Here’s a spiritual answer to a logical question.
Clarity of speech and writing springs from clarity of thought. So the question is how can I develop clarity of thought?
For clarity of thought, the short answer is: Keep asking ‘Why’, ‘What is the underlying belief here?’ and ‘What if that belief was not true?’ and stay courageous as you go deeper. Until you hit a point beyond the good/bad of “morality”.
- For any strong opinion that you hold, ask ‘Why?’ For example, “Trump is the worst thing to happen to the USA”
- The next reason will be ‘obvious’. For example “Because he is so racist!”
- Ask ‘What is the underlying belief here?’ Maybe it is ‘A president cannot be racist. Trump is racist’
- Ask ‘What if that belief was not true?’ Your mind will scream ‘Come on you idiot!! Are you crazy??!!’ Irritation and anger are not signs of confidence, but fear.
Your ego is gasping for breath. But stay open.
- If you cross this barrier, you will find yourself opening up to opposing views, standpoints. This process of opening up is the key; not your ability to prove your opinions by drowning people in facts and bullet points.
- These opposing views will challenge your other deeper beliefs. Remind yourself that this is all a mental exercise. No bones are getting broken. So there is no need to panic.
- Rinse and repeat all the above steps for each belief that bubbles up
For example, let us say you continue the train of reflection after discovering your belief that “A president cannot be racist. Trump is racist”, the internal conversation might sound something like this:
- “A president cannot be racist. Trump is racist”
- “What do I mean by racist?”
- “Racist means making demeaning remarks based on somebody’s race”
- “OK, so the underlying belief is making demeaning remarks based on somebody’s race”
- “And why is that?”
- “Because you cannot judge anyone negatively based on their race. That would be wrong..unfair”
- “Ahh I said ‘wrong’…I gotto go deeper. So I cannot judge someone negatively. What if I judge positively? What if I say things like “Black people have given us the gift of hop hop”? What if I use gender instead of race? ‘Women can teach men the qualities of kindness and compassion’. Would that be OK?”
- “Nah that sounds biased. We seem to be OK with stereotyping. We are just not OK with negative stereotyping”
- “And why are we not ok only with negative stereotyping?”
- “Cos that makes us feel uncomfortable!!”
- “What about things that I say that might make someone uncomfortable? For instance, things like “White have exploited blacks for years. And that needs to be corrected”? Could that make some white folks uncomfortable”
- “Yes, but that’s the truth!!”
- “OK, so the belief is that if I say something that makes someone uncomfortable, it indicates candidness. If Trump does it, it is racism”
- “I don’t know…but no wonder, the other side often calls me a hypocrite”
I am not saying that the above is what you should think. But this exercise itself might shed light on some shadows in our mind. If you continue deeper, you might actually end up not agreeing, but understanding where the person you hate is coming from!
The very process of challenging your beliefs makes you see their limitations, identify gaps in context, see how the ‘truths’ change when context changes, makes you more open and less afraid, see the gaps in the dots you thought were already connected.
It will make your mind comfortable with not knowing, with uncertainty – it’s biggest enemy! But doing it makes it faster at reconciling totally contradictory perspectives, find common ground, see the whole reality.
As you keep doing it, you connect dots faster, see gaps faster, fill them faster, update them faster – with others and for yourself. And this produces clarity as an inevitable side effect!
This might seem like an analytical exercise, but to the keen reader – it will be clear that this is a spiritual exercise.
Your ego (which is nothing but your self concept, your beliefs that you have identified with – and the resulting bundle of thoughts) is what interferes with your ‘optimal thought process’.
Instead of having just the 10 thoughts you need to comprehend a given situation, your eyes are clouded by ‘ego dust’ of a thousand other unchallenged thoughts. Your perception is distorted and you are unable to think clearly. Moral outrage is the excuse for not being able to delve deeper. The worst thing is ‘moral outrage’ is just another form of judging. Declaring something ‘wrong’ saves us from the excuse of explaining why. And yet, it grants us moral superiority!
Loosen the hold of your ego, and the mind clears up.