And now, for your bedtime story, a little fairy story originally from Demark with a philosophical interpretation.
Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived an emperor who was quite an average fairy tale ruler, with one exception: he cared much about his clothes. One day he heard from two tailors named Guido and Luigi Farabutto that they could make the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they said, also had the special capability that it was invisible to anyone who was either stupid or not fit for his position.
Being a bit nervous about whether he himself would be able to see the cloth, the emperor first sent two of his trusted men to see it. Of course, neither would admit that they could not see the cloth and so praised it. All the townspeople had also heard of the cloth and were interested to learn how stupid their neighbors were.
The emperor then allowed himself to be dressed in the clothes for a procession through town, never admitting that he was too unfit and stupid to see what he was wearing. For he was afraid that the other people would think that he was stupid.Of course, all the townspeople wildly praised the magnificent clothes of the emperor, afraid to admit that they could not see them, until a small child said:
'But he has nothing on!'
This was whispered from person to person until everyone in the crowd was shouting that the emperor had nothing on. The emperor heard it and knew that they were correct, but held his head high and finished the procession.
Most of you will recognize this story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Hans Christian Anderson. The story is a morality play with a cautionary message: -
Just because everyone else believes something is true, doesn't mean it is. Or believing something doesn't make it true.
Many of us clothe ourselves in our beliefs. Those beliefs may be religious, political, cultural or economic. Sometimes these beliefs are loosely based in reason, but more often than not, they are based on something else. Many times they are based on our emotional and psychological desires.
The emperor was motivated to believe that he was wearing wonderful clothes because he didn't want to appear to be stupid or unfit for his station as emperor. So everything that his logical, rational mind told him concerning the non-existence of those clothes, he ignored. He ignored his logical, rational thoughts because he wanted his beliefs to validate and affirm his opinion of himself.
If you have firm beliefs, instead of being like the emperor and continuing on regardless of the absurdity of the belief; ask yourself why you believe what you believe. Most of us believe things because there is a payoff. That means we believe something because we think the belief benefits us in some way. We want the belief to validate us and to affirm our opinion of ourselves or the world we live in.
That is, people hope for an emotional or psychological payoff so that they will feel good about themselves. Unfortunately for the emperor, believing in the existence of something because he didn't want to appear stupid backfired.
The irony is, he didn't save himself from appearing stupid, or from appearing unfit to be emperor; his willingness to believe in an absurdity indicated that he WAS stupid and that he WAS unfit to be emperor.
"A believer is a bird in a cage. A freethinker is an eagle parting the clouds with tireless wing." - Robert Ingersoll