Recognizing Reality

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Happy, successful people know the difference between fantasy and fact, between dreams and reality. Postmodernists, on the other hand, struggle separating fact from fiction. For example, Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize-winning English playwright and dramatist, once declared: "There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false."

Pinter's quote is a great example of how not to think. In fact, one only needs to contemplate the quote for a brief amount of time to recognize how utterly incoherent Pinter is being. If Pinter were merely talking about ice cream flavors, the statement would work fine. But when you move outside the realm of taste and preference (although postmodernists seem to never step beyond that realm), Pinter's philosophy is shown to be (shall we say?) flawed. For example, if your gas tank meter shows your car is empty, that meter is either true or false. It can't be both true and false. Either the gas tank is empty or it's not, and if you choose to disregard the meter and keep driving, odds are you will find out (fairly quickly) whether the meter is correct or not.

There are plenty of examples along those lines which show the lunacy of Pinter's statement, but that's not the only reason we know it's bogus. The statement is also self-refuting. It purports to give us new insight - new information. Yet by saying that things (which presumably would include statements like itself) are neither true nor false, it decimates its own credibility. What Pinter says is "not necessarily true or false." Pinter's words can be "both true and false." If that's so, the statement contains absolutely no real value. Therefore, why am I wasting my time even reading his statement or talking about it? In fact, why is Pinter wasting his time saying it - or, for that matter, saying anything at all?

Smart, successful people don't buy into such postmodern nonsense, as espoused by the likes of Harold Pinter. And even if a few say they do, their actual practices demonstrate otherwise. Smart, successful people are fully aware of the realities of life around them - even if they desire to change or grow beyond those realities. They understand what's real and what's unreal. Indeed, the very basis of their success is moving from Point A (their present reality) to Point B (the reality they wish for themselves and their loved ones).

Coupled with this recognition of reality, successful people have a healthy level of self-awareness. In his outstanding book Maximum Achievement, Brian Tracy writes: "Throughout all of history, self-knowledge has gone hand in hand with inner happiness and outer achievement." According to Tracy, self-awareness isn't only about looking into yourself (though that's part of it), it's about understanding truths that define the human condition itself. Tracy, whose rags-to-riches story has inspired millions, explains how he studied the fields of psychology, health, business, and religion, and then developed goals and strategies based on the principles he learned -- principles pretty much applicable to all men and women.

This concept of self-awareness should also include a healthy dose of humility. We should be aware of our limitations, our imperfections, and our areas of struggle. We should acknowledge that we have much to learn and that we can benefit from the wisdom and knowledge of others. 

To paraphrase what is perhaps my favorite biblical proverb, wise people listen and increase their learning and they seek out wise teachers and counselors. (See Proverbs 1:5 for the actual quote). Education is crucial to success. And classic education rests on a fundamental premise, which flatly (and appropriately) rejects the incoherent and dangerous notions of postmodern relativism. That premise is: People should increase both their knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge, of course, is the acquisition of information. The whole concept of knowledge is based on the understanding that there is information to acquire -- that there are facts to learn and truths to discover. And wisdom entails how we handle that knowledge. One person said: "Knowledge is understanding how to pick your nose; wisdom is knowing when to pick your nose!" One might add that a postmodernist calls into question whether the nose even exists, and if it does, whether it's even knowable. And I would add that this demonstrates how postmodernism (at least insofar as its attempted indictment of objective, knowable truth is concerned) has about as much intrinsic value as the snot one might remove from his nose!

Perhaps an even greater threat to authentic education in our society today is the fact that so many of us gravitate toward the irrelevant and the absurd. We fill our minds with "knowledge" about sports, celebrities, our favorite soap operas or prime time programs, gossip, and so forth. We become experts in trivialities, and waste away precious amounts of our time - and brain power.

People who are happy and successful understand the importance of education - real, genuine education. Accordingly, they tend to be lifelong learners - continually adding to their knowledge and improving upon their wisdom.

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