Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #20 – The Last Honest Man II

May 15th, 2017

I received a lot of feedback from my post The Last Honest Man. Readers found the last line especially moving: “I am not the last honest man, but I know those who are and I serve them.” Several mentioned that the post had a beat, like poetry, in that its timely refrain gave it a rhythmic sense. And one person wrote:
“What an inspiring topic and what a potent and poetic way you presented it! It made me wonder if it was inspired by something specific that had happened recently, as it had such a strong emotional undercurrent to it.”
Yes, it did have an emotional element. How can one not be stirred today? I read something recently that basically summed up my angst: “Common sense is not a gift, it’s a punishment because you have to deal with everyone that doesn’t have it.”
This present age is called Kali-yuga, which Śrīla Prabhupāda called the age of quarrel and confusion. As the effects of this age increase how can one not be disturbed by the hypocrisy of the world that seems to have reached into every sphere of life both left and right? Need I give examples? Here’s just one prominent way that’s disturbing: narcissism. I like Eric Fromm’s definition of the word: “To see the world according to one’s own desires.” [1] Did you ever have a conflict with someone like this, who saw something in a particular way just because they desired it so, sometimes even seeing something that belonged to you as their own? How dishonest! Are you also guilty of the same thing? Be honest.
Another thing that has been bothering me is the epidemic of motivated reasoning and the arrogance in which people promote their side without hearing the other. One definition: “Motivated cognition refers to the unconscious tendency of individuals to fit their processing of information to conclusions that suit some end or goal.” [2] In other words, you fit your reasoning to support your conclusion or goal, not that your conclusions are based on your reasoning.
Yes, there were personal things that disturbed me, and there was emotion behind what I wrote, but I will keep that personal. But it wasn’t just negative emotions that inspired me to write about honesty. I was also inspired to write by thinking of honest men, the few that are sincere to the core of their hearts, and speak the truth despite what people think or do in opposition.
The last line was: “I am not the last honest man, but I know who they are and I serve them.” So although I get disturbed by the dishonest and laud the honest, there was another emotion that inspired my piece. I need to be more honest.
Madan Oppenheimer, one of our readers, was inspired to explore his own feelings on the subject after reading what I wrote. Someone shared it with me. I liked it because it added another dimension to honesty, the call to further look at the subtleties of honesty and dishonesty in our own heart. Indeed this is a personal, moving, and deep subject for everyone. We could go on forever exploring it. I will leave it at that and finish with Madan’s offering. What are yours? I would love to hear them.
An honest person recognizes that they might be wrong about things that they feel sure of, or believe in, even things they hold sacred.
An honest person recognizes that honesty is only as good as the love it allows them to feel for others, including those that they perceive as being dishonest.
An honest person recognizes that dishonesty may serve good purposes at times. [3]
An honest person recognizes that they are a complex being that is part of a complex reality in which honesty and dishonesty equally serve complex purposes. [4]
An honest person admits that even when they try to act selflessly, they are inescapably a self that has self-interests.
An honest person questions their honesty, ever aware of their limitations.
An honest person recognizes that the world is full of people and creatures and environments that need all kinds of help, in all kinds of ways, and that even though their efforts to help may never be enough, they probably should keep trying anyway, in whatever ways they are presently capable of, even if they have some selfish motives in the mix.
An honest person recognizes that they should be as helpful as they know how to be, even if they have selfish motives in the mix, because they recognize that the need is so great that they should not wait till they are “perfect”.
An honest person recognizes that they may not fully understand what constitutes honesty.

[1] I remember this quote from The Art of Loving. I don’t have the book with me. It’s a paraphrase.
[2] Dan Kohan
[3] A practical example of dishonesty serving a good purpose would be telling a lie in order to protect someone who is under your care from the harm an aggressor intends to cause them.
[4] For example, by the law of karma one person’s dishonesty may be teaching you a lesson and thus be communicating a truth to you and serving a good purpose.

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