Principles – the truth in a false world
Mark Twain wrote that often we protect ourselves through specific weakness or fear and we call them as principles. For example, if a person is addicted to cigarettes, he may declare his governing law is Pleasure or Freedom. And with such an assertion, may absolve himself of the responsibility to consider consequences of his addiction. Pleasure, in this case, is his value, not really a principle.
So what’s the difference between the two?
Steven Covey in his ‘Seven Habits of Highly Successful People’ gives an example of the law of gravity- an objective reality, as a principle; something that doesn’t change. Values, on the other hand, are subjective and personal. Even a robber who loots innocent people may have a value of never eating alone or sharing his bread with a needy person. Values could differ for each person and change over time. Twenty years ago I valued association of my friends, and today I find solitude helps me connect better to myself. I still value meaningful friendships but being alone daily for some time is the value I hold sacred now. But principles transcend age, time, place, and people- it’s always right, whether you are in China or Zambia, or if you are a teenager or an old man about to die. Humility is a principle, and so is kindness- you accept this law and reap benefits, or ignore them and invite trouble in your inner world.
The more we connect to principles, the more we’ll access the eternal space- the area of truth that’s beyond all changes of this world. The famous social reformer and champion of the abolition of slavery, Henry Ward Beecher, said, “Expedients are for the hour, but principles are for ages.”
In Deepak’s case study, the choice for me was to connect to the ageless principle of gratitude and appreciation. Or I could choose to ignore these principles or even focus on a value of ‘don’t take things on face value’ – as shown by Ashok. English poet Walter Landor said we often talk on principles but unfortunately act on interest. In this situation the benefits of the choice I made was obvious: when I connected to principles, I transcended the daily superficial wrangling of the mind that’s usually absorbed in petty issues.
To be continued….