Where are the outer boundaries of our mental box, that comforting space where we ‘believe’ the uniquely individual ‘me’ can be found? What is the limit of our ability to think and perceive beyond our current ‘belief’ system, to think outside the lines of our own perceptional box? Can we ever locate a clearly defined line of demarcation where we cross over from all that ‘we’ believe is ‘me’ and where the herding ‘we’ bulls ‘us’ over?
Is ‘our’ belief system entirely ‘yours’ or is it for the most part indoctrinated into you by ‘our’ culture and those who directly or indirectly influence our culture, thus by extension ‘you’? Who, or more accurately, what are ‘you’ if very little of substance differentiates ‘you’ from ‘us’? In many ways this is a chicken or egg question and it appears that a decent method by which we may answer it is to work backwards and examine what is ‘belief’ and what it means for us to ‘believe’.
One of the ways we have been mentally, emotionally and spiritually hijacked is through our language, a concept brilliantly described in Orwell’s classic work ‘1984’. For many, the words ‘believe’ or ‘belief’ are seen as strictly religious or fantastical thinking, and certainly not for the logical or scientific mind. In the worldview of most, which neatly encompasses their ‘belief’ system, there are ‘facts, science and math’, and then there is ‘belief’ and ‘faith’.
Sadly this is the Achilles heel of the average person (we are all more or less average when it comes to self awareness, though we love to ‘believe’ we are well above that mark) because by thinking this way, by believing in this manner, we create our own blind spots and exclude ourselves from what in many aspects we actually practice, essentially complete and total blind faith and belief in nearly all facets of daily thought and living.
How much of our thought, of our daily thinking, is original or organic and how much is slightly modified, then enthusiastically regurgitated, cultural beliefs indoctrinated into us from an early age. Reinforced by the echo chamber of news, advertising and TV programming as well as movies, books, social media, science, economics and politics, can any of us ever really tell which thoughts are ‘ours’ and which were created to be ours via cultural conditioning. Unless we force ourselves to first obtain, and then maintain perspective, it all becomes a blur of flashing lights and background noise to be willingly, even eagerly, accepted as just the way things are.
Our society is obsessed with the holy grail of facts, absolutes, and conclusive answers. We are taught as soon as we can comprehend that this is the way things are and we know these things to be true. We view our recent ancestors as backwards and uninformed, cavemen for all practical purposes, yet we never seriously consider that we are just as uninformed and will be considered so by the future ‘us’ in twenty, fifty, a hundred years from now.
There is no respect given (because none is seriously offered by ‘us’) to the inquiring mind willing to step outside the boundaries of conventional thinking, only empty vessels that wish to be fully indoctrinated into the present day belief system. The herd demands we believe what the herd believes and increasingly that belief is divorced from reality.
I suspect there are several reasons for this phenomenon. As I discussed in “The Science Delusion” the spectacular success of materials science (the mass production of ten million things) has contributed to the delusion that we know it all, that we have arrived, that there is certainty in many if not all things, and that we ‘know’ this ‘certainty’ with near absolute precision. All it needs is a few small tweaks here and there.
But I suspect something else is going on here and I don’t recall it being discussed much in the virtual circles I frequent. Until the advent of mass media, ‘modern’ man lived an existence surrounded almost entirely by physical reality, up close and very personal. In fact, until sometime after World War Two most homes did not even have central heat, indoor plumbing or a house wired for electricity. Life, to put it simply, was very raw.
There was once a mostly solitary and desperate immediacy to daily living (the present day homeless are quite familiar with this condition) and a mind that dwelled in fantasy and not focused on the needs of the here and now was often severely punished by Mother Nature. Dawdle too long in the petunias and you might die of exposure later because you did not put up enough firewood and salt away enough food.