Straight Talk: Do You Really Think…? (Part 1)

by nielskunze on January 26, 2017

Occupy your mind… because if you don’t, someone else will.

The Thinker (photo by Niels Kunze)

(No Brain No Headache by Missing Peace from our 1996 album Tense Moments)

“You can incite to riot, but you can’t incite to think!”

Do You Really Think…?

Freedom and Authority are fighting a turf war in your mind…
and you get to decide the winner.

“That which is falling deserves to be pushed.” – Nietzsche

When all one’s knowledge comes from books, all that’s learned is prejudice.

The main cause of human ignorance is the illusion of knowledge already gleaned.

Until you have given the whole world its freedom, you will never have yours.
Psychology matters.

The state of a person’s mind, its functionality, matters… especially in a world where the word ‘crazy’ seems to come up in everyday conversation more and more. But what is crazy?

Let’s begin with a few ponderables…

Do you really think… that power doesn’t tend to corrupt?

Do you really think… that psychopathy and sociopathy don’t really exist to any significant degree in our modern society?

Do you really think… that only good, caring individuals are attracted to public office?

Do you really think… that some people are immune to confirmation bias?

Do you really think… that memorizing ‘knowledge’ is the same as thinking?

Do you really think… that advertising doesn’t work? How about propaganda?

Do you really think… that censorship is the appropriate response to propaganda?

Do you really think… that diet soda is somehow good for you?

Do you really think… that arms dealers spend their profits on peace initiatives?

Do you really think… that no one is interested in manipulating your thoughts and controlling your mind?

Do you really think… that your subconscious mind either doesn’t exist or plays no significant role in your life?

Do you really think… that the world is exactly the way you believe it to be?

Do you really think… that self-righteous indignation somehow makes you morally superior… to anyone?

Do you really think… that you could be any more fucking naïve?

Do you really think?

Long ago, as a writer, I consolidated my mission statement as follows: to inspire new thoughts among my readers.

Further, it’s not so much WHAT you think; it’s THAT you think… at all. And that is determined by your state of mind– its ability to function as designed… or not. Use it or lose it!

The simple thesis for this essay is that the specific contents of your mind matter far less than the structure and functionality of your mind. What you believe– specifically– is far less important than your ability to question or challenge those beliefs– and posit alternatives. And this is the main difference between open-mindedness and closed-mindedness… sanity and insanity.

In the first essay of this series, I hit upon an analogy, one with which I have grown rather enamoured. It is the likening of the mind to an island in a vast sea. I wish to unpack that extended metaphor now in order to demonstrate its aptness.

The conscious mind is an island in an infinite sea. It is small and familiar. The island is surrounded by shallow waters, suitable for swimming. The shallows represent the personal subconscious. Then, somewhere out beyond the protective coral reefs, lies the unfathomable ocean. Seamlessly, the personal subconscious blends and merges with the common collective– the Sea of All Possibility, the oceanic field of all quantum potential.

The human being is, in essence, equally the island, the shallows, and the infinite deep. The ocean is our commonality, our shared source– our ever-oneness. The island is our personality, expressed through individual choice. The shallows surrounding the island mediates between the two, a place where we can choose to swim, imagine, explore and dream… the subconscious.

Every island has its own unique inventory. The items “on” each island are specific beliefs (and goals, priorities, etc.). These items– our beliefs– are either gifted to us by others and accepted, or are self-selected (created) through our own explorations and curiosities. Ultimately, we alone decide what is allowed on our islands. (And like any seascape, the shoreline is subject to tides. That portion of the beach that is alternately land and then sea… and then land again, represents that portion of our belief systems that is often unknown to ourselves– our unconscious beliefs– yet they are knowable, through work and effort.) There is a strong, nearly irresistible, tendency to identify with the inventory of our own island– the contents of our conscious minds. But remember, we are the island, the shallows, and the deep ocean; we are NOT merely what we believe.

In today’s world, in 2017, there are many who have become strict islanders. The island is all they know. They no longer choose to swim in the shallows; even when they dream, those dreams are either mundane dreams of the island itself, or are simply forgotten completely upon awakening. Islanders tend to become landlubbers. The ocean exists merely as a dim memory, as something of little import or consequence. Islanders tend to cling to their inventories with fanatical tenacity, and focus exclusively upon the island alone. It is not uncommon for an islander to hold the same belief system (inventory) for an entire lifetime. Islanders are closed-minded.

In opposition to the islander stands the mariner (sans albatross). Mariners delight in the exploration of the ocean, its potential, its endless possibilities. Mariners cannot be entrapped upon islands; their islands are rather like vessels. Mariners understand that islands or vessels are not the true basis for identity; they are merely focal-points– functional and pragmatic. Mariners honour and hone their natural curiosities. Mariners tend to be open-minded explorers.

That which separates the mariner from the islander is the active acceptance of alternative possibilities. The islander has no use for alternative possibilities– alternatives to what he already believes– because he has convinced himself that he already knows. To an islander, alternative possibilities are a waste of time.

For the mariner, however, the exploration of alternative possibilities is the very purpose of life– and the subtle action of the mind– and there is no limit to the number of alternative possibilities he may explore, examine and retain. In fact, the more alternatives he is able to entertain in any given moment is the accurate measure of the degree to which his mind is open, functional and healthy. Alternative possibilities hover like a mist above the calm sea at dawn on a windless day. They are somewhere in between the pure potential of the infinite deep and the concrete manifestations of perceivable reality. Alternative possibilities which are found to be mere fantasies, having no basis or connection to perceivable reality, will eventually ‘burn off’ to become clouds in the sky… obscuring the sun… for they are not truly ‘possibilities’ at all.

(Imagination and fantasy are not the same. True imagination seeks to maintain a connection to perceived reality, while fantasy has no such requirement.) Islanders are prone to fantasizing; mariners are imaginative. (And I have been both.)

We are all creators, islanders and mariners alike. Perceivable reality is a consensus of our individual and collective creation. For islanders, creation tends to be a done deal. For mariners, the Great Mystery is fluid, ever-changing and unsolvable… and yet they delight in the wonderment and awe of actively trying to solve it. Mariners are avid thinkers, regarding contemplation as an essential art.

True thinking, or what I call contemplation, is a creative act. Contemplation must involve the challenge of novelty. Thinking requires that something new is considered– hence, the alternative possibilities. Islanders rarely think and generally disdain contemplation. Islanders like to take inventory… again and again, counting, itemizing and categorizing the familiar contents of their minds. Islanders wander around in circles… a lot.

Over time, islanders tend to shrink, even though they may accumulate mountains of trinkets to clutter their islands. This is the natural consequence of being primarily closed-minded. Mariners, on the other hand, tend to be expansive… by nature of their choice for novelty and alternatives. Islands or vessels cannot contain them, for they recognize themselves as the source of creativity… and creativity for a creator is a fundamental state of wellbeing.

In identifying oneself as either an islander or a mariner, there is some deviousness afoot… by way of self-deception. It is exceedingly rare for a closed-minded person to know themselves as such. The possibility of being closed-minded simply does not occur to them… as long as they are relatively tolerant and kind (in their own estimation). It is, ironically, the condition of closed-mindedness which makes closed-mindedness difficult to perceive– especially in oneself.

Let me return now to where this essay began.

Psychology matters, especially now.

We are being challenged like never before, and it’s only going to get more intense. My concern for the state of mind we each individually occupy is a matter of survival. I actually believe– as a real possibility– that the most closed-minded among us will not survive the coming challenges we will face. Only healthy, adaptable minds will manage to cope with the torrent of revelations poised to inundate us like a cognitive avalanche… beginning in earnest this year (2017).

If only 3 in a hundred survive with their marbles intact, I can’t count this as a victory. We need to bring each other along in curiosity, inquiry, healthy skepticism, critical thinking, and above all else, the ability to effectively communicate. Have you noticed that many many humans are having difficulty effectively communicating with their fellows? Closed-mindedness is the conversation killer.

We have been so deeply conditioned into the mindset of competitiveness that what should be open-ended conversation is nearly always immediately degraded into argument and a quest for dominance and superiority. Too many of our ‘conversations’ are a clash of conflicting belief systems. In such cases, the ‘combatants’ seek the untenable goal of supplanting the inventory of the other’s island. “You HAVE to believe me… because you’re wrong and I’m right.” How often does this work? Almost never, and the result is usually further isolation for all those involved. Can we ease up a bit?

This might seem trite and inconsequential, but as we approach each other in conversational exchange, we are not trading in vested beliefs; we are rather making offerings of alternative possibilities. Energetically, there is a HUGE difference between asking another to “Consider this…” and “You’ve got to believe…”

What another person believes is of absolutely no concern of mine– it’s none of my damn business– unless such beliefs include initiating harm against myself or others. However base reality may be configured, it seems to exhibit a rare perfection in that I will live to experience the consequences of what I specifically believe, just as you will experience the consequences of what you specifically believe– fair and perfect. And we are now unavoidably heading into very consequential times.

Open-mindedness begins with a single alternative possibility: that reality is somewhat different than what you currently believe it to be. It sounds so simple and obvious… and yet, through their actions, so many will steadfastly deny its validity. Arrogance is the willing whore of islanders.

There seems to be a nearly pathological fear among islanders of simple gullibility. It’s as though when a person is caught believing in something that turns out not to be true that some grave mortal sin has been committed. (As an aside, I believe that humanity fell for something dubious in the past, collectively, on a mass scale… and now is subconsciously afraid of being duped again.) But being wrong doesn’t hurt– unless we refuse to acknowledge the error and learn from it. Mistakes cease being mistakes the very moment we recognize them as such. Again, it’s the difference between open-mindedness and closed-mindedness. Simple.

So let’s stop trying to convince others to believe exactly what we believe. Instead, let’s just goad each other into considering alternative explanations, other possibilities. Ultimately, none of us knows… and we gain nothing by pretending that we do. And in the mere acceptance of alternative possibilities we engage and exercise our minds, bringing them back to full functionality. That’s how minds work.

And as we find ourselves engaging again in hopeful conversation, let us ask together whether our dialogue is geared toward a mutual big-picture understanding, or whether a single narrative is being forced and promoted to the exclusion of new insight and viable alternatives. This is especially true as we engage specific news sources. Are we being encouraged to question, to think critically, to reach our own conclusions, to consider heretofore unconsidered possibilities? Or are we being asked to believe a single narrative, to adopt a predetermined perspective, to submit to the experts and authorities?

For you see, that’s what’s at stake: your own choosing to be free as a whole, completely functional human being, able to think for yourself, a self-determined explorer of the Unsolvable Mystery… or submitting your passive acquiescence to doing as you are told by the ‘relevant’ authorities, staying isolated on a quarantined island, in a sea of nearly-identical islands. Shockingly, many will still argue for conformity– of thought, belief, and behaviour– that we are meant to be islanders. But I urge you, do not shout them down as being wrong– for that will not work. Rather, offer them the olive branch, the living possibility, that there just might be another way, a better way of exploring reality together in its infinite possibility.

In order to see, you have to look…

(Islander: Unreleased instrumental studio run-through, composed by Niels, performed by the rhythm section only of my band Missing Peace – Christopher Howse: drums; Ian Borenheim: bass: Niels Kunze: 12-string guitar)

(Islander/State of Love & Trust: Islander by Missing Peace; State of Love & Trust by Pearl Jam; performed by Missing Peace live in Banff 1998; cassette tape recording of front-end mix; Cory Price: electric guitar; Shane Hagan: vocals; the rest: same as above.)

Part 2 Coming soon…

Where we will explore:

Confirmation Bias
Categorical ‘Thinking’ / False Dichotomies
Strawman Arguments
Intellectual Honesty / Seeking the Strong Argument
Heart-Centred Intelligence
The Internet Equalizer
Healthy Skepticism
Adaptability and Survival
Education versus Indoctrination
…and more…

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