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The Tinkered Mind
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March 12th, 2022
Progress consists of two fundamental components: there’s the idea, and then there’s the implementation of that idea. Now one of these steps is a bit faster than the other. Ideas can be instantaneous - suddenly springing into the mind, altering perspective and radically altering an opinion about the world. But acting on that idea to actually change one’s self, or something in the world? This can take a long, long time. And in the meantime, hypocrisy is unavoidable.
This hypocrisy exists at all levels. Learning about some aspect of health, or having some idea to get more fit does not suddenly mean that a successful strategy to achieve such things is suddenly implemented. Not at all, and so many people concerned with their health still have some pretty unhealthy habits, while fully realizing how bad such habits are.
It works on the personal level, it works on the level of societies. Take for instance the abolition of slavery. As an institution, slavery is as old as history itself, used by virtually all people’s when slavery was still widespread. (Note, it seems slavery is still shockingly widespread, though not in the way it was institutionalized before abolition.) Now when someone first had the notion that perhaps slavery as an institution and a practice should be abolished, what might we say about that person being a part of a society that practices slavery? Bit of a contradiction. The best contradiction is perhaps Thomas Jefferson who wrote the famous words that all men are created equal - and yet he owned plenty of slaves. Hypocrisy to its core.
But, that’s the thing, progress requires an innate amount of hypocrisy because good ideas cannot be acted upon instantly. The only thing that’s truly consistent is something that’s not open to change, and simply cannot change.
This subtlety of growth and evolution - of progress - should come in handy when we next spy hypocrisy in another person. Many of the things people say represent a reality they would like to see come about. And it’s very easy to confuse this contradiction with blameworthy hypocrisy.
Now there’s another level of hypocrisy that someone could sneak into if they were aware of this perspective, and that it might be possible to get away with contradicting words and actions because it can simply be plastered with a band-aide of intentions that can’t be carried out because “these things take time.” No - the idea here is not to be vocal about the necessary role of hypocrisy in progress, but simply to be aware of it so that one’s own perspective can have wiggle room to grow, expand and perhaps occupy the of another’s view of the world. Compassion is aided by understanding, and if the contradiction and hypocrisy of other people can have a sensible cause, then perhaps it’s ll be a little easier to sympathize.