~Thoughts for Thinking People~



One of the most frustrating things we can experience as we open our minds and grow is the world’s resistance to change. Democrats, Republicans, atheists, Catholics, Baptists, humanists, polygamists, sloppy people, lazy people, capitalists, socialists, racists, overeaters, undereaters, junk food eaters, video addicts, sugar and starch addicts, rude people… and on we could go, just want to stay where they are. They are addicted to their mindsets. If you speak to anyone and ask why they think and behave as they do, they will give various justifications, including dogmatic assertions about how they believe they are right. If you try to suggest that they may be wrong and should change, they will bristle, like any addict who has their supply threatened.

Everyone seems to be stuck in ruts. We all see this failing in others, but tend to be blind when looking in the mirror. We want to continue on our merry way, expect others to change, and demand that ‘somebody’ needs to fix problems that occur in the world that interfere with our comfort zones.

But all of us can’t be as right as we think we are. The thousands of beliefs people hold contradict one another. Since there is only one truth, we are probably all wrong. Well, that is to say, all except one. Maybe. It is highly unlikely that there is even one of us absolutely right. But that doesn’t matter. The point is, since we refuse to change, and owning the one absolute truth of the universe is the only reason not to change, we all, in practice, behave as if we think we own the truth. The absurdity of this is self evident.

It’s easy to see the problems in the world and how things could be improved. But it is maddening to see that it does not happen. That’s because people don’t seem to care about real solutions. What’s important is whatever beliefs they hold, no matter how insane they are. It’s enough to make you want to grab the whole world and slap it up side the head.

It was not until I got to this point in the book, the end, that I got the feeling that all might be for naught. Even if I could lead all the horses in the world to water, that does not mean they would drink. If what I said did not accord with what people already believed, what I said would simply pass most people by. This sobering thought just kind of snuck up on me.

So, in winding up the book’s effort to ‘save the world,’ I will try to address this last, daunting, and most important task: explaining why people don’t want to change and what can be done about it. (By doing so, I am not suggesting that I have ‘the truth,’ and that I am not inclined to resist change as well. It is a universal problem.)

My first tactic will be to make us feel ashamed. Think of it this way. The only thing that sets us apart from instinct-driven animals is our intelligence and conscience. When we don’t use those faculties to take actions for the betterment of our individual lives and the world at large, but rather just fall into a pattern we don’t veer from—like an instinct—we are little more than slugs. If we will be human, and not be slugs, we have the capacity to transform the world to a peaceful paradise. All that is necessary is to seek truth honestly and openly, and then change. But we don’t. That’s as crazy as an instinct-driven rat eating poisoned food out of a box that is clearly marked “Poison.” So, unless we wish to be nothing more than an animal, we should seek and welcome change.

If shame does not move us, perhaps belittling will. When we refuse to change, but rather just believe and do what we have been told, we are a child, we haven’t grown up. In infancy we are trained to think and behave in certain pat ways. As children we are forced into obedient behavior by parents, teachers, religion, and society. We try to avoid mistakes, behave and get answers right, score well, and make brownie points. We learn the rules and follow them closely to solve problems quickly. We become response-able (not a typo). There are no rewards for challenging rules, initiative, creativity, and long-view thinking. The pats on the back are for conformity and doing it NOW. Ours is not to question, look to the long view, nor to change things.

As we continue in schooling we become narrowed and specialized, boxing our minds in even further. We are rewarded with degrees if we parrot the professors’ mindsets. When we join the work force we are given a job description and again are rewarded for obedience and routine. Our livelihood and success come to depend upon working well within the status quo and keeping business as usual. This, then again, reinforces conformity and a crowd pleaser mentality. We try not to make waves in order to keep the support and respect of our friends and superiors, and not be viewed as weird and maverick.

The obedient, repetitious, day-to-day living from infancy up to and through adulthood helps keep us as children. Just because we add years, have bigger toys, and can push our weight around, doesn’t mean we are truly adult.

Wanting immediate results and pleasures is also a child mentality. Children learn early on to look at their immediate situation and react to it as they have been taught. If they do as they are told, and do it immediately, they get milk and cookies. If they don’t, they get punished. In adults, this short-view, pleasure seeking mentality precludes reflection, contemplation, and critical thinking, the prerequisites to change.

Our refusal to change makes us mere epigones, inferior imitators of full humans. In contrast, a true adult human is moved by intelligence and conscience, reflects on history, weighs all the facts, and projects out into the future. An adult makes decisions and forms mindsets without regard to what they may have been taught, or the milk and cookie rewards. It should be a matter of self respect. Why on earth would we not want to be adults and be fully human?

Now, to further shock us into our senses, I will bash religion. Not religion in the sense you are thinking, but rather the idolatry that we all engage in. It’s called materialism. We are so surrounded by, dependent upon, and rewarded by material Newtonian machines that we tend to ignore things that are conceptual, philosophic, and ethical. We devote ourselves to that which responds quickly to a plug, button, switch, or cursor. Our impatience is being filed to a razor’s edge as we expect faster and more of everything. We just don’t have time to change our Pavlovian behavior, think beyond immediate rewards and punishments, and do anything that might yield a payback years into the future. Worshipping at the shrine of matter reduces us to dutiful, nonthinking lemmings.

To pile insult on injury, consider how cowardly we are when we are unwilling to change. Fear of the unknown is in large part to blame. We like to stay in the middle of the herd. We are leery of the new and don’t want to depart from our routines, security, and comforts. We like the security of the ‘known,’ even if the ‘known’ has nothing to do with truth and reality. This behavior links back to when we were in the bush. We stayed on the beaten path, not wandering off into the hinterlands where dangerous creatures (new ideas) may lurk. Abraham Maslow wrote, “You either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety.”

Finally, to cap off this litany of insults, we are a lazy lot. It’s always easiest to leave things as they are, not clean up messes, and not do work before its time—work that may never bring a reward, or if so, only in the distant future.

It’s difficult to activate all those neurons in the big front part of the brain and make them interlink with conscience and heart. Better to be fainéant and just let the autopilot pain and pleasure reflexes in the hindbrain and spinal cord do all the work of living for us.

So there are powerful forces at play keeping us at home in our comfortable mindsets. Yes, we can take initiative, be creative, and rearrange things, but only within the bounds of accepted patterns. The resistance of the world to breaking its oil glut addiction is a perfect example. Oil is a finite resource (it will run out), is damaging to the environment, and causes international instability. Rather than change the mindset and aggressively create better and independent energy technologies, we just try to make more fuel efficient cars and more clever oil drilling techniques. Only if the price of gasoline becomes ridiculous, or we begin choking on our own fumes, do we demand change.

Changes that would mean shifting our behavior are resisted even if those changes can obviously benefit us or the rest of the world. No matter the merit of a change, about 10% of the population will vehemently resist it, 80% will change only if forced or it is economically advantageous, and only 10% will embrace it and implement it regardless of how it might disrupt their lives.

Yes, by leaving things as they are we can earn a living, even rise to positions of prestige in our community or nation. But that does not mean we are truly being human. To be human means to disengage the autopilot and think openly, listen to and follow conscience, and make changes that serve the long-term interests of ourselves and the rest of humanity.

How can we shift our minds and behaviors away from the fearful, crowd pleasing, lazy, materialistic, animal instinct, child-like, hindbrain, automaton mode that refuses to change? We need to shift our behavior toward the list on the right:

Greed/Profit/Market share
Me centered/Selfish
Short term view
Resistant to reason/Oblivious to reality
Symptomatic relief/Bandaids
Feel entitled/Blame/Justify/Socialistic
Superficial/Entertainment oriented

Reflective/Internally driven
Open minded/Moved by logic and fact
Seek to be in touch with reality
Self reliant/Creative/Take responsibility
Long view perspective
Seek meaning and purpose
Discern distant consequences
Sense a duty to the future
Use talents

Most of us start with the characteristics reflected on the list to the left. To own the characteristics on the list to the right, characteristics that offer the most promise for bettering each of us individually and the whole world, requires us to be changers.

To see the need for change requires us to first of all open our minds to the real world, all of it. However, most of us don’t do this because we have created our own little realities by opening our eyes only to that which fits our preconceived beliefs. We should be moved to have an open mind because that is the only honest mind there is. Honesty in turn requires that we reach forward into the front part of the brain and down into the heart to activate the goodness that is there.

Also, our intuitive sense, our conscience, tells us there is more to life than its mechanics and that we have a responsibility to serve more than our immediate selfish needs. Listening to that voice, believing it, understanding that we can only muffle it so long without suffering consequences and terrible pangs of guilt, is a reality it is wise to face as early in life as possible. That voice also tells us we have duty. Surely the sad state of world affairs and our experiences with others individually tell us that change is needed and things could be better. The world is headed for disaster and all about us we can see people in self-destructive modes of living—drugs, laziness, obesity, debt, violence, needless disease, compulsive consumerism, inactivity, narcissism, and so on. History proves that our voice, our actions, no matter how seemingly small, can make a difference. All change begins with one.

Since the mindset we have is riveted in place by repetitious thematic messages from family, friends we choose, the media, our religious group, and work environment, and those rivets are in turn welded by our experiences and rewards, the pattern must be changed. Breaking our mindset addictions requires a conscious effort to recognize the patterns that are threatening us and their belief etiologies.

For example, people everywhere are under the belief (mindset addiction) that more access to modern medical care will mean more health. If all we do is listen to our doctor, watch medical hype on television, remain ignorant of our body’s natural mechanisms, read drug advertisements, and marvel at the short term effectiveness of medical intervention, we will continue in that belief, even if our health is failing. The reality that must be faced is the fact that our health is failing. That should lead to a conscious effort to find out why by letting in all the facts and information—as I did in the previous section on modern medicine.
Reading more widely, exploring, learning, and experimenting will reveal that the prior belief in medicine and the patterns it produced in our lives were wrong. From there we should discard the old belief and institute a new, more holistic view of health that respects natural balances and puts responsibility where it belongs, on us, not doctors and government programs. Then new patterns in lifestyle, eating, and treatment approaches can not only reverse disease safely, but expand health itself. We create a solution for ourselves, rather than just continue to wallow in a belief addiction that ruins health.

Because beliefs are so potentially deleterious, even deadly, we need to make a conscious effort to scrutinize every one of them. We should go through the same mental process we did with medical beliefs, and examine political, environmental, religious, industrial, social, economic…all beliefs. Then, in the light of full disclosure, let them fall, change our mindsets and institute new living patterns.

Change—betterment—will not come if we don’t make a conscious effort to get off our high horses of assumed truths. Otherwise we will fail to notice what we fail to notice. Ambition (it is not “too hard”), fearlessness of truth, sensitivity to conscience, facing reality, activation of intelligence and all the SOLVER principles (Self responsibility, Open mindedness, Long view thinking, Virtuous intent, Evidence first, and Reasoning) can serve us so well.

Personally, I have always found it most helpful to understand that the sources of the beliefs that drive our behavior are other fallible people with their own belief baggage and personal agendas. That should embolden us—if for no other reason than pride—to freely shed them. We can then strike out for better ideas (that remain malleable) earned on our own and paid for with the currency of facts and reason.

Change is our only hope and should be welcomed with enthusiasm, not avoided and dreaded. Truly, the only sustainable consciousness is a learning and growing consciousness. Our crises, the individual ones and those facing the planet, can be but passing storms. But they can only be prevented from organizing into a horrific cataclysm if we have the insight, courage, and ambition to change. Although crises in themselves stir an awakening (disease, smog, war, escalating fuel prices, rampant teen pregnancies, starvation, etc.), the scale of the importunate problems now facing the planet is such that we cannot afford to wait until we are threatened or uncomfortable. If we do not act on the wisdom of foresight, some of our problems will be irreversible.

The incredible world-wide communication now possible, particularly by means of the Internet, lays bare bad ideas and unites those of a higher consciousness. Increasingly there is no excuse for ignorance. It is no longer possible for wrong political, health, religious, economic or other ideas to linger under the assumption that the masses will remain shielded from the truth. All beliefs that trap the minds of humans are being exposed to the scrutiny of reality. Hopefully this exposure will eventually burst all the false belief bubbles permitting individuals to improve their lives, and humanity to unite and create real planetary solutions.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our willingness to change is the only thing that will make sure it is not the beam of an oncoming freight train, but rather the dawn of a wonderful new era.