Goodness, Honour and Truth

honour and truth

On Christmas Eve I met a friend who I hadn’t seen for a few years in the pub for a quick drink to celebrate the holidays. In that time our lives have moved on. We’ve started new jobs, bought houses and many other things expected of those at our point in life. One thing we both have in common is that we’ve both taken an interest in amateur photography, although my friend has been indulging his interest for many months more than me, who has made a relatively fresh start in the field.

He mentioned how, when setting up his tripod to capture a long exposure, he could sometimes feel self-conscious when other people were around. I can understand what he means. When there’s a crowd of people around and you’re there, not blending in, in fact, doing something that makes you stand out, it’s easy to feel as though people are paying additional attention to you. The awareness that you have of their attention seems to trigger something within you, and often it is not a feeling that is entirely comfortable.

We talked through this feeling briefly, and started to dig down into the fundamentals of what was actually happening when my friend set up their tripod and could feel the eyes of others upon them. Ultimately, we determined it was an inner feeling that my friend was in control of. The surrounding observers triggered an internal feeling which manifested itself as self consciousness – consciousness of what my friend was doing at that moment, a consciousness which pulled him out of a state akin to flow and instead into a state where we seem to see ourselves from the viewpoint of others, and start to speculate on what they’re thinking, what they believe about us, and so on. Our focus becomes divided, taken off our primary objective, and quite often outcomes suffer as a result.

This is when I, in a rather nonchalant manner, bestowed upon my friend these words,

Do not worry about what others think of you, for if you are acting in a good and honorable way, and doing no wrong, why does it matter what the contents of their minds are? If you are acting in a good and honorable way and know this to be true, and an observer perceives it to be otherwise, the problem does not reside in you, but in the observers perception of you. You are doing no wrong, and therefore need not evaluate your actions from the perspective of others. Instead, if one sets out in all things to behave in a good and honorable way, and acts in the light of truth, then one will find themselves constantly at peace, and in this state your mind will be razor sharp, light as a feather and unhindered by any judgement imposed by self or others. Acting in this way, the thoughts you stir up in others will either be good, in which case there is no issue, or they may be bad, in which case, the badness does not have it’s root in you, but in the minds of another. So long as you maintain your commitment to goodness, honour and truth, your presence is a light for those who would have bad thoughts, illuminating the way so that they too might think good. There is therefore no need to be ‘self-conscious’. Simply act how you would act, and know that it is good.

He reacted as though I’d struck him. “Who told you that,” he exclaimed.

“I made it up just now,” I responded. He continued to vocalise his excitement, and we discussed what I had just said again, this time his face showing that he was concentrating on each phrase, digesting what I had just said. His eyes seemed to light up more each minute. I had the feeling that something had clicked.

I wrote this in the way that I did, as an account of the moment rather than extrapolating the concepts into an abstract explanation, because of the reaction I received from my friend. I had, in my view, simply given a brief lecture on my own approach to life. As is usual in most people, I possessed somewhat of a bias towards a heuristic whereby others perceived things in a similar way to me. At this moment, that was clearly not the case, my friends reaction demonstrating the significance of what I had said to him.

In addition, his question ‘Who told you that’ made me think about how one develops such a world view. I certainly had not been told what I said word for word. In fact, I could not identify one source. It is not as though I had read one thing and paraphrased it to my friend. No, what I said was the result of taking knowledge and wisdom from many sources, and ruminating on that information, examining ones own internal thoughts and state of mind. I suppose my current worldview and approach to life is somewhat summarized in what I said. It’s not a complete worldview by any means, but recently I’ve come to better understand the benefits of making goodness and honorable behaviours the foundation on which all my actions are built. It enables me to feel a lightness and clarity on a fairly consistent basis. My mind feels unburdened, and actions have a certain effortlessness to them, as though when one acts in the light of truth, there is a wind which carries you forward towards you destination – a slight pressure at the small of your back that neither pushes or steers you, but seems to act like a turbo to the actions you determine for yourself.

In explaining this to my friend in an off-the-cuff way that evening in the pub, and writing about it now five days later, I better understand myself, my friend seemed to have some positive take away, and hopefully you, the reader of this, will take some benefit. However, I have not ‘told you’ anything. I have merely provided an account which must be deconstructed, each word and concept considered. What is goodness? What is honour? What is truth? What is metaphor and what is it to know? These are questions one must ask of themselves. Furnished with a truthful understanding, how you walk and act in the world will be determined.