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“To Be Naive And Easily Deceived Is Impermissible…”

November 27, 2010

“To be naive and easily deceived is impermissible, today more than ever, when the prevailing untruths may lead to a catastrophe because they blind people to real dangers and real possibilities.”

I  rummaged around last night until I found this old quote from Erich Fromm’s The Art of Being.  I think about it whenever I start to think I should be posting more cheerful &  lighthearted items on this blog.  I don’t see myself as gloomy or cynical,  just as someone struggling to be clear-sighted. I don’t believe we need more comforting illusions or evasions. I am inclined to believe  we get into trouble not because we don’t know what to do, but because we don’t pay attention to what we do know.   Our perceptions are distorted by our desires and our fears.  Both wishful thinking and paranoia are both distorting and destructive, and to be avoided as much as possible.   A basic insight of  the psychoanalytic tradition is that whatever we do not fully face up to  comes back later to haunt us in disguised form. Whatever we evade and shun and refuse to integrate into our consciousness has great power to hammer us unexpectedly later on, seemingly out of the blue. Our lives are what they are because of what we have dealt with as honestly and fully as possible, and what we have eluded, evaded, denied, minimized disavowed, or  rationalized away.

As fallible human beings full of foibles, with grat capacities for self-deception,  obviously there’s no danger of us acquiring truth in some final, absolute sense, but I believe we must walk in that direction toward discerning truth and sifting out truth from lies.

Fromm (1900-1980) was  German-born psychoanalyst, social philosopher, social critic and writer. He was descended from what was described as a long line of ‘prophetic rabbis”.  Here is Fromm again from the same essay:

“Faith in life, in oneself, in others must be built on the hard rock of realism; that is to say, on the capacity to see evil where it is, to see swindle, destructiveness, and selfishness not only when they are obvious but in their many disguises and rationalizations. Indeed, faith, love, and hope must go together with such a passion for seeing reality in all its nakedness that the outsider would be prone to call the attitude  ‘cynicism’. and cynical it is when we mean by it the refusal to be taken in by the sweet and plausible lies that cover almost everything that is said and believed. But this  kind of  ‘cynicism’ is not cynicism; it is uncompromisingly critical, a refusal to play the game in system of deception. Meister Eckert expressed this briefly and succinctly when he said of  the ‘simple one’ (whom Jesus  taught) ‘he does not   deceive   but he is also not deceived.” 












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