Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rethinking the Way We Think

We definitely live in interesting and perilous times. The world seems to be in the throws of more chaos than normal with mass uprisings against tyrannous governments, and more than our share of natures tumult with earthquakes, tidal waves and nuclear meltdowns. Perhaps the biggest "meltdown" is the economic one that few people have a realistic grasp on.

One main demand of all this mess is that we "rethink the way we think" about things. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand of ignorance, apathy or false supremacy. We all are being touched or WILL BE touched by the current upheavals in our world.

But thinking isn't the end-all, right? Everyone "thinks" to some degree or another. The problem is RIGHT thinking (and I don't mean politically). The age old question of the meaning of life comes down to the continuous question of what is right and what is wrong.

Right and wrong is such a subjective issue after all. Some people base their views of right and wrong on books...religious or otherwise. Others base it on some sense of innate "spirituality" that mysteriously reveals to us the truth of what is right and wrong. For many of us this makes "truth" a very relative thing...relative to your moods, feelings, sanity etc. I would suggest that most people's truth comes from a form of "democratic" exercise. If most of us...or at least the majority in our immediate circle...claim something as true and right, well, it must be so. This is the most comfortable approach to truth as it reduces the need to question so many things in life that we have no practical or provable answer to.

It seems practical to me that the majority think this way. After all, it keeps the masses in line, the level of dissidence at a minimum, and promotes peace and tranquility at least temporarily. The problem comes in when decades or even centuries later "we" discover that this majority thinking was totally false and delusional...and we have now built huge systems, institutions and shrines to the false tenants of our respected but long gone forefathers. Who are we now if/when we discover that some of our original presumptions of fact are indeed false? How do we handle this?

I would suggest most of us don't. We simply bury our doubts or newly discovered truths as far away from consciousness as we can. In some cases we quietly, secretly begin operating outside of the system or even living clandestinely with a new, private approach to life and survival. It is similar to a real world situation where everyone was starving and we knew where the largest hidden cache of food was stored...but we kept it to ourselves and helped ourselves to that hidden supply as much and as long as we can get away with. Some would call this another form of "survival of the fittest". After all, knowledge is king.

The sad reality for our world is that many of our supposed leaders and government officials know more than we all know. They are privy...and protect that privilege at all cost...to the core, real statistics of our systems. The smartest ones know that they cannot reverse the perilous road our civilization is traveling without substantial upheaval to their own lives and realities. Therefore, they chose to stay mum and cover-up the truth. They continue to placate the masses with buttery, syrupy speeches of hope and patriotism. They continue to infuse our medias with hype and pomposity...keeping the masses focus on the present and past, so they don't ask too many questions about the future. They continue to horde and give us all just enough to keep us from revolting. This reality in itself is revolting.

If the arts are, as often argued, the reflection of our culture or civilization...then we don't have to look far for proof that our world is in a huge vacuum of leadership and creativity. In just a couple centuries we have gone from Mozart to Snoop-dog, from DaVinci to Andy Warhol, and from the classics of Milton or Tennyson to "HEAVEN IS FOR REAL", by Todd Burpo. When you look at what makes the top 10 best sellers lists these days at the bookstore, it doesn't take long to get a quick peak at the breadth of modern day thinking.

So, where is all this taking us? I would suggest that civilization's meeting with mathematical destiny is sooner than we think. I don't think we are facing a "Nostradamus" quick end to the world...but I do think the world as we know it will experience some cataclysmic upheavals that will revolutionize life as we know it. Someday the accountant shows up along with the banker and says "pay up or move out". If you believe in right and wrong, you realize that someday the givers are going to revolt against the takers and say enough is enough. We are seeing this now in certain regions of the world...and this will continue in reaction to new ways of thinking by the masses.

One of the few hopes I see coming through modernity is futurist Ray Kurtzweil's theory that technology and artificial intelligence will come to our rescue in the near future. When man's mind and the modern computer meld to bring singularity of mind and reason...maybe then we have a chance at true objective thinking.

Until then it seems we are stuck with our very limited brains, short relative existence, and the challenge to make the most out of what little brainpower and understanding we really have. In the meantime, many of us need to question or "rethink" the way we think...as a matter of survival.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Power of Free Will

OK...for those of you who may not appreciate the musical art-form of "Rush"...here are the lyrics of significance to begin this subject:

There are those who think that life has nothing left to chance take,
A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.

A planet of playthings,
We dance on the strings
Of powers we cannot perceive
"The stars aren't aligned,
Or the gods are malign..."
Blame is better to give than receive.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill.

There are those who think that they were dealt a losing hand,
The cards were stacked against them; they weren't born in Lotusland.

All preordained
A prisoner in chains
A victim of venomous fate.
Kicked in the face,
You can't pray for a place
In heaven's unearthly estate.

Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete.
Genetic blends
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt that's far too fleet.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill.

Have you ever felt like you were the prisoner of your own mind and emotions? -- I have.

Have you ever felt like your job or people around you were not in sync with what you had envisioned for your life? -- I have

Have you ever made an abrupt change in your life in order to "clean the slate" and start over? -- I have and more than once.

For most of us, life is not a straight line of steady advancement towards our vision or life's dream. We experience many setbacks, failures, disappointments and heartaches that sometimes keeps us from advancing at all.

The biggest hurdle in my experience to get over is self-doubt...which often has its roots in the hurtful or critical words of our families and/or peers. If the people closest to us say our ideas are crazy or impossible...it is very difficult to turn a deaf ear or blind eye to their criticism and negativism. And since it seems to be human nature to tear down others instead of build them up...I guess it is understandable why so many of us find ourselves stymied and disappointed by our status in life.

I think most people go through many stages of life facing decisions and indecision...continually making compromises with ourselves and others about what we will do or pursue in life. It is my contention that a majority of people tend to compromise their "uniqueness" in exchange for "belonging". Even as a small child, it is very difficult to be different from the other children. Children are actually quite cruel towards "difference". Remember the first kid in grade school who had to wear glasses? Old "four eyes" we sometimes called them. Then we hit adolescence where there was a constant pressure to conform to fashion or hair styles in order to "fit in" with our friends or get attention from the opposite sex. Most of us did not "drive our own bus" growing up...and many of us never have.

Then came college...or for some the military. Wow, what institutions for challenging you to conform. In the military it is about learning discipline for following orders and "respecting authority"...especially those way up the chain to where you don't really know them personally. Those in college began the great competition for grades and grants that would get them the best shot at good jobs or careers. We learned to "play politics" and "dress for success". We have been judged more by the car we drive or house we live in versus "who we are" or our character traits.

I have been meeting a number of adults in "my age group" lately (mid 50s) who have made major life changes and a number who have said "they are just starting to live freely". I think many of these people just "stumbled" through the ropes of society...getting their degree, getting a job, getting married, having kids...basically fitting in nicely to what is expected of them...only to wake up one day and ask "who am I and what am I doing here?". I am meeting many people in their 50s and 60s who are just starting to feel independent and empowered in their lives after coming out of the shadows of their previous existences. They are just waking up to the power of "free will".

Even in those remote, undereducated, Arab countries in revolt right now...they are discovering the potential...and responsibility...of "free will". To live and BE who you want is a rare commodity in life. Most are so penned in by laws, taxes, payments, relationships, religions and governments...they have no sense or even desire to live freely and independently. Many people don't know how...most people just don't WANT TO. It takes too much risk and responsibility for some to break the molds and rules that bind them into an existence that they feel obligated to live in.

In many cases...the immensity of what you "own" actually owns YOU. I have met many people who have told me they would like to travel or even try living in other parts of the world...but alas...they have real estate, pets, kids and/or grand-kids who somehow they can't live without or think can't live without them. It's all really a matter of perspective, isn't it?

What I have always felt, believed and experienced is that each of us decides how much "freedom" we are going to exercise. Most of us have the capacity to exercise free will and reason to direct our lives in certain directions. Some of us use that freedom productively, others too easily give it up for traditions and irrational attachments.

Traditions and attachments are not harmful in and of themselves. It is only when those histories and appendages completely blot out the reality of who we are...or WANT to be. A simple exercise in living is to go to a crowded mall somewhere and just observe the various forms of humanity moving about in some invisible form of energy in motion. It is helpful to get out of our SELVES long enough to get into observing and knowing others. This to me is when life's education truly begins. Now, as you observe various individuals, you can almost tell intuitively by their appearances, the way they walk, the way they interact or don't...who is living freely and independently. How many of these people are really free to be who they WANT to be? How many have a clue? Maybe it is just me, but I see most of humanity living in quiet futility...appearing like deer staring in the headlights of life...with very little idea of how to react or TAKE ACTION in their lives or how to respond to the world around them.

And yes, I am human and have had my moments in life when I was blinded by my emotions, attachments or even personal ambitions...to the point where I could not see or live objectively. It is admittedly hard to keep objectivity in life. We are so easily jaded or emotionally damaged by life's perpetual harshness. The harsh realities of struggling to live...and struggling with our eventual death. It all can appear so huge and heavy that we lose our ability to function...our ability to exercise our free will.

But...if we allow ourselves to do so...we can throw off all the negativity and ugliness that has walled us in to our uncertainty. We can step by step start climbing up and over the obstacles that keep us from living freely. For some of us it is certain relationships that have smothered our existence for years or decades. For others it is the lack of self love and respect...those values which enable you to look yourself in the mirror and constantly say "yes I can" and "yes I will".

I continue to strive...to exercise my "power of one"...to throw off every doubt and doubter...and run the race of my own life as best I can do it. Who is with me? Get next to me or get behind me. But don't stand in front of me as I will have to run over or around you...and you will no longer be in my sight. Maybe that is better...for the both of us.

Don't underestimate the power of...free will.