Thursday, August 11, 2011

Something to think about:

The mass of people believe their judgements to be their own. They get very offended when it is suggested that they have actually received them ready-made from others and have simply been puppets of popular opinion all their lives. They speak in the current jargon and dress in the latest fashion--not from any personal sense of style but just to fit in. And these servile imitators actually believe they are self-determining. How ridiculous! This is an incurable sickness because people are convinced that they are not suffering from it. It is a universal madness, because everyone is infected. It is, therefore, a complete waste of time for me to try to return people to their own intrinsic instincts. Oh Well!

-- Chuang Tzu --
from Taoist Wisdom
Timothy Freke, editor and trans.

Chuang Tzu seems to believe that this is a universal trait, that all people are this way. I think there are many who simply follow the crowd, but it's hard to distinguish between those who are just trying to fit in and those who have reached the same conclusions on their own. How does one know which is which?


  1. I agree with what Chuand Tzu says, up to a point. He says:

    "It is a universal madness, because everyone is infected."

    There are some people who have to come up with the initial idea in the first place. A lot of times, that idea isn't very popular, so they didn't come up with it to make friends. Voting rights for women and for African-Americans wasn't initially campaigned for in order to win a popularity contest.

    However, I do agree that a lot of people claim to have an opinion about something not because they really researched it themselves, but because it is the "fashion" to hold that opinion. And God help you if you hold a different opinion from theirs. I see this ALOT on the internet.

  2. Cheryl,

    I have the same problem: there are many who simply follow the fads and fashions, be it clothing or politics or art or whatever, but I wouldn't make it a universal statement. Yes, there are a lot on the Net who both follow What's In at the moment and are extremely hostile to anyone who thinks differently. But there are those who resist.

    I didn't realize it at the time, but it's the same point that Montaigne was making in the July post with a quotation from his essays.

  3. It's very hard to come to conclusions by ourselves. It often times requires input from others, at least to the facts. Different sets of facts and different viewpoints to choose from. Hence, a conclusion, based on others information and influence. No man is an island.

  4. Ted,

    I think Chuang Tzu wasn't talking about those who get a variety of opinions and then make up their own minds, but those who simply accept whatever they hear. They then change their ideas without thinking about the relationship between their old ideas and their new ones.

    It's easier that way, one doesn't have to spend any time thinking about it, and one doesn't upset others in the crowd by thinking differently.