The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 12: Objectivity

Previous: Chapter 11: Harmony

Objectivity is hard.

To be objective is to focus on the way things are, not the way I wish things would be. It is to recognize the facts of reality, no matter how difficult and unpleasant they are. It is, as Thoreau said in Walden, to work my way through the mud and slush of opinion, prejudice, tradition, delusion, and appearance, until I come to the hard bottom of rocks in place, which is reality. It is to admit as true only that which corresponds to the facts as I have worked to perceive them, clearly and without illusion. I call this clear perception "the track of truth".

To be objective is to be aware of the many ways I can stray from the track of truth: that I am drawn to evidence confirming what I already believe, that I seek out those who agree with me, that events can prime me to accept ideas that might be in error, that I am overconfident about the extent of my knowledge, that I presume to know when I don't, that I jump to conclusions, that I succumb to the power of symbols, that I am tempted to hew to party lines and cave in to peer pressure, that I follow fads and fashions all too easily, that I overvalue the insights of those within my group, that I want to believe things that are beautiful or exciting or consistent with the rest of my beliefs, that the seductions of ideology can blind me to the facts of reality, that I desire knowledge without process and insight without effort, that few things are more difficult than honoring the considered judgment of my own mind.

To be objective is to know that these snares and traps and idols apply to everyone, but that I especially am not immune from them, so that I must expend great energy to resist them. It is to have the childlike simplicity of accepting events as if they cannot be changed, to recognize what is within my span of control and what is outside it, to know that I can control and possess only myself, not anyone or anything else. It is to immerse myself in facts: in science, in history, in statistics and numbers, in the evidence of my senses, in art as a created object. It is to pay close attention to these things, to really see and hear and know them, to think clearly about them without preconceptions.

When I am objective, I stay on the track of truth: I recognize its faintest signs in the undergrowth of physical reality and human culture, I quietly attune myself to its voices and musics and rhythms through all the noise and chatter of society, I feel its finest textures in my fingertips, I even sense when the lack of it smells wrong or leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Many are the manifestations of truth, and by turns I must be subtle, direct, serene, and bold to grasp them.

Next: Chapter 13: Honesty

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