Rafed English

Making Oneself the Measure of Things

A vicious and base person interprets the conduct and character of others in accordance with his own filthy motives.

'Ali, may Peace be upon him, said:

An evil person does not have a good opinion of anyone, because he does not see anyone except through the medium of his own character. 21

This subjective tendency to view others through the lenses of one's own motives is a scientifically established fact, and this is what psychologists have to say in this regard:

When our feelings, thoughts, and inclinations inordinately colour the world, it is certain that we would view everything in it from our subjective viewpoint, as if our feelings have cast their shadow on the universe. Storms arouse within us feelings of despair and forlornness, and a soft breeze makes us feel comfortable and satisfied. In this way we view nature only through the window of our feelings. Our feelings may lead us to regard the cat as a fine and loveable animal or as one that is troublesome and detestable. Emotions and feelings totally transform the world that we live in, or they create a new world for us.

A man once produced a sound with a sonometer and asked those who were present as to what sound they had heard. Every one of them had a particular answer. One said that he had heard the sound of a whistle, another that of a trumpet, a third had heard a human voice, and each of them said something different. Certainly, the sound that each person in the audience had heard related to his personal experience. Obviously, a single tune could not have all these different effects. Hence that which varied the effect of the tune on persons was their own experience. In the famous story of Edgar Allen Poe, the angry cries that come out of the throat of the murderous child were interpreted variously by the German, French, Italian and Russian listeners.

Prosecutors and lawyers know that it is a rare thing for witnesses who have seen a quite simple event from a very close distance to report in an identical manner. Even in matters which do not arouse emotions in us we observe clearly the extent to which our opinions and beliefs differ. In cases where emotions are involved our mental deductions are many times more suspect. 22

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21. Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 104.

22. Strecker, Wilkerforce & Appel, Rawanshenasi bardye hameh, Persian trans. by Mushfiq Hamadsini, p. 259.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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