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Mortification of the intellect
Epiphanies have an almost erotic quality.
Take a moment and notice just how good a realization feels.
How titillating it is to have your mind blown. To willingly reshuffle your entire map of reality. It’s a delicious feeling.
Learning things provides intellectual pleasure.
And like other pleasures, intellectual pleasure will stop being useful before it stops being pleasurable. Just like chocolate cake will make you fat before it stops tasting good, intellectual pleasure will start wasting your time before it stops being pleasurable.
No matter your IQ, optimal use of the intellect involves knowing what’s worth knowing, and skipping the rest. If something is not worth knowing, then knowing it is wasteful — an unskillful investment of your time and energy. Right? This seems self-evident.
When you know enough of what’s worth knowing, the only way to progress is to wean yourself off of intellectual pleasure for its own sake. Foregoing the pleasures of the mind, as if they were pleasures of the flesh.
Once you know enough of what’s worth knowing, knowledge stops being an eradication of ignorance, and starts to become a lack of faith. Excess knowledge cultivates a calculating, conniving relationship to the world — an attempt to master your circumstances by understanding them.
But mastery over circumstances is actually peace with all circumstances. Not control, but contentment, gratitude, and an abiding sense of significance and fulfillment. Peace is mastery, and peace does not require understanding nor control, both of which are ultimately impossible. Peace requires something more like love and trust — both of which are always available.
Note that this kind of mastery has nothing to do with intellectual might, knowledge, rationality, or “smartness.” It’s an emotional, characterological achievement, like all the others we’ve been discussing.
Peace with your circumstances is mastery over your circumstances, and peace cannot be coerced by amassing knowledge and using it to manipulate the world.
Emotional mastery achieves what knowledge promises but can never deliver.
When you learn that, you can stop learning many other things.