Monday, December 16, 2013

Dishonesty I

Scott Bradley


Dishonesty is, I believe, if not an essential attribute of the human condition, then at least one that so typically dominates our relationship with ourselves and others, as to be nearly so. In other words, dishonesty is the daily stuff of life.

Calling it self-deceit helps direct us to the heart of this dishonesty; we are forever lying to ourselves. The seemingly default belief that we are more than a momentary self-conscious experience arising out of and returning to that in which identity disappears, is the core dishonesty. Proceeding from this, it is not difficult to see how dishonesty permeates our self-relationship and our relationship to others.

So, let us affirm dishonesty; it has become an essential means of our coping with our tenuous existence as self-conscious beings. Our reflex judgment might be to condemn this dishonesty as 'wrong', but this presupposes a Universe that makes some kind of ultimately intelligible sense, and that the emergence of the self-conscious experience is purposive and thus intelligible. It echoes a similar argument of creationism that human yearnings must necessarily have their fulfillment — otherwise, it would be like the evolution of a fish without water; it would make no sense. Exactly; it makes no sense. (We need not declare all things accidental in order to affirm that they appear to be so.)

This is, I think, also a basic premise of Buddhism; we are deceiving ourselves, live in illusion, and if we can just break out of this illusion through enlightenment, we will discover how it all does make some kind of sense, even if this sense is a non-sense. We are saved. Reality is coherent. For Buddhism, then, dishonesty is decidedly not affirmable; it is the greatest impediment to the realization of the Truth that Reality is coherent and so therefore is our place within it. This, I would suggest, is but another manifestation of dishonesty. But that’s okay given our inherent dishonesty.

The greatest dishonesty is the denial of our inherent dishonesty. However, admitting to our dishonesty does not necessarily render us honest; but it does move us along the continuum toward honesty.

An affirmation of our own dishonesty parallels Zhuangzi’s suggestion that since every being self-affirms, the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of one being in cancelling out the rights and wrongs of every other being yields an affirmation of all beings. Thus, in acknowledging the inherent self-deception implied by my attachment to my right and wrong while continuing to self-affirm, I also acknowledge the same in others, and together we emerge as mutually affirmed — in our mutual dishonesty.

Affirming our own dishonesty is the beginning of a movement toward greater honesty (and thus authenticity), but it would be dishonest to say this makes us honest. Existence is always a work in progress.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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