questioning what we think we know and weighing it against the nonnegotiable scales of healthy/unhealthy. Should our art become dogmatic, we would be wise to absorb what is useful from it and discard what is not. This way we will always be openminded and openhearted enough to add what is uniquely our own.
Outdated truth must die so that it doesn’t taint the updated truth of the times. God must die so that God can be reborn. Creativity thrives off the ashes of old art. Evolution either progresses or stagnates in proportion to how creative we can be after having absorbed what is useful (healthy) and discarding what is not (unhealthy).
The art of being undeceived is more like the juggler’s art than the interrogator’s. It should be flexible and adaptable to meet results which are sudden and unexpected. The undeceived understand that the self is masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up, and they have the acumen and the wherewithal to juggle both masks and delusions into a state of high humor and even higher art.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (The Art of the Undeceived) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.