Sunday, September 24, 2006

Neither a Follower Nor a Lender Be

How common is common sense?
We humans are, among other things, social animals. We have the ability to "blend in" by imitating the behavior of a group of people, speaking in ways that are received with a positive response, and avoid behavior that is unacceptable. We are endowed with a "herd instinct." Due to the extremely complex nature of the human mind, and in particular, the even more extremely complex nature of social interaction, this is a characteristic that can ensure survival, success, and comfort.

However, again, due to the extremely complex nature of the human mind, and social interaction, the behavior of groups of people is sometimes unreasonable, irrational, and dangerous. Thankfully, we are also gifted with the ability to think independently, to disagree, to dissent, and even to abandon one group of people for another, or even to adopt a lone existence. These 2 opposing characteristics are designed to work in balance, much like the opposing muscles in our bodies that give us the ability to control our physical behavior.

The human nervous system is an incredible machine, more powerful than the most powerful computers built to date, and has the capacity to perform both incredible calculations, such as the calculations involved in pitching a baseball, which involves movement of the entire body, balance, an intuitive grasp of the laws of physics, the ability to calculate the distance and angle to a target, and bio-feedback that enables us to improve our performance, all without conscious knowledge or understanding of the operations that produce the behavior. Certainly, by all appearances, we are the most intelligent creatures on the planet (or, perhaps among the most intelligent creatures).

And yet, for all of our intellectual capacity, we often seem to struggle with much less complex problems, like adding multiple numbers together in our heads, comprehending what we read, and even understanding communication from other human beings. The reasons for this are not well understood, but scientists continue to work to unravel the puzzle of the human mind, brain, and behavior. It is not my intent to address the whys and wherefores of this in the post, however. I am merely asserting that these conditions exist, that there is an aspect to our mind/brain that is somehow linked to consciousness or awareness, which distances our consciousness from the incredible power of the totality of the capacity of our brain to calculate and solve problems.

As a result, the structure of human society is not only massively complex, but massively problematic. An interesting aspect of this can be observed in the effect of the sheer size of the earth, and the corresponding difficulties involved in communication and interaction between groups of people that are separated by physical distance. As groups of people have less and less contact with one another, the behavior of the groups begins to diverge, resulting in the phenomenon of commuties, or cultures that are philosophically in conflict with one another.

To understand the realities of our existence is no small task. Why are we here? How did we come into existence? What is the nature of good, and of evil? How does the mind work? What are the unchanging laws that govern physical behavior? And so on. Human society has been working on solving the questions of our existence, the laws and principles of the universe, for thousands of years, with some measure of success, but a long way to go. This is an endeavor that has involved literally millions of human minds. Considering the capacity of the human mind, this is almost surprising; almost, because we accept it, because it is a common and familiar condition of our existence.

Now factor in the fact that while we struggle to solve these problems, we are also embroiled in the morass of social interaction, and to some extent, we can see how this has impeded our progress. At various times in history, scientists have proposed ideas that were to some degree correct, only to be demonized, ostracized by their communities, rejected, and even put to death. All of these results are contrary to the natural desire of humans to live, to be successful, and/or to be happy.

Some examples of this phenomenon can be seen in the lives of Socrates, Copernicus, Galileo, Jesus Christ, the early Christian Church, the Reformation, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and so on. In each case, ideas that were truthful and good were rejected by the prevailing community, and resulted in suffering and even death on the part of those who proposed these ideas.

Oddly enough, the ideas themselves, rooted in Truth, would, if accepted and implemented, be beneficial to the basic goals of human existence - to live, to be successful, to be happy.

It may therefore be concluded that if one is to pursue Truth, to solve the riddle of our existence, and in particular to share what one has seen, one must possess a willingness to suffer (See my first post, "If the Truth Hurts, Wear it"), and a willingness to take "The Road Less Travelled" (Robert Frost). That is, one must be willing to attenuate one's participation in whatever society one finds one's self in, to get clear of the noise and confusion, to accept Truth regardless of how one feels about it, and to be despised and rejected of men at times.

I believe that this is one of the central choices that we all face. Do we desire Truth more, or do we desire popularity more? What You Seek Is What You Get. And some choices are exclusive of others. One cannot turn to the right and to the left at the same time. A 1 is a 1, and a 0 is a 0, and never the twain shall meet.

As for myself, I have been perhaps in some way blessed with a personality that requires little (albeit some) social acceptance. The search for Truth is my passion. Every bit of real knowledge that I discover for myself rewards me in some inexplicable way. And I believe that true ideas are the only ideas worth having.

Societies need Leaders. Good Leaders are people who think for themselves, and have a strong will. They are more interested in the good of society than they are in their own personal aggrandizement. Poor Leaders are not really Leaders at all; they are followers who have run around to the front of the parade and acted as if they started it. Good Leaders lead; they do not compel others to follow. They strike out in the direction they believe in, ignoring the prevailing trends, and if they are followed, they accept it; they do not seek or reject it. When they lead, they lead in a direction that is beneficial for all. And there are, unfortunately, precious few of them in this world of 7 Billion human beings. Why is this?

To answer that question truthfully...

1 comment:

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