I have a good reason for asking.
Reading could be dangerous.
It could scramble your brains.
I happened to me.
Yes, yes, you always want me to explain.
So, I used to be a one-book person. One at a time that is. I picked up a book, I read it, I moved on.
Sometime a decade or so ago, I became a multiple reader. I read several books at one time. It’s a thing I share with my love, Johnny Depp.
Sometimes I read three books, sometimes only two. At the moment I’m reading two seriously–Autobiography of a Yogi and The Righteous Mind. Now, you may ask, so what? And I would too, but for the fact that suddenly it occurred to me that my subconscious was at work here.
A subconscious is a terrible thing to waste, as plenty of people have learned to their eternal damnation, so I began to think about what my subconscious was trying to impart to me, conscious me, consciously thinking of me.
Hence, the scrambling of brains, which is almost sure to ensue during such an examination. So I can but caution you to make sure you are drinking a cup of coffee and have your ankles crossed when you proceed to such an undertaking.
If you are now thoroughly confused, well you should be, since my subconscious is a place only those with the strongest constitutions should venture into without fireproof clothing at a minimum.
So the Autobiography of a Yogi is what is known as a “spiritual classic” detailing the life and journey of Paramahansa Yogananda and his adventures in God-realization. Without going into any detail, one can know that Eastern religious traditions are very big on the idea of discarding the emotional ties to the here and now in favor of joining with the Oneness of God, however that is defined. In other words, one avoids emotional elements such as hatred, sadness, fear, worry, and so forth, and recognizes that “good” emotions are also to be kept in context, i.e., temporary and arbitrary.
These ideas are not unknown in the Western world either of course. Plenty of Christian saints did in fact testify to the “emptying of self” as the means of joining with God. Meditation, often called centering prayer, attempts to do this in much the same way that Eastern meditation does, most often by concentration on the breath and a cessation of “thinking” in the normal sense.
I finally broke down and ordered Jonathan Haidt’s latest book, The Righteous Mind. A social psychologist, Professor Haidt got interested in why we remain such a divided people and discovered some rather amazing things along the way. Basically he determined that the human mind is not a logic center, nor is it dedicated to the pursuit of ultimate truth. This holds true, by the way, whether one is above average in IQ or highly educated. We are essentially creatures of intuition. We make “gut” decisions constantly, and use our brains to justify those decisions to others, and of course ourselves. We all like to think we are smart.
To a fairly equal degree, liberals and conservatives, deciding on little information, decide what we want to be true, and then assimilate to a greater or lesser degree, the evidence to support that conclusion. This is not to say that the rational brain can’t change our mind, or that others can’t either, but it is damn hard to accomplish and works only under similarly arbitrary circumstances; liking the bearer of different news encourages us to accept it for instance.
We all know this to a degree. It is the basis of Madison Avenue. Humans are malleable creatures given to emotional whim. The Republican Party became expert at this sort of thing. Here’s an example:
- The Democrats’ solution to the problem is more taxes.
- The Democratic solution to the problem is more taxes.
- The Democrat solution to the problem is more taxes.
Which of these sounds “better” to you. More fair? More pejorative? Which one makes you uneasy, or uncharitable?
The word Democrat, used as a singular word for a group, sounds harsh, and emphasizes the harsh T sound and also emphasizes “rat”. The Democrats’ solution, sounds normal, and proper plural for a group position. Democratic, sounds, of course “fair”. The GOP has schooled itself into using number three as its normal course of speech, because they know how it affects the subliminal mind. Pure marketing trick.
The book about Paramahansa Yogananda is soothing and joyful. It is amazing to look at a culture who take “miracles” for granted, and boldly claim that Yogis commonly read minds, can see the future, cure illness, and can affect the material world as easily as breathing. They defy gravity, make things appear and disappear, and all manner of things that the Western mind does not see as possible certainly today.
It’s hard not to conclude that such a life, devoid of pesky human emotions, especially those that inhibit us is bad. It’s so good. Material desires vanish, as do worries and concerns about our lives. We live in bliss, aware that this life is a vehicle to use, not a destination.
The other, informs me, much to my dismay, that I am not a rational creature, motivated by a desire for truth, but rather, just a step above the average animal to which I am related–making a snap judgment–go toward it, back away–and only having the added ability to “justify” my choice to others. How depressing is that?
I’m not sure where all this leads. I’m just relating the strangeness of these two ways of looking at the human mind. It’s all quite scrambled to me at the moment. It suggests however, that if you are a multiple reader, you might from time to time, ask yourself–what is my subconscious mind asking me to address?
Mine has something in mind about my wandering in the desert–I’m searching for some meaning no doubt, some oasis of security. Or maybe I’m just weird.
Weigh in. If you dare. If you can make heads or tails of all this.
- How to Develop Inner Certainty (meboucherblog.wordpress.com)
- Your Mind Utilizes the Placebo Effect (meboucherblog.wordpress.com)
- Scientists identify emotions based on brain activity (scooprocket.com)
- Overcoming Your Negativity Bias (dealbook.nytimes.com)
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion ~ Jonathan Haidt [updated May 28, 2013] (planetizen1network.wordpress.com)