So, I gather you think I have been rather informal in my emails of late, addressing weighty topics more like a casual encounter than a formal lecture with proper respect given to the subject at hand. It is true that when I put hands to keyboard I imagine you are before me and we are simply talking. But do not mistake a comfortable conversation for one that lacks seriousness, Deuteros. We are discussing important matters and their significance is not lessened though we try to keep our spirits light.
I do grant you that cleverness is no guarantee of correctness. In fact, the glib speaker who uses every oratorial trick is one whom you must attend to even more carefully. For we are easily fooled by the surface of things, especially if they are pleasing to the eye, or in this case the ear. Be especially wary of the hypocrite, the one whose actions in private do not match their flowery words in public. I work to achieve consistency of thoughts and deeds, and when I stray my wife is there to remind me. I follow the dictates of my own thinking, and I am striving always to tell you what I think. If I also strive to string together my words in a pleasing fashion, let me do so in ways that shed light rather than merely dazzle.
We are always at risk of being dazzled because there are many things to distract us. A shiny new car, a sleek phone, brightly-colored displays: these are specifically designed to entice us, and a great deal of thought and effort goes into making them appealing. What then are we to think of the handsome and well-coiffed politician, promising to solve all our problems with other people’s money and assuring us that nothing that happens to us is our fault? Is the politician also not an item on display, offered for sale to the buying public? And just how has he or she been designed to appeal to us? Is it to our better virtues or is the appeal to our fears and prejudices?
We are in a never-ending battle for our well-ordered minds, Deuteros. For every hard-won step of progress we make in seeing through the surface of things to the substance beneath, a hundred new temptations and distractions are paraded before us. It may help to think of your mind like a powerful computer, capable of performing the most amazing feats, but with this flaw: the input/output channels are hardwired to be completely unprotected against viruses. Do you think you are safe because you have avoided being infected by such obvious conspiracies as QAnon, Bill Gates’ plan to inject us all with microchips in vaccines, or the idea that the World Economic Forum is really a cover for the Illuminati seeking our subjugation via the so-called “global reset?”
I say take no comfort from the follies you have spotted. Say you have taken fifty steps safely in a minefield. Does that mean you should kick up your heels and run freely? If a sniper has fallen silent for a while, will you be the first to poke your head above the parapet? And coming back to our computer, what would you think of the person who says “Oh, don’t worry, I ran the anti-virus program two years ago when I set up my desktop?” You would back away from them slowly, just as you would an unexploded land mine, because this person is a danger to themselves and others. That they are oblivious to their condition is sad, but no less dangerous.
This is your choice, Deuteros: either take regular steps to be on your constant guard or risk becoming a ticking time-bomb of discontent, ready to explode at the slightest provocation of Fate not going your way. Once you realize that the mind is not immune from viruses that come in many forms, you will see the necessity and wisdom of running your personal anti-virus program daily. “Tell me more about these viruses,” you say, “and what is the protection program you speak of?”
The mind viruses are vices such as jealousy, greed, ambition, spite, fear – all things that we know of and have been trying to put in their proper place. Just like a computer virus compels the CPU to perform destructive actions against its programming, so do mind viruses compel you to actions that erode your contentment and happiness. Being infected with vices blinds us to the true value of things and causes us to pursue things of little or no value at the cost of our peace of mind.
Your protection is reason applied by the well-ordered mind. By checking every input and every stimulus against your pre-programmed list of personal values, you can identify when you are being offered a false good or false emotion. Remember this: there are very few “trusted sources” in the world. Virtually all minds have been infected by bad ideas and sloppy thinking and thus their course of thought has been corrupted. Though they may have the power of life and death over your person, do not give them unfettered access to your mind! It is the one place you can be secure in your self-possession, but only if you do not throw open the gates to any vandals who seek entry.
I do not mean to tell you to cut all connections to the world, tempting though that seems at times. We are social creatures, with moral responsibilities not just to ourselves, but to those close to us as well as broader society. Open the connection to let the world into your mind, but filter it as carefully as you would drinking water from a muddy stream. Your connections to others bring you life’s essence, but only so long as you do not poison yourself by consuming everything offered.