. . . Or if you prefer a more blunt metaphor . . . The Double-Edged Sword.
I heard a man say on the radio one day that “hope is the denial of reality.” A quick google search revealed Margaret Weis’ fantasy character, Raistlin, the evil magi, as the original author of the quote. Regardless of the source, the words struck a chord with me as soon as I heard them. A thousand fragments of perception merged into a classic “big picture” in my teenage mind as I sat there in my arm chair, cradling a cup of cold coffee in both hands, stunned by the epiphany bullet.
It’s a great example of hearing the right thing at the right time and being forever changed. I was ready for the revelation, you see.
Two years prior, I had believed in the mythology of crystals. I could pass my hand over a crystal and feel the energy emanating from it—it felt like a minor electric shock, consistent and unrelenting until I moved my hand away. I could “program” a crystal for dream recall and remember a dozen dreams in vivid detail upon waking, whereas I would normally recall only one or two at most and with a fraction of the clarity. I could even ease the mind of a stressed-out friend by secretly placing a crystal, programmed for the task, within his bedroom.
But crystal manipulation was the least of my powers. I could see the future in my dreams, telepathically influence the actions of those around me, read minds, travel out of my body, speak to the dead. . . Yes, I was quite the psychic fraud. I fooled many people—myself especially.
Eventually, I came to realise (I’ll not bore you with the how) that my seemingly profound feats and experiences were, in fact, dreadfully mundane. I familiarised myself with the relevant sciences, and I have to say, the understanding I achieved was very empowering.
I discovered the awesome potential of placebo, along with its limitations, and dumped the crystals. I can now recall my dreams with the same clarity, but without the crutches. I can even cause myself to experience that electric sensation I once felt from the crystals, at any time, and anywhere on my body.
I learned about mentalism (telepathy, talking to the dead, etc.) and refined my manipulative skills.
I came to the obvious conclusion that my few dreams that seemed prophetic were no more than a demonstration of statistical probability. I had thousands of dreams that meant nothing and caused no feeling of déjà vu. What would have been really strange is if I had no “prophetic” dreams at all. If you were to be subjected to a rapid slideshow consisting of ten thousand common images, and then witnessed a few of them the following day in your normal routine, it would not be a fantastic coincidence. Dreams are much the same.
As one with an appreciation for science, I am now ten times the psychic I was before—because that’s what good psychics are. I have come to realise there are two kinds of mystics in the world—those who are deluded (usually less skilled, because they don’t understand what they’re doing) and those who deliberately scam the gullible with good science and psychological manipulation.
But what is the danger of hope? Hard-nosed critic that I am, people sometimes ask me why I would want to deprive others of their comforts.
Hope/delusion nearly always comes with a hidden price. And hope is a vital first step toward delusion, so I tend to consider the two to be one and the same. You can’t have delusion without hope, and so rather than writing about delusions directly, which most of us can understand the potential danger of, I’m homing in on the source here.
My stepfather also walked the spiritual path, much as I did. Unfortunately, he invested a great deal more money into it than I did. He is a “certified” Inca shaman, a master of the Malkeizadek (sp?) Method and a reiki healer. From the many classes and workshops he has paid to attend, he could tell you everything you could possibly want to know about chakras and the mysterious higher power that manipulates space and time to show him many licence plates with three numbers in sequence.
I asked him if he had ever bothered to investigate the relevant statistics to determine whether or not his experiences were even unusual. He said that stats don’t mean anything to him. I told him that was a blatant lie. If every licence plate in the world had three numbers in sequence, he wouldn’t think it in any way significant to see those plates everywhere. He assumes divine intervention simply because he doesn’t think there are very many such plates around, and therefore it’s unusual beyond coincidence that he would see them all the time.
Logic is the bane of mutated hopes . . . and the best friend you’ll ever have. To demonstrate the real danger of hope/delusion, I’ll use my stepfather again.
Three years ago, he and my mother invested $300,000 into a business venture. It was a lot more money than they had to spend and they put up their house as collateral. Now they are barely surviving. What seemed like a sure thing, their ticket to a life of luxury as multimillionaires, has turned out to be the worst scam they could ever have fallen for.
This happened because they have a weakness for gambing. They are aware of this, and they keep a leash on it. They would never go out and buy enough lottery tickets to bankrupt themselves. But a business venture . . . Well, now, that's different. Or is it?
Back when they were still basking in the glow of fantasy, I knew they had been scammed. I knew the **** would hit the fan long before it ever did. The scam was obvious. I don’t say this to stroke my own ego—I’m aware of the fact that even I, cynical sceptic that I am, (well, that's what people call me, anyway) inevitably have my own seedling hopes and full-blown delusions. I say this to make a point. Had they been thinking clearly, had they been standing with both feet planted on the ground, they would never have been taken in. I wouldn’t have fallen for a scam like that, because I’m always suspicious of things that seem too good to be true. Rest assured, I’ll fall victim to different hopes, and then you can laugh.
The scammers knew their type, knew exactly what to show them and exactly what to tell them. You should know that my parents are far from stupid. It all comes down to psychology. It is unreasonable to assume that every person who falls for what you recognise as an obvious scam, is simply stupid. You stab yourself in the foot that way. To make mock and laugh at the seeming foolishness of others is to sentence one’s self to a similar fate. Instead, it’s essential to understand the truth of this, because in doing so, maybe you can identify the knife (or knives) at your own back. We all have at least one. It seems to be a universal human failing. I think I’ve found my vulnerability—or at least one—and that is what inspired me to write this blog.
But the most critical danger isn’t external. When it comes to our fondest hopes, we’re all just drunks stumbling in the dark, easy targets for any of a million potential predators, but more apt to stumble and break our own necks before anyone else has the chance to do it for us. Picture the cancer victim who rejects chemotherapy, thinking he can cure himself with his mind, only to die a very slow and painful death.
Such a delusion presents a different kind of danger as well. The man bases his conclusion on reports of others who claim to have done it. He ignores the millions of people who have tried to cure themselves of various ailments in similar ways and failed. He somehow equates an abysmal success rate with absolute proof. That’s the kind of absurd logical failure that unrestrained hope can lead us to.
The only reason we make any progress at all is because there are people who are sceptical. For all we know, those who seemed to cure themselves may have been eating the cure. For all we know, the universal cure for cancer could be as simple as a change of diet. But we never will know unless someone takes a realistic approach—the scientific approach—to exposing the truth of the matter.
I’m sure the message here must seem depressing and pessimistic to some, but it really shouldn’t be. Hope stems from a lack of appreciation for what we have. It is typically nothing more than the manifestation of avarice and greed. We want more. Why do we want more? If you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you probably live in a country where freedom of choice and equal opportunity is valued. You probably have friends and/or family who care about you more than you realise. You probably live a life that many less fortunate people would kill for. Owning a computer automatically puts you in that category.
So, why do we always want more? Why can’t we just be happy with what we have and the way things are? The basis for hope strikes me as more disturbing and depressing than my seeming pessimism. Those who are ever hopeful are ever wanting, and those who are ever wanting are never fully satisfied or content. My (illogical) sense of morality, combined with a bit of critical thinking, tells me that hope can very well be labelled evil. After all, isn’t greed one of the seven deadly?
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