What are your key principles of life? We live in a giant web of memes -- lots of Big Ideas that influence us in many ways. I could probably come up with dozens that matter to my life and those around me, ranging from Joy to Law to Life to Spontaneity. But as an exercise, I decided to think about which ones are *most* important to me: the ones that seem to drive my life and decisions more than any others. (For this exercise, I suspect that the target number is 1-3.)
For me, I settled on three: Honesty, Caring and Balance. Each of those is pretty subtle, so let's unpack.
I started out with the first one as "Truth", but quickly decided that the connotations are wrong. For many people, Truth is a quest, and particularly a quest for an absolute. Truth is a pillar that often purports to be complete and irrefutable, and it defines some peoples' lives. But the simple fact is, I don't personally believe in that. The world is a messy place, and I find that the questions you choose to ask often define the Truth you wind up with.
Honesty has a different set of connotations. It's not about an external and absolute Truth -- it's about an internal one. It's about being honest with those around you, but even more it's about not kidding yourself. The mindset of Honesty is all about embracing the world as you find it, not chasing the world you wish for. It's absolutely at the heart of the Synchronicity Train, and has become central to my worldview. Wishing the world was something other than what it is tends to lead to misery (one of the basic principles of Buddhism). Taking it as it is and loving it for that, OTOH, seems to work astonishingly well, at least for me.
Similarly, the second started out as "Love", but that's too narrow and not quite right. I don't mean either romantic or sexual love here -- both are very important to me, but not quite central to who I am. I thought about the common Masonic tweak of "Charity", but that's not right either, at least as commonly used.
So it really comes out as Caring -- quite literally, giving a damn about the people around me. This is important as a conscious choice: not merely the instinctive hindbrain likes and dislikes, but trying to pay attention to them and *think* about them. And it partly means accepting that nobody, including those I love most deeply, is perfect -- that everyone is flawed in their own ways, and everyone deserves caring anyway.
And then there is Balance. This has always been my touchstone, since freshman year of college when someone (Janis?) assigned me the two of pentacles in a tarot reading and I took it in that somewhat idiosyncratic way. My central motto is, "Balance in all things, including Balance" -- that is, there are times when you have to take an off-balance stand, but choose those moments carefully. In general, I am always suspicious of extremes: anyone who wants me to accept a view of the world that is without nuance is someone who I am likely to distrust.
And it stands between the other two, since Honesty and Caring are always slightly in tension: it is altogether too easy to hurt those I care about with ill-chosen honesty. That doesn't mean that the honesty loses, though: rather, it means that the caring needs to nuance the honesty, remembering them and their feelings in how I present it.
How about you? What are your central principles? My suspicion is that most people, looking at themselves honestly, will come up with their own distinctive set...