Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change, wrote Wayne Dyer (1940 … ). That is a restatement of Saint Augustine’s (354 AD – 430) famous quote, Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. Augustine’s statement is more generalized, more powerful, and more open to interpretation. Both quotations are wonderful guides to an individual’s life if that person already has a clear relationship with the realities of his physical and psychological world. Augustine also writes, Such great and wonderful things would never have been done for us by God, if the life of the soul were to end with the death of the body. Why then do I delay? Why do I not abandon my hopes of this world and devote myself entirely to the search for God and for the happy life? There are several untestable assumptions that must be taken on faith before abandoning the reality of this world brings one to a happy life.
A person who is psychologically mature already has good habits for coping with their reality, and can see what will be the changes to be expected by changing the way they look at a situation confronting them. Changing their view will improve the outcome of the ongoing interactions. A person who understands and can apply Nassim Taleb‘s (1960 … ) theory of Antifragile can easily pre-adapt to real-life situations before those events ever become a problem, by choosing actions that will function well no matter which way future reality happens to behave.
Unfortunately, a person who hasn’t developed good coping skills can easily be led astray by Dyer and Augustine’s ideas because of the natural human tendency for confirmation bias. That is, a nonobservant person will project their hopes for what they want to be true onto the natural world, rather than observe the world as it is and adapt their actions to that universal reality. The forces available to the world around us are vastly beyond our scope to influence in general, and yet if we are observant of those natural forces we can influence nearly all of them to benefit our needs.
The Dark Ages descended upon the Western World when the ideas of Augustine were used to generate ideas in the populace that were based on otherworldly projections of a perfect world. It was a world that would only come to them after they died and went to the postulated Heaven. The downside of this hopeful fantasy was that people lost touch with the world they physically resided within, and slowly the infrastructure provided by the earlier Roman realism deteriorated. The result was an inexorable decline into actual poverty and destitution on a continent-wide scale. It was the discovery of Lucretius ( 99 BC – 55) and other Roman intellectuals in the fourteen hundreds that brought into being the Enlightenment and eventually the rise of modern science-based society.
There is always an artificial hope created in the short sighted public by opportunists for some life better than the one that seems to have been forced upon them. It is a false hope that if you only give these opportunists your money for their fantastic product, you will be more beautiful, more respected and will live forever in some better world. It is believing in something you can not see, and never will see with your eyes, but if you believe deeply enough you can see things in your fantasy reality. The problem is that to follow this false hope means your real life gets degraded, and you have less to give your children, so their life also becomes degraded.
Change the way you see things to conform to reality, and your reality improves.