Adam Blatner, M.D.

(In part this was a series of lectures presented to the February, 2003 session of the Senior University Georgetown, updated and revised slightly)(Lecture Series by Adam Blatner, M.D.to Senior University Georgetown's February 2003 Program. (Posted July, 29, 2010)

(The author, Dr. Blatner, is one of the founders of our Senior University Georgetown, a regular teacher of courses on psychology, philosophy, and other subjects, and a retired psychiatrist living in Sun City.)

People have wondered about the way others have engaged individually and collectively in activities that seem to have operated in the long run against their better interests. [What will not be addressed here is fooling around in the sense of play, or the court jester or fool in the middle ages. The subject here is the nature of limited consciousness.] These webpages bring together perspectives of modern psychology, philosophy, history, and other sources that may add some new insights into this dynamic. This webpage is Lecture 1, offering an overview of the problem, addressing some basic human tendencies, and the need for a new kind of vigilance and mental flexibility.

Lecture 2 will explore patterns of self-deception, looking at the various mental maneuvers, and some interpersonal ones, whereby people commonly fool themselves. In effect, I’m starting with the way the individual tends to be foolish and then expands the scope, noting how these patterns can be found in relationships, groups, organizations, and society. I also hope to suggest practical ways to notice and counter tendencies toward foolishness.

In Lecture 3 I’ll review the idea of “Common Sense”—noting that some widely accepted ideas in the past are now considered “nonsense.” Many of the clichés and ordinary moral injunctions are overly simplistic, lacking in discriminations or qualifications, and thus they become sources of error rather than guidance. Recognizing them, on the other hand, allows them to be more intelligently applied or dismissed.

Lecture 4 will address the ways advertising and political campaigns use the devices of the ancient art of “rhetoric.” The society comes to adopt measures, consciously and unconsciously, that serve the purposes of persuading others to further one’s goals. However noble the aspiration—and often not-so-noble—, the real focus needs to be on helping people recognize such manipulations.

Lecture 5: Philosophical Foolishness: Even the most high-flown disciplines, seemingly devoted to truth and self-examination, science, academia, philosophy, can fall victim to “ism-itis” and advocate foolish positions.

Lecture 6: Countering Foolishness: Reviewing the problem, emphasizing practical measures for countering these trends. Optimistic rays of sunshine amidst the clouds of realistic appraisal.


The seed that stimulated thinking about these dynamics as a cultural as well as personal dynamic was planted by the late historian Barabara Tuchman, who wrote a wonderful book in the mid-1980s titled The March of Folly. She alludes to a number of episodes but allocates several chapters each to three major episodes that illustrate her point: (1)Why did the Popes in the early Renaissance continue to support behaviors that ended up in a revolution of sorts, the so-called Protestant Reformation? (2) Why did King George III continue policies that he was warned might generate a rebellion in the American colonies? And (3) what were the “groupthink” dynamics that perpetuated the escalation of efforts in the quagmire of Vietnam? This is a wonderful book and I think if she had lived she’d have also discussed George W. Bush’s 2002-2008 invasion and occupation in the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq!

The other stimulus for this lecture series comes as part of another of my ongoing efforts, that of promoting “psychological literacy”: I have wanted to harvest the best insights of psychology and psychotherapy in the last century and re-present them in ways that can be appreciated by most people. (I’ve also been presenting lectures at the Senior University Georgetown on aspects of this general topic.)

Considerations of the controversies of politics and history goes beyond my expertise, though I have some thoughts about some current situations and remain conflicted and uncertain about others. (See paper on contemporary ethical dilemmas.) Nevertheless, I plan in these webpages to consider the psychology of foolishness, more in the areas of individuals and their susceptibility to the seductions of simplistic and magical thinking within their own minds and by others in the interpersonal and cultural field.

My own background as a psychiatrist and amateur cultural critic has had me speculating on similar matters that are echoed by the mainstream: Why did my cousin do that? What did those business executives think they were doing? Didn’t the committee recognize that that approach might backfire? This quasi-gossip has multiple facets, but part of it operates as an attempt to figure out how foolishness gets generated, perpetuated, and compounded in everyday life.

Some Definitions

I apply the term “Foolishness” to a compounding of mere ignorance and psychological needs for pride and confidence—a toxic combination.

Mere ignorance is simply not knowing something. Hey, we’re all ignorant of lots of stuff most of the time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The question is to what degree have we retained our capacity for curiosity, for intellectual humility, for opening our mind to new possibilities, for knowing how to ask for more input or do research or check out whether or not a particular idea or assumption is really so. True learning requires the recognition of ignorance!

The trouble comes when ignorance is denied, covered over, transformed by the mind’s clever maneuvering. I use the term "stupidity" to refer to the illusion that what one knows is sufficient. I implies to the person that it isn't necessary to pursue the horizons of ignorance, to keep asking questions---much less question one's own knowledge base. Stupdity a kind of complacency of the mind. Its opposite is the practice of intellectual humility.

An alternative to stupidity is involves (1) knowing that wisdom requires that you call your own thinking patterns and knowledge base into question. You ask yourself, "might I be mistaken" and refuse to be defensive when someone points out alternative viewpoints. You become curious, instead. (2)  You develop and practice the various skills that help you look for ways you might be fooling yourself, or ways of checking out your assumptions.  You need not give up your ideas or convictions just because you're checking them out. But you keep mentally alive in wondering how they might be creatively revised. (In a sense, I think this is part of what Jesus meant by the suggestion that we learn to “become as little children.”

So, to re-state: Ignorance is innocent, but stupidity is the stifling of curiosity by false pride as well as the subconscious tendency to cleverly avoid that which is sensed not to fit with the prevailing meaning system. A third level is the further compounding of stupidity into we might call malignant or militant foolishness. At this level a person not only maintains his stupidity, but also devalues those who may disagree or challenge one's thinking. People who talk about "intellectuals" as if they are all just a bunch of phonies are expressing this further compounding of stupidity. Another maneuver involves seeking out only those who support one's thinking. In the realms of addiction, such peers are considered “co-dependent” or otherwise motivated to enable the addicts excuses. Thus, those who lapse into stupidity often find others and feel the sense of "we-ness." It thus seems so that "everyone" is in agreement and this social support reinforces the state of relative close-mindedness.

While it is true that stupidity sometimes ends up hurting no one except the person being foolish, it should be noted that more often others tend to get caught up in the dysfunction. Ultimately, militant stupidity can escalate into mob violence, war, governmental-supported genocide, and other forms of extreme destructiveness. The point is that stupidity is not some minor quirk---it can be terribly toxic.

Some Preliminary Considerations

Knowledge and wisdom expands as new discoveries are made, new horizons of awareness are set. There are setbacks, dark ages, it’s not a steady march of progress. Some ideas are remarkably successful for a while but then play out, or hit the limit of their creative potential. That a given civilization rose and fell may be due to this. Another culture invents another technology, or taps into certain natural or energy resources, and in time becomes competitive. There are indeed other currents that lead to a civilization being less able to rise to the challenge of novelty. This is another way to think about the rise and fall of many civilizations. But overall, I am biased in thinking that there is progress, and one form is the increasing ability of modern and post-modern culture to realize the need for creative revision.

At the same time, this approach to cultivating intellectual humility—along with a number of concepts and techniques for doing so—is relatively new—much developed within the last century. It involves dynamic psychology, the opening to how words can mean different things to different people (i.e., semantics), and other advances in social and practical psychology.

So it might be useful to recognize that most people lapse into that category I call stupidity about a fair number of themes in life, and as a result, I think that humanity is still quite a distance from its optimal potential. We’re not “there,” fully civilized: Civilization is still a thin, brittle facade that can crack under stress: That’s what the savagery of Nazi Germany taught us. Before that Germany was one of the leaders of the world in the “civilization” category—not that this says much. I think it would be better to recognize that humanity may be only 10-20% on the way to true, resilient civilization. That gives us permission to forgive our stupidity and try again to think clearly about the problems we face.

Moreover, I recognize that there continues to be lively controversy about what is and is not misguided or foolish! Many thoughtful and articulate people can argue either side of a host of issues. So to those who find that one viewpoint is coherent and noble, those who espouse a contrary viewpoint present a problem: Either “they” are ignorant of the facts, willfully stubborn (for inexplicable reasons), perverse, wicked, simply stupid (and thus worthy of being discounted and over-ridden), un-enlightened, neurotic, crazy, bad, and on and on. On the other hand, “we” are all the good things they are not. Ah, it’s such a tempting feeling, to be “in the right.”

These lectures bring to the attempt to understand the dynamics of foolishness some tools derived from several contemporary and some ancient fields. There are the tools of modern psychology that look at the various ways people fool themselves. Some tools are related to the ancient study of rhetoric, the art of persuasion, and these include “logical fallacies,” the way people can be persuaded by using arguments that appeal to emotions and bypass the analytical faculties. Other components are also considered, including recent trends in communications and media studies, semantics (i.e., the emotional impact of words), semiotics (i.e., the emotional impact of images), and so forth. I cannot claim to have all the answers, but I think it would be a “cop-out” to avoid engaging this challenge with what we know so far.

The Problem of My Biases

As I do address the problem of human folly, I must recognize that the mind is a meaning-making organ, and it harvests its many sources of knowledge and engages in this process continuously and largely unconsciously. To create some sense of coherence of the many perceptions and situations we encounter is an instinctive process.

An important point that I continue to appreciate more each year (and now I’m elderly) is that the subconscious mind is twenty to fifty times smarter, faster, and in other ways far more brilliant and subtle than the ordinary, everyday consciousness. (I might go so far as to say that the subconscious mind is somewhat permeable in its turn to realms of divine and demonic power and insight). The subconscious mind in other ways is intrinsically dumb and must be trained, introduced to a skill, taught habits of reaction. Once it learns, though, it can often perform far more skillfully than we (ordinary-ego-mind) can do.

I’m pretty sure that we haven’t yet learned many things about how to navigate this frontier of mind and subconscious / over- mind. I suspect we have much to learn from the field of hypnosis, even though that field has been around for two hundred years. I don’t doubt that there may be many other frontiers to encounter in this realm.

All this leads me to say in all humility that I’m biased, and I can’t know all the ways and to what degree I am biased. It will have to suffice at this point in my consciousness development, and at this point in the evolution of my culture, for me to at least simply recognize it. I’ll try to state my biases clearly, but even that may be undercut by the power of the subconscious skills of repression and denial. At least I know this is going on.

It’s awkward daring to offer a good analysis of folly when I know that there’s a certain amount of folly-like dynamics happening in my attempt, being that I, too, am human and handicapped by those dynamics that humans have that sustain their illusions. But it seems to me that simply to give up and abandon the effort to see more clearly is a cop-out. I’ll try to balance a degree of intellectual humility with my sense that I should engage, try to add to the conversation, help the process of consciousness-evolution, however flawed my effort might be.

With this preamble, let’s proceed.

The Problem of Bias

First, the aforementioned analysis of the challenges to the process of analysis, the power of bias, is also informed by developments in contemporary philosophy, especially that associated with what is called “post-modernism.” Like other trends, postmodernism can be overdone, and I find myself at odds with many writers who identify themselves with this movement or approach; yet in some ways, I also draw upon some of their procedures and ideas. The fallibility of knowledge, the vulnerability of bias, the way language is structured and how this structure also adds to our bias, all make the question of what is straight thinking more elusive.

Nevertheless, postmodernist thought does critique a wide range of problems in culture, most acutely any position that is stated with great conviction, as if it is known, and that all possible challenges to that position are thereby rendered null, discounted as foolish, or re-framed as types of wickedness. The more we know about ideas the more we begin to realize that others may find it quite plausible to argue against these ideas without having to be driven by malice or envy. Ideas tend to have boundaries, limitations. When understood within a certain context or sense, they may seem valid enough; and yet there are other contexts that might support the opposite interpretation or conclusions.

This theme in part expresses my humility in presenting my ideas, but it also expresses a theory that I think it important that most people develop the knowledge and skill to think this way, at least some of the time. It interrupts the cascading of confirming ideas that tends to lock in an attitude, prejudice, opinion, and it is that dynamic of fixation of opinion that accounts for a good deal of the folly in the world! It’s not just the pride in needing to think we’re right, but it’s the subconscious confirmation of that idea by innumerable bits of evidence that we select, edit, and weight so that it more fully makes sense that our chosen ideas are true! Unless we recognize that dynamic is operating—and our culture hasn’t recognized this for the most part—we tend to believe in our opinions.

“A Good Diagnosis”

When I (as a physician and psychiatrist) use that term, I don’t mean simply slapping a label on some complex of symptoms that we as yet hardly understand. Rather, I’m using the term to mean having at least a fair idea of what’s really going on, in terms of the structures and dynamics involved. Applying that to psycho-social and cultural issues, the process involves analyzing scores of complex categories.

Part of the problem of analysis—and I don’t mean by this “psychoanalysis” as a method or school of psychology, but rather the original idea: breaking something complex down into its simpler components—is that many problems are terribly complex. A problem may not have two or ten root causes, but scores, perhaps hundreds of causes. Simplistic theories just don’t cut it. With the awareness that what I’ll be trying to describe below may be hardly adequate and certainly doesn’t cover all the bases, I still think it’s a contribution to the effort.

The first step is to take a cold, hard look at the situation. Folly is so pervasive in the world that we must relinquish the illusion that humans as a species are intrinsically wise. I think there are a number of potentials for rising above our folly, and that increasingly we are discovering ways to build on that—developments in psychology, linguistics, political science, law, philosophy, all fields of human behavior. Having conceded this more positive assessment, though, I think I need to invite you to take a breath and consider also the nature of folly:

Retained Childish Modes of Thinking

Folly involves the nature of consciousness and the interplay of its rational, emotional, sensory, imaginative, and other capacities. Although in a rough way maturation advances through childhood and towards adulthood, what must be recognized is that it is entirely possible and, indeed, rather common, that in the course of development certain modes of thought and illusions of childhood will remain as residues in the mind. (Actually, re-thinking this, I would go so far as to say that to some degree this pattern is universal. Even the wisest among us must actively recognize and resist the temptations of these retained immature complexes!)

The next key point is that the mind operates not only on the conscious level, but also on the subconscious level, and the latter is astoundingly quick and clever in generating illusions that protect the desires and habits of mind of ordinary consciousness. One of the more common illusions is this: If we are smart in certain ways, then it seems that we’re not dumb in other ways. This is the mental mechanism of over-generalization.

Projected on our parents, if they’re able to take care of us, they must know how to construct a society that is optimal. Projected on politicians, ditto. Projected onto God, if God can make beautiful nature scenes and powerful thunderstorms, then God must have all the answers and know how to fix all the problems that we have. It seems plausible.

On the other hand, if we get sick or caught up in a war or fight with our siblings, “they” should be able to fix it; I believe they can fix it; the idea that they don’t know how to fix it—well, such an idea is inconceivable to the immature, illusion-saturated mind. And what I’m suggesting is that folly involves an illusion-saturated mind.

We must learn to appreciate the capacity of the subconscious mind to disguise vulnerability and ignorance, to refuse to feel humility (since it seems so close to shame and that undercuts pride), and to re-stabilize the sense of self and environment as being okay. Ironically, these are important, perhaps even sustaining forms of mental homeostasis—they keep us from living a life of desperate anxiety. Yet when it comes to matters of mind, relationships, groups, society, or culture, patterns that are adaptive in the short run can be tragic when over-done.

Modern psychology has revealed that most adults have grown beyond their childish modes of thinking and desiring only to a modest degree. They retain many residues that continue to exert undue influences. The presence of such residues is generally disguised and denied, the way an alcoholic may go for years “in denial” of the trouble his addiction is causing. A major trick folks use is the almost magical thinking—yet it works as a plausible excuse—that if I can be clever in some ways, or fulfill the role demands expected at work or in other adult-status roles, then I must be okay. This trumps the problems that accumulate that may be evidence that there are serious defects in one’s ability to relate in a more mature fashion to members of the opposite sex, spouses, children, elderly parents, friends, club and organizational members, etc.

This pattern is reinforced by another pattern seen in alcoholics: One’s chosen peers tend to be similarly caught up in subcultures of distraction and complacency, in an ethos that suggests that it is rude to point out that life styles are barely mature or adequate. The “everybody’s doing it” illusion can be most reassuring. This happens not only through one’s regular attendance at a tavern sub-group, but also through the pandering of mass media to the baser appetites and sensibilities of people regarding the ever-cheapening standards of sexuality, cheating, avoiding conscientious introspection, the use of superficial slogans, and so forth.

In other words, homo sapiens (literally “wise” or “knowing” man) is often times a little more clever than the cave man, but not by far: “not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-man.” (And woman.)


I define stupidity as the toxic overlay of simply not knowing things—morally innocent ignorance—and the pride-based illusion that—and this is key—what one knows is sufficient. In certain aspects of life, this is variably okay, but on the whole, I believe there’s a moral obligation to stretch a little, to refues to lapse into complacency, to open one’s imagination and mind to new possibilities. Yes, this takes a bit of work; yes, it requires a bit of encouragement and support; and it “hurts” about as much as a good physical stretch in a work-out. I’m not asking that folks go to a point of pain. But for many, even this mind-stretching seems too much. Let’s look at some of the other reasons why:

Part of stupidity—ignorance compounded by prideful mind-numbing—is that it is a childish way to sustain self-esteem. New possibilities, stretching, threatens internal systems of privilege, familiarity, self-interest, and especially, a pathological fear of shame—which is in a sense the opposite of pride. (Or, false pride may be viewed as a childish mental device to counter shame.)

People who are feeling compromised in their self-esteem for various reasons have a corre-sponding need to respond defensively, to assert their adequacy, the truth and validity of their associations or allegiances.

Most folks don’t have much training in critical thinking and creativity, and so feel doubly vulnerable because they don’t know any way out of the problems of life—and they can seem overwhelming—than through relatively simplistic answers. Political demagogues pander to such folks!


Under stress, people regress. To regress is to retreat to simpler, more childish modes of thinking, to cling to childish ideas, to be more vulnerable to the kinds of games we played in our minds when we were children, to use more primitive defense mechanisms.

When there’s an increase in the levels of fear (and anxiety is just fear that’s hard to pin down), vulnerability, humiliation, powerlessness, and the like, there are compensatory mental and social maneuvers to cope with the discomfort. Rarely do people recognize and diagnose clearly their mental condition and the wider situations that have fed into this, and then based on an intelligent analysis, come up with a reasonable solution. There is little teaching going on regarding the skills needed to do this. So instead, most people turn to some easier solutions:
     – what has worked before, or what has seemed to work in the past. In fact, what we did that was familiar, what habits we built up, may not have worked very well, but we don’t know how else to respond
    – what do others in the peer group do? If it’s good enough for them...
    – what do experts say to do, political leaders, televangelists, self-proclaimed sages, people to whom we are inclined to delegate authority?

Another interesting feature of stress and regression is that it calls up simplistic and childish modes of feeling as well as thinking. Appeals to violence seem more attractive. Just kill ‘em! The thought emerges at some deep and sometimes not-so-deep level. Associated with that is the tendency when feeling threatened to label whole classes of “them” as dangerous when in fact there may be only a very few with those features who are the enemy. (The idea that there are people of “our” own religion or national background who may also be pursuing policies that threaten our perceived interests is almost beyond comprehension.)

The Burden

There are also a host of other factors that lead humans to be operating on the surface as okay, but really they are subtly cooking with worry, strain, low grade fear and shame, and other problems. They worry about the nation, the political and economic situation. If they’re doing well, they fear envy from others; if others are doing much better, they may not act on it, but some feelings of envy are inevitable.

Adding to this is the paradoxically liberating and compounding belief in hell: People are dimly aware of the many ways they fall short of being the loving and faith-filled person they’re led to think is the ideal, the kind of person who gets “saved.” Slip-sliding away from this ideal is almost inevitable, and while some feel they can marshal the mental acrobatics to believe with sufficient faith to convince the God they imagine to be judging the situation to forgive them, others can’t convince themselves they’ve succeeded. The imagined stakes are profound, terrifying. Indeed, they’re overwhelming and must be repressed—i.e., eternal torture? Wow. Mere death and it’s over with, even with a bit of pain in the process, is getting off easy.

So I’m suggesting that a belief in hell adds to the burden that people feel and that feeds more primitive and immature responses to personal and social problems. Another related belief is that bad things happen because of the ill-will of others—i.e., evil-intentioned witches. This attitude was prevalent Europe around the 13th through the 17th centuries and is still common in many less-technologically developed cultures today. Indeed, the search for scapegoats of all sorts is another form of mass folly that has led to genocide and other tragic mass responses.

Nor should we underestimate the prevalence and depth of ignorance in the general population, not only about general information, but even more about how to communicate, work out problems, or be self-aware. (I call this complex of information and skills “psychological literacy,” and compare it to knowing how to read and write.) Ignorance about sex, about even slightly sophisticated approaches to teaching or parenting, and so forth tends to be more the rule than the exception for many parts of the world and for many of our parents or grandparents. Even those who are “doing the best they can” have been trying to cope with a handicap that few people want to acknowledge. (In other words, many people “just don’t know any better,” and considering that their teachers and colleges generally know very little either, it is not surprising. Nor are such matters taught on television.)

Another factor that promotes folly is stress. General worry and fear tend to harden the soul: When one lives in a culture where there’s a great deal of unpredictability, of sudden and overwhelming disease (e.g., plagues), unanticipated disaster (e.g., war, civil strive), or overwhelming privation (e.g, famine), these “four horsemen of the apocalypse” can generate in a people a rather primal survival mentality, a hardness that finds relief in witnessing or perpetrating acts of cruelty and violence. (Psychologically, this is called “identification with the aggressor.”) Thus, oppressed sub-groups often engage in their own hierarchies of oppression by the more successful or high status perpetrated on the more vulnerable among them.

On the global scene there are other interesting ethical problem. The capacity to use guns and bombs has increased the destructiveness of war. I sometimes think that our species is like a giant class of young children who have acquired real guns and ammunition! This raises the stakes of folly!

Another problem is the ambiguous ethics of mixing modern medicine with social attitudes that did not inhibit procreation—leading to the phenomenon of population explosion, often among the people who have the least ability to educate their children. Cultural and religious attitudes add stringent anti-contraceptive constraints to the cultural mix, also—the species still having little sense that there are environmental limits to growth.

Related to that, human growth is beginning to deplete environmental resources, through over-fishing, over-hunting, over-grazing, over-everything, leading to massive extinctions of other species and innumerable other ecological consequences. The attitude of take what you can while it’s available trumps any future vision of stability. “Oh, well, science will save us.” This whole complex seems to me to partake of the early adolescent lack of future-orientation mixed with a sense of idealism about parents—the fantasy that grown-ups can fix what’s broken—and also the entitlement to everything and the rightness of blaming “them” for not ensuring that everything is thus made available.  The prevalent attitude of more benefits from government can be obtained without raising taxes—indeed, the demand to lower taxes—reflects this unrealistic and really childish attitude.

I’m concerned today about another source of folly: The density of mass media, electronic technology, music, cell phones, and so forth can generate a powerful illusion of connectedness and busy-ness that distracts the mind and supports a general state of superficial vitality. There’s a slight intoxication in all this. Loud music, spicy foods, pornography, the frenetic quest for intensity in experience, all have as a side-effect a “dumbing-down” of the population. (Is this so or am I just being an old fuddy-duddy?)

In colleges, the expectation that “everyone” should go to college, mixed with the proliferation of academic institutions, has led to an economic incentive for colleges to retain students, which in turn has led to several other elements—dumbing-down of the classes and grade inflation. I’m pretty sure that it’s possible to go through four years of study, acquiring enough information for an exam and then forgetting most of it, without really learning and valuing habits of critical thinking. I am concerned that students who graduate from colleges may well not be at all as  thoughtful or reflective as they are imagined to be.

Religion still supports folly in many ways. Recent articles in major more thoughtful magazines (i.e., Harpers, Atlantic) described how “prosperity” idealism in churches may have contributed to people buying houses that they couldn’t really afford to pay for. The sense that demonstrations of piety (through giving money to the church—i.e., the preacher or televangelist), positive thinking (that then overlaps with magical thinking), and the fantasy that God operates as an omnipotent father who can, if appealed to in the right way, and if “He” is happy that humanity is follwing “His” rule, will be able to stop hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. from being destructive. This in turn subtly encourages people to continue to populate geographical areas that are vulnerable to such natural phenomena.

[There is an alternative theology, but few people want to think this way and so they don’t find it acceptable: That is, there are those who realize that the nature of the Divine is different from the standard patriarchy of king or parent, more aligned with modern science, doesn’t interfere with nature but rather is nature, and that there is no external rescue from the consequences of folly. The Grace of this divinity comes through reducing greed and attending to inner wisdom—or saying it differently, God speaks to us in the “still small voice” of inner inspiration, but we need to strive towards maturity and wisdom in order to “hear” that voice.]

With this warm-up, I wouldn’t be surprised if you emailed me and added a number of other reasons people are prone to folly. My intention is not to be cynical; I am also excited by many developments and trends that seem positive to me. It’s just that I think we need to be realistic about the overall level of consciousness, its generally limited state, so as not to become foolishly over-idealistic.

Finally, I want to acknowledge on the positive side that people can live in relative states of prosperity and happiness if circumstances allow, if there is economic stability, sources for wealth, and relative freedom from war, famine, and disease. The problem is that without a corresponding development of psychological maturity and wisdom, good times tends to reinforce complacence and stupidity.

I think what’s needed is an ethos of creativity, an understanding of psychology that recognizes the ongoing temptation to lapse into less-thoughtful modes of operating in the world. Recognizing such pitfalls, owning that we are all tempted, will, I hope, strengthen our will. A good diagnosis can be a real help in figuring out how to treat the problem.

I'm open to your comments, suggestions for additions, arguments.  Email to adam@blatner.com  

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