Wednesday, 26 June 2013
The Road To Hell
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, or so they say. And I think there's a lot of truth in that, but I'd take it from a different angle.
The road to heaven cannot be walked by intentions, because intentions count for nothing.
Which is a great pity, because the importance of our intentions is what we teach our children, and what we were taught as children. Maybe explicitly, maybe implicitly, but we all learned that lesson. That what you meant to do is what matters, that your motivation is the important thing.
Do you have a good heart? Do you care? Did you do it with noble intent?
People have burned down the world with noble intent. Tortured and butchered. Cities have been put to the sword and continents ravaged with noble intent.
And more than this, noble intent can cover a much greater multitude of little tiny crimes, just the petty little cruelties and injustices, the day to day callousness of a self-absorbed world, the tiny little twistings of the knife that people do to people, everywhere.
Not grand evil, not even grand evil. Just the little cruelties of the outstretched ocean of littleness and meanness that we hardly notice, because it surrounds us so completely.
It's so very easy, when confronted with bad things that come back to you, to point to your good intentions, and indeed, to invent some good intentions to point to. You, of course, are the first person fooled by this.
You're the only real audience for your lies, you know. Only you.
So what? Should we have bad intentions then? Is that what I'm saying?
No. I'm saying that the idea that our intentions are the important thing is an incredibly vain conceit. Our little stories - to think that that's where the gauge is, where the worth of a person can be measured. Were they good stories? Were they bad?
That's what matters, right?
Wrong. What matters is what happens, what matters is reality. And in reality, our intentions have all the weight, substance and constancy of a shadow.
What matters in reality is something else.
Capability. Good capability is much more important than good intention. Intend all you want, and the world will not be moved, but develop the capability to move it, and suddenly you can.
Life is a lot simpler than we make it. All this mess of justification and rationalisation, and it really boils down to what you can do, and what you can't.
And the thing is, that developing capabilities of any serious scale is a very intense thing to do, if they're worthwhile and worth having. It changes you, humbles you. You've got to be really bad at something for a long time before you become really good at something, and that long, dark tunnel shows you things about yourself that most people spend a lifetime flinching away from.
Develop your capabilities.