Striving for conscious awareness and truth in our daily lives is analogous to navigating a maze of illusions. From our first day in the classroom, we are told what to do and how to do it. Avoid risks, take the easy and comfortable path, don’t make too much noise, and you’ll be fine. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why? All too often we are told what is right, wrong, politically correct and even taboo; but who decides these things?
Our perceptions and assumptions regarding ourselves and our respective cultures has a profound impact on the way we relate to one another. Beyond their function as cultural and societal moral place holders, could these assumptions possibly “blind” us from perceiving the higher truth which lies beyond? In the never ending quest for personal freedom and autonomy, what follows is a deep analysis of the cultural assumptions regarding who we are, why we are here, and ultimately what we are truly capable of.
Groupthink: The Truth About Social Expectation and Cultural “Norms”
“The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. As a social science model, groupthink has an enormous reach and influences literature in the fields of communications, political science, social psychology, management, organizational theory, and information technology.”-Wikipedia entry on “Groupthink”
These consensual agreements, or “social norms” function as control mechanisms. We are free to choose, but we will feel compelled to follow others in order to avoid ostracism and failure. Our authority figures appear to be wise and all-knowing, but their confidence and relationship to truth is analogous to a house built on a foundation of toothpicks. Group consensus treats every situation as if it were diffusing a bomb; we can’t cut any wires until we all agree that blue, white or red is the right one.
A single emotion is enough to keep people in the pen for life. Specifically, fear. Fear of consequence for choosing otherwise (fear of being ostracized), fear of consequence for being perceived as too radical and ungrounded. Fear of the consequences of our own choices. As a result, freewill choice is bartered for security.
Selective Reasoning: What Your teacher, church, science and political leaders all ignore:
If six million people believe in something, does that make it true? Do organized religion and politics retain their validity because of their sheer volume of “followers”? If the Catholic church only had 50 followers, would it then be considered a cult? If the conservative, liberal, republican and democratic parties had only ten followers each, would their political ideals be deemed a conspiracy theory?
What the hell is going on here?
It’s quite logical to assume that since lots of people are doing something, it must be right. After all, lots of people agreeing on something being true or correct is a lot more failsafe than just your own judgement, right? Thanks to logical fallacies such as social proof, the bandwagon effect and information cascades, people will always instantly assume that something is correct or right simply because large groups of people consensually agree upon it.
Don’t forget, it wasn’t too long ago that majority of the population honestly believed the Earth was flat. Today, lots of people subscribe to religions which advocate love and light, yet perform mass genocides all in the name of peace. These institutional policies can cause a schism in the logical reasoning of anyone who’s unaware of the subtlety of deception.
So, how are we supposed to know which way to turn? Is there a right answer, or was Darwin correct? Are we just crazy apes enjoying our slice of the cosmos, fighting over resources until our sun burns out? What’s the solution?
Why hold ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically responsible for ideals which leave us empty inside?
Why does everyone have to assume the same limits? Why don’t people use their freewill choice?
If groupthink isn’t as reliable as we’ve been made to believe, then how can we truly progress?
The answer has been hiding right behind your eyes this whole time.
Build Your Own Paradigm: Deal With The Raw Data And TRUST YOURSELF!
Transcend and Mistrust Ideology
Ideology is to truth and enlightenment as McDonald’s is to food and nutrition; dangerous! What appears to be a tasty piece of logic is actually a simulacra of truth; a false front. What lies beneath is twisted logical reasoning that appears quite delicious to the mind, but its long-term effects are nothing short of crippling. We can feel very pressured by society, family and friends to adopt one of the dozens of forms of “belief” systems, but attempting to uncover the truth via this method is analogous to putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound; deeper “surgery” is required to remedy this affliction.
Relying on ideology is to essentially a cop-out on real thinking. “Alright! I know the truth about everything! I can head back to work now, I don’t have to worry anymore!”; does this sound like someone you know? For most, critical thinking and analysis is too cumbersome of an activity, so adopting a pre-packaged “system” is a sure-fire way to save time…but at what cost? Just as our muscles atrophy from lack of physical stimulation, so does the mind.
There’s a lot to be said on this topic, and debates have waged for centuries. Check out The Four Commandments of Transcending Ideology for a deeper, more thorough look at ideology and its limitations.
Inform Yourself Via Direct Experience
You are not a human was, or a human will be; you are a human being.
The truth is, your experience of the present moment is the single most important observation you can make. Nothing will be – nor can be – as real as your conscious awareness observing the present (and only true) moment; this is your domain. Thinking through your brain and seeing through your eyes, this is the real “you”.
“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.”-Bruce Lee
Forget your anxieties about tomorrow, or the regrets you hold regarding choices already made. Pure awareness, unbiased by external provocation; this is the true human being. This is your default setting. Your awareness belongs rooted in observation of the present moment, undisturbed by things like your TV or cellphone. Do not confuse this state with gimmicky yoga or religious/ascetic practice; the truth is beyond all forms and boundaries.
Everything Else is Unconfirmed Rumor; Useless; Probably Lies!
In truth, only your experiences should be of concern to you. What someone else has done or proven shouldn’t inhibit your exploration, but inspire you to check it out for yourself! Can you replicate their claims? Can you see a correlation, a causal connection, or even a contradiction? The greatest hubris of modern exploration is rationalizing away certain phenomena, not because they aren’t valid, but because they do not fit into a specific method of investigation.
What are your experiences telling you? Is modern science, with all its wondrous gifts and virtues, enough to make you doubt your own thoughts and feelings? What about things you experience first hand? Are you submitting your power to choose in favor of other people’s opinions? For example, if you know you are right, do you speak your mind, even when everyone else in the room disagrees with you? Do you vote for the politician whom honestly wants to make change, or is your opinion biased by your family and local community?
Take Responsibility For What You Think and What You Do
Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to NOT “believe” anything; verify it yourself. Barring impractical exploration like splitting atoms and creating nuclear fusion in your basement, you have an entire chemistry set at your disposal; YOU!
Your thoughts, emotions and actions are all unique variables which make up your experience in the present moment. Ignoring what is undoubtably true to you in favor of culturally popular external theories that may or may not be true is to surrender your freewill choice. You are a living, breathing manifestation of universal potential; take a look around you! The trees and animals are alive, yes, but they do not have the intellectual capacity to appreciate or interact with creation the way we can and do. Perhaps they are lucky in a way; without worry and anxiety to distract them from simply being, they are free to simply be.
At the end of the day, ideology, cultural programming and social norms are all accessories; wrapping paper to the true gift hidden underneath. So what will you do? Become distracted by the shiny, intriguing wrapper, or open the box itself, revealing the gift of truth found within? Instead of being so quick to judge or dismiss people and ideas based on programmed assumptions, move beyond the illusion. Until we recognize and admit what’s wrong, we remain trapped in duality. Nobody is going to show you the way or figure it out for you; the choice to transcend the limitations of culture is – and can only be – yours!
So stay awake and aware, and remember: the present moment is all we have!