There is an idea I need to convey that will help you be not just a good man, but a wise man. It is one that so few people manage to grasp, and yet is fundamental to genuine, lasting happiness.
It most came home to me through the words of one of the 20th century’s great luminaries, Terrence McKenna (1946 – 2000):
We all must try to understand what is happening, we need to try to understand what is happening and in my humble opinion ideology is only going to get in your way. Nobody understands what is happening. Not Buddhists, not Christians, not government scientists. No one understands what is happening. So, forget ideology. They betray. They limit. They lead astray. Just deal with the raw data and trust yourself. Nobody is smarter than you are. And what if they are? What good is their understanding doing you? People walk around saying, “I don’t understand Quantum Physics, but somewhere somebody understands it.” That’s not a very helpful attitude towards preserving the insights of Quantum Physics.Inform yourself. What does inform yourself mean? It means transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for direct experience.
What do YOU think when YOU face the waterfall? What do YOU think when YOU have sex? What do YOU think when YOU take psilocybin?
Everything else is unconfirmable rumor, useless, probably lies. So, liberate yourself from the illusion of culture. Take responsibility for what you think and what you do.
You have the only mind that you can truly know. Nobody else thoughts, feelings, or experiences will be available to you like your own are. That means your knowledge, your insight, your reasoning are the only ones that will ever really matter to you. Not mine, not your mothers’, not your teachers’. Even my letters are at best a guidepost for you. Each one of them you will have to reflect on and deice for yourself:
“Does this ring true with what I have experienced? Does this mesh with what I have come to believe?”
And where they do not, you will have to reject them. You must assume that any other understanding of the world is flawed compared to the one that comes from your direct experience, and your honest reflection.
And this means that all ideas have to be carefully considered and dissected. A lot of ideas feel good and intuitive at first blush, but turn out to be terribly destructive when you actually look at them in detail. Especially when those ideas come with an ideology attached. Ideologies are short-cuts to understanding. They give you a few premises that seem evident at first and then tell you, “if you agree with us, then you should trust us when we tell you that you also should believe…”
Ideologies are parasitic. They thrive by convincing you that “thought leaders” have all of the answers, and all you have to do is agree with what they say, and you will be smart, well-informed, educated, and right. As if being “right” meant anything at all. They feed on your capacity for critical thought. They also make you feel accepted; offering you a legion of “friends” that will treat you as one of their own right up until you dare question one of the ideas of their leaders. Distrust them. The only real use for an ideology is to see how a good idea branches out, and then see where those branches turn rotten due to arrogance and intellectual laziness.
I love you son, and I want to make sure that your mind is as sharp as I can make it. And that means teaching you the wisdom to question, the desire to see it for yourself. It also means showing the humility of saying that I might be mistaken, and if I am, trust what you see more than what I say.