Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled
- Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Now let me substantiate that by reminding you of some of the other ways in which it is suggested we can find this peace. One is that we should refuse to think. We must put that first because it is the most common. People say increasingly that if you are foolish enough to think in this world, then it is not surprising that you are unhappy, and in a sense you deserve to be so. They say that the whole trouble with men and women is that they persist in thinking; if only they had the sense to stop doing that and to be just like the animals and go back to nature and live the animal life, all would be well. That was the philosophy of D. H. Lawrence, who said that man has overdeveloped the higher part of his brain, but if only he would revert to the lower type of life, he would be much happier. Many say that, though not in such a philosophical way. “If you want to be happy,” they say, “just get away from your troubles.” So you fill up the agenda of your life as much as you can with meeting other people, going to entertainments, and many other things—in other words, escapism.
Another way in which we are told that we can achieve the quiet heart is to espouse and adopt the philosophy of what is called optimism, and it is astounding that there are still many who follow this philosophy. It takes many shapes and forms. Some still cling tenaciously to their belief in an inevitable kind of evolution to a better life. They say that the whole of mankind is gradually evolving to a higher state and a more perfect condition in which our troubles and problems will be left behind; and they still believe that in spite of all that has happened in the past one hundred years! Others do not put it exactly like that, but their optimism consists in saying, “It is all right; there are temporary setbacks, but things are going to get better.” This happened before the Second World War; such people were quite sure, up to the last minute, that Hitler would embrace wisdom. This is belief in optimism for the sake of being optimistic. People are proud of this; they go on looking at the bright side of things and believe it is their duty to always smile, come what may. Many are trying to achieve the quiet heart in that way.
Then, going up the scale a little, we come to the next false hope, which is what I would call the philosophy of fatalism. I think this is becoming increasingly common. In its simplest form, it says, “What is to be will be; and all the thinking and all the worrying and all the calculating in the world cannot affect it. The trouble with people is that they persist in thinking, but if only they saw that to do that is to exaggerate the trouble, they would stop thinking and making themselves unhappy. It is because they go to meet their troubles and anticipate them that they are so troubled. But everything seems to be rigidly fixed by a fatalistic principle. Therefore do not think—just wait until things do happen and you will have a kind of temporary peace and an assuaging of your trouble.” Many pacify themselves and think they can get true peace that way.
The next one is what I would call the psychological method. This is slightly different because it attempts a kind of positive and active treatment of us and of our minds. It is just a device to train us to play tricks with our own thoughts and hearts. In a sense, it is not interested in our problems; it is interested in our reaction to those problems. The psychologist is concerned with giving us peace of mind; that is his objective. The different types of psychological treatment all say the same thing to us: “Why worry?” They try to show us, in various ways, the folly of worrying. They tell us to try to think of beautiful and pleasant things; they say that we must deliberately subjugate our thoughts and project them onto other things and so on. So when people become agitated, they rush to a psychologist.
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