Then, what he sees and shares with others is free from error.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:48 – Desikachar translation
I’ve been reading the best book this week. It’s called Brain Rules by John Medina. It’s funny, interesting and informative. It also makes some very salient points about how our brains evolved and the development of the brain as an organ on human survival. One of the things that really struck me was one of our best survival tools that we developed as a species was our ability to imagine what the brain beside us was thinking, or extending it, what that group of brains across the river was thinking. By being able to ascribe motive to others and being able to see problems from their perspective gave us the capacity to work co-operatively or engage in combat with the “other brains”. Our ability to appreciate the content of other brains gives us the capacity to predict future behaviour of others and so the dance goes on.
So let’s put this anthropological stuff into some kind of global context. Our survival as a species depends on our ability to think clearly. We need to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be or fear that they are and we need to be able to communicate that to another clearly thinking brain. I’ve been sitting here for the better part of the past hour, imagining what political, social, economic, environmental problem we face as a species that wouldn’t be radically changed, if not evaporated, if suddenly, we ALL started to think clearly.
So here’s my solution. The world is divided into two kinds of people. There is THEM– loosely described as anyone who espouses different political, social, economic, philosophical, religious or cultural perspectives that are different than mine. And there is US – a group of people who share my unassailable cultural perfection. Okay, the US group is really just me but I didn’t want to sound snobby about it. Inclusivity is in these days.
I can spend my days, and Lord knows, I’ve spent lots of them, yelling about what’s wrong with THEM. And it’s not hard because THEM are wrong about everything. And if only THEM would get their collective act together, my life would be so much easier. And it’s not like I haven’t tried to educate THEM about the error of their ways. But THEM are a stubborn lot and furthermore, they talk funny and I don’t like the smell of the stuff they eat – bloody McDonald’s eaters.
And so, US and THEM stand on opposite banks of a valley, yelling at each other from megaphones behind our brick walls of truth, morality and bias. I think the overall strategy is to drown them out, outshout them, with our hymns of cultural perfection. Eventually, they’ll capitulate if only they’d stop stupidly putting more bricks on the front of their fortress.
I think one of these days I’ll take a break from my own brick making efforts and put down the megaphone and go take a walk in the valley for myself. I might even meet one of THEM and hopefully, both of us will be thinking clearly that day. Maybe the THEM will be able to share his perspective with me and both the sending and the receiving will be free from error. Maybe we’ll stop trying to beat each other over the head with facts and arguments and rationalizations and precedents and … Maybe we’ll stop trying to outshout each other. Maybe we’ll both just shut the hell up and listen to our common human condition.
And then maybe, our species will have its best shot at survival yet.
In anticipation of that day, I think I’ll head for the mat. I don’t know when I’m going to meet the THEM so I want to be ready and able to think clearly when it comes.
Namaste and thanks for reading,