Why it is that men speak so highly of the dead, both the recently departed and those who have been dead a longer period of time? Consider how Life keeps man's mind from ever seeing the obvious while making him continue to theorize and argue over all of the many other surrounding possibilities. To give an example, say that the man laid out before us is being eulogized. This particular individual was known by all attendees to be a ne'r-do-well who no one particularly cared for and he had no sense of honor. Yet, now that he's been dead only a few days, people are standing there, crying, speaking of the man as though he were a saint reincarnated. Consider: What is going on? You could accept the "first story." Life presents all sorts of possibilities and explanations to the mind. One explanation is the cynical view that this eulogy is all a sham and nobody means it. Or you could say from a less cynical, more psychological view, that people now feel a need to speak highly of the dead man as a compensating mechanism and as an attempt to relieve the guilt they feel about how they treated him when he was alive. Or you could say from a more cultural perspective that this is just a collective ritual, a sign of good manners which decent civilized people would afford any deceased person.
Attempt to go beyond the first story and see what is right there before you at the heart of the matter. The answer to why ordinary people do this could be simple: when people die, they immediately become better people. Ordinary people are reacting to the reality of this, without knowing it. And it explains everything. You don't need any more possibilities when you see the obvious.
Consider another example. A guy offers to buy a large, older hotel. He spends days going though the books, asking pertinent questions of the owners and finally, after a week of deliberations, he offers a million dollars for the establishment. The owners agree and the guy gives them a check for one-third of the price and a promissory note to pay the balance in thirty days.
The guy appears to be a reputable buyer, so the owners hand over the keys and he is now in possession of the hotel. A few days later, the check he wrote as down payment, bounces. He makes an excuse. It bounces again. He comes up with more and more stories. The former owners keep re-depositing the check. Then they call in their attorneys and accountants. The guy has the keys to the hotel. He is technically in physical and legal possession of the premises. It gets closer and closer to the date when the remainder of the money is due and he can't even cover the original check he wrote. The sellers continue to think that the transaction will occur as he continues to tell them to "re-deposit it." Having re-deposited the check to the point where any ordinary fool would have given up, they sit over in their attorneys' office with their accountants, pondering: "Should we try it again?"
Somebody says: "Well, we've tried it three times. Something's wrong." Yet they sit there finding it difficult to believe this is happening. It becomes a challenge. They think, "If this guy is really a con-man, this is the damnedest thing!" And perhaps they call in some expert, some attorney who specializes in fraud. They describe the situation, and ask: "What's he up to? If he doesn't have any money, if he can't cover this down payment then something's wrong. But what was the point of all this?"
Finally, somebody figures out that for one month the guy has been walking through the entire hotel, the bars and casinos, every two or three hours and cleaning out the cash registers. How much simpler can it be? It was theft with a passable civil patina that protected the man for a month. Instead of walking in there every two or three hours and pulling a gun and holding up every bar and restaurant cashier, walking out and waiting a few more hours before coming back to pull a gun and hold them up again, he just took over the hotel. Using the other method, chances are he would have been caught after two or three attempts.
The con was so crude, so simple, that they could not see it.
Does that not sound like the way the mind ordinarily works? Life has things arranged in such a way that if we want to look at it as a con being played on man--using that very allegorically-- the con IS that it is simple and direct. If you have any doubt how bewildering this is to man, go look in your local library. You'll find tomes covering religion, philosophy, metaphysics, all forms of the occult and speculative. And there it is, going all the way back, at least, in the Western World, to the Greeks. There it is--written history--and it's not unlike the previous owners, the actual legal owners of that hotel, sitting and pondering: "What kind of game is this guy playing?" But instead of those owners thinking about that guy, we have the mind speculating: "What is life? What is life about? How is it we can't seem to really put our finger on it?"
It is too crude and simple, that's how. The mind continues to believe that "I'm gathering more and more information and pretty soon I'll be able to cash this check, the transaction will be completed and the money will be mine." (That is, "Understanding will be mine--I will finally see what is going on.")
If ordinary men saw the Secret, all it would do is disable them. Of course, this is a disingenuous statement in that ordinary men cannot see the secret. Once you reach the point where you are capable of seeing it, then I suggest you can bear the consequences. (If you can't, if it proves otherwise, I'll tell you this: no one ever mourns the death of a mystic.) In keeping man from seeing things directly, Life is trying to keep men's minds at the ordinary level from reaching a state of conclusiveness, which would be detrimental.
Seeing the obvious would be like men hobbling themselves in the general parade of progress. Life has arranged the mind to keep man from looking into the heart of every situation; instead you will look around at all the possibilities. That's the simple con. But there's another description everyone likes more. It fits in with the ideas of conspiracies, with the idea that humanity has in some way sinned and is now paying off a debt. It fits in with the idea that in some way men are getting what they deserve (which is another test, if you need one, to see how ordinary you are). That description says, "Well, people get what they deserve." If any part of you runs with that, then you don't need a further test about how ordinary you are. If you still feel guilty about being alive, Life, in its con, is extremely pleased with your gullibility.
Life has man's mind wired up so that it has an innate inability to see the obvious. Once you catch on to what I am inferring, then you think: "Well, that is a drawback. If I could see the obvious, then surely the secret is right behind it, somewhere." If you believe my description has some potential value or think you're beginning to get glimpses of it on your own, you might at first think this innate inability to see the obvious is a drawback. You could take it as being some flaw in man's thinking, some error in the way the mind is constructed. But, were it not for this arrangement, man in general would not have enjoyed the intellectual progress he has thusly. If humanity in general could see the obvious--if men's minds were wired up to see the obvious in life--we would not be where we are. If suddenly men's minds were made capable of just seeing the obvious in what's going on, all it would do would be to disable man. It would cripple humanity.
I'll put it to you crudely. No one would get up in the morning to go to work. People would eventually get up to find something to eat. Their instincts would eventually drive them to do what is necessary to physically keep the race alive. But forget the world as we know it. Forget the world of commerce. Forget the world of art, science and religion. Forget anything other than sleeping and eating. Because if you saw the obvious, there would be nothing to say, there would be no arguments, there would be no energy to run the merry-go-round which is man's mind. There would be no metaphorical aroma of flesh by which to keep the cannibalistic nature that is man's mind alive. I suggest, most strongly, save the few mystics in the world, on this planet you would have six billion people wake up in the morning, lay there for a while, lay there for a longer while, and here and there people would get up as they got hungry. But other than that, the intellectual progress that man has enjoyed thus far would be a thing of the very quickly arriving past.
There is this story about the guy who went into an establishment that advertised suits for all price ranges and needs. A salesman showed him a suit and the guy complained that the sleeves were too long. The salesman said: "Well what you do is pull them up, get them right where you want them and then hold your arms up here along your sides. The guy said: " OK, but the pants don't fit, they're too long and too baggy." The salesman said: "Well, pull up the excess and hold your thighs together and then pull the cuffs up to the length you want and hold your knees together and you got it." The guy says all right and he pays and leaves. As he is ambling down the sidewalk holding his sleeves and his pants up walking hunched over, a couple of old ladies pass by and one says: "Look at the terrible shape that poor boy's in," and the other one says: "Yeah, but don't his suit fit nice."
To be human is to say you want one thing and be perfectly happy to settle for something else. Progress as we know it at the mass level is a man's mind continuing to say: "Well, I'm not satisfied." Any man worthy to be called a man is not a fully realized human at the ordinary level unless he is dissatisfied and agitated mentally. To be dissatisfied is to be an educated, normal, natural, minimally operational person. So a man's mind is continually telling him: "God, look at the terrible shape I'm in." But then he says: "But don't my suit fit nice?"
"I am still not satisfied with the way I think, I know I haven't reached the proper fit, I know I am having to kind of piece myself together to even get by out in public, I'm having to hold up my cuffs with my knees, and my sleeves at my elbows, but it's my suit, I'm used to it." There is the ultimate con: you continually feeling like it's a burden being John Smith or Jane Doe and to live like this, still thinking to yourself: "But don't my suit fit nice." The con couldn't be cruder, it couldn't be simpler. You start out saying: "I don't want to be like this." But you're human, and to be human is to say I want one thing, yet be perfectly happy to accept something else. "I am deformed, I don't look right, I am in terrible shape by all appearances to me, but hey, I got to the point where my suit fits." You've been had.
That's a figure of speech of course. But you are human. You will accept something else. And that is part of how Life continues, or the mind continues, to delude people--even those who believe that they are trying to climb aboard the great mystical express. They will simply say, "Well, I want to," then add, "wait a minute, I understand the limitations of the human mind, I understand my limitations, and I don't mind admitting it." But as soon as you say that, you are saying: "But don't my suit fit nice." You can't do one without the other.
(For those of you who didn't get the final connection, there was a speaker addressing the assembled who said: "Every man has a story to tell, a personal story about his life..." And here and there in the audience, a number of people just disappeared. And a kid standing near by, mused to himself: "You know, it's not at all usual, its not that common to see that many mystics out in a public crowd.")
If you say, "Look at the terrible shape I'm in," or worse than that, if you say anything, you are entertaining the human mind and you are going to end up ordinary one way or the other. If you're normal you're never satisfied with what you think, or with your degree of knowledge. That is evidence of sanity. You are going to end up saying, "Look at the unacceptable shape I appear to be in." The mind may not say it in words that you hear, but once you entertain that, to stay sane, you have no choice but to continue to be ordinary, and another voice will say: "Yeah, but don't his suit fit nice."
It is as though Life says, your mind says: "Oh, put the check back in again, run it through one more time." And you think: "Why not. I have only been doing it now for about six thousand years. I mean it will go through sometime and I'll have the money to buy me a nice fitting suit, it's got to go through sometime, why else would Life make me continue to redeposit it? There's been some kind of mistake--it's a transient systemic anomaly--just a passing flaw in the system and I'm sure it'll go through if I just put it back in."
And a man smiles to do so. The best cons are always simple and crude. The good ones are just as simple as they can be.