Think Again

    Bill Isaacs:  At this time of year in America we celebrate Thanksgiving. Initiated by the early settlers, the tradition of giving thanks for the harvest was gleaned from the Native people, though certainly predates their arrival. No doubt these European transplants felt appreciation for this country, the harvest they received, and for the very fact of their survival over some difficult initial years. The traditions of the Native people influenced many aspects of the early settlers' lives. One particular exchange produced no small amount of confusion however.

    The story goes that at one stage, the Native people brought gifts to their newly arrived neighbors, among them, a beautiful carved peace pipe. No doubt they thought this wonderful object would look good on a mantle place, or perhaps in the British Museum. The settlers were quite surprised to discover some weeks later, when the Native people came back that they expected the pipe to be returned. The settlers were so shocked they gave this experience a name—they had received an "Indian Gift." But all this is a reflection of confusion and even more so, a fundamentally different paradigm about the meaning of a "gift." It required the settlers radically rethink something they thought they understood. For the Native people, gifts were not permanent possessions. They were intended to flow from one person to another. Their underlying sense: a gift must move.

    Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in America in 1863 during the Civil War, to bring people together at a time when there was much division. This was an act of leadership, a move seeking to invite people to lift up their experience out of disunion, despair, and fear to one of thanksgiving. The giving of new energy into the world through an open thankful heart is the root of all transformation. The very act of being thankful directly connects you to the experience of the Tone of Life. This is a binary phenomenon. If you are thankful you can't be bitter.

    Accepting this energy allows you to rethink assumptions in consciousness that have gone unexamined. We reproduce the world through the repetition of our unconscious habits. For instance, the idea of gift giving itself has a particular idea behind it, which is that once you get something you keep it because it's "yours". The Indians' view certainly challenged taken for granted ideas about "possession." The transformation—something understood by the Native people but quite shocking to the Puritans, was to realize that a gift is part of a flow of energy, and that you must let it continue to move, not try to capture it. There are many such habits in human consciousness. It is valuable to explore some of them—to see how we might allow a change in our own thinking or to reinforce changes that are already underway. After all, whatever transformation is to happen in the world happens in each of us personally.

    We say we are in an age of great change. It may be the case that every generation feels that way. But it is quite evident that we are experiencing simultaneously many century level changes, in medicine, energy generation and distribution, materials science, robotics, communication, computing, climate, species loss—the list goes on. Much that is familiar is being loosened and transformed. One of the more evident examples of that appears in people's experience of confidence. Many people are feeling quite insecure these days. Polls taken of young people all around the world show them to be very pessimistic about the future. People's attempts to generate a feeling of confidence are invariably connected to what they love most. The word confidence itself means to place trust. What you trust gives you confidence. The difficulty of course is that certain things that you may choose to trust are not very stable. For example, we know people, no doubt ourselves at times included, who have tended to trust the quantity and perhaps the quality of physical possessions that we have. This is often epitomized by the amount of money we have in our bank accounts. If you have a lot of money, you feel confident. If you don't have very much you don't, or so the thinking goes.

    Other people derive confidence from the amount of mental acuity they imagine they have—how sharp they are, or how much knowledge they have and what they have accumulated in their minds. These ranges of confidence, physical or mental, are at risk of becoming disturbed because they are measured relative to someone else. There is always someone who has more than you, as well as others who have less, and this constantly changes. Also, the quality of these physical and mental possessions has the tendency to erode over time. You must keep maintaining them, adding to them, or they become outdated and obsolete. It's not a very secure base ultimately in which to place one's trust. Of course people seek confidence so they can keep doing what they're doing, so it may not be all bad if a self-centered way of operating no longer delivers this experience.

    Confidence actually is a function of identity in a state of Being that is already present, one that has been excluded from most human experience but that is nevertheless available. You could say it's a confident universe. The ability to trust the cycles of life despite gaps in the relative quantities of substance that you have and the challenges that might appear in your life as a result, is simply a measure of the degree to which you are identified with who you really are. Trust in anything else deceives. True confidence is a function of what you let go of, as much as what you accumulate. There has been much confusion on this point. Attempts to shore up feelings of insecurity are futile until one finds the one safe confident place to stand. As more and more change occurs in an external sense this becomes increasingly evident, as does people's desire to find and hold onto something clear and stable. The experience of confidence is a function of the degree to which we allow our own hearts to be purified.

    Another habit we might examine involves our views about what it means to take action. There is an old saying—"Don't just stand there, do something, "implying that's what serious people do. But just what does it mean to "take action"? One perspective is that action is physical—that it involves force acting on matter. In the last hundred-and-fifty years or so, human societies and economies have been organized around human beings doing physical labor and generating value as a result. The industrial age has been based on the development of machines to manufacture and move substance. The machines have continued to evolve and become increasingly sophisticated. First through mechanical processes and then by more refined, electrically-powered processes, machines move physical substance around in ways that are far more efficient then human beings ever could on their own. The means of powering these systems have also changed dramatically. Each shift has produced dramatic transformations in the nature of work. Most people who work in coal mines these days know that the days of coal mining are numbered. These changes result in people ending up feeling displaced—back to confidence again. People cling to outmoded approaches because they fear they will lack value without them. But all through these changes there has been a partnership role for human beings, if a different one, with the machines that extended human effort. The action, aided by machines was still focused at a physical level. Machines, it was thought could not replace the "higher" action of human beings at a mental level— until now.

    We have entered a time when computers can do things mentally that human beings used to do, and much more efficiently. This goes far beyond merely counting and tracking information. Machines can make far more effective decisions than human beings in many domains. Human beings are very poor decision makers. The distortions and biases in the way human beings think and therefore act is becoming overwhelmingly evident. For instance, judges tend to give out longer sentences when their blood sugar is low or at the end of the day or just before lunch. So-called expert opinion is now regularly and reliably equaled or surpassed by computers in many fields. This is partly because there are serious flaws in the way human judgment works—many errors we are prone to make. Machines are now beginning to replace not just what people used to do physically, but what they have been doing mentally. So now we have computers that can do things never before imagined, and in many cases more effectively, ranging from diagnosing medical conditions, to investing in the stock market, to driving a car, while also telling you the most effective route to take home. To the degree that human beings are identified with a mental range of action they seem to be increasingly out of a job. And this is now not just limited to so-called blue-collar activity but to many jobs in the legal profession, the financial world, the medical profession, and many others.

    There is a range of action beyond this however. There was a famous study some years ago by some educators who gave an intelligence test to children in a classroom who then reported to the teachers the results of the test. They told teachers that some of the students had a high IQ while others had a low IQ—even though the results of the test were the opposite. It turned out that the students who were described as having a higher IQ subsequently performed better in the classroom than the ones who didn't—even though in fact their IQ's were no better than other students and in some cases worse. What was said to the teachers shaped their expectations and beliefs about the students, which impacted their behavior, and produced tangible effects in the children. This research on what became known as the Pygmalion Effect created quite an uproar and reaction, but has since been repeated and validated many times over.

    The realization that we can have a tangible and significant impact on a situation simply by shifting our outlook and attitude may seem quite revolutionary, but it actually happens all the time. This points to another range of action, beyond physical force or mental computation. We impact the world through the qualitative nature of how we operate—a finer range of action that has to do with the quality of energy, attitude, and perspective, we bring to any situation. This is a yet finer level of function, one that goes beyond what a computer can do for instance, and yet that has considerable impact in the whole ecosystem of our lives.

    Another domain that is also very interesting to examine and worthy of rethinking, relates to time. The general story people carry about time is that it is "scarce"—there is not enough of it to accomplish all that is needed. In many contexts, people are very busy. The sense of a lack of time is partly a function of the fact that there are so many easily accessible distractions, so many opportunities for instance now to binge-watch TV shows, various ways to waste time in other words. But the notion that time is limited, finite, sequential and measurable are all taken for granted, mindsets that have been widely accepted by most people. The linear and standardized notion of time is memorialized in schedules and routines of all kinds. Most of us live our lives governed by this pattern.

    Yet at the same time, most people can also recognize, if they think about it, that all moments of time are not in fact the same. We know of moments when time slows down, or speeds up. How could that be possible if time were simply a finite and fixed phenomenon? It is possible because time is a function of qualitative experiential factors emerging moment by moment out of the whole? The essence of time is a function of the quality of being that is present Now. The current "moment" of Now can itself vary greatly in magnitude depending on how you think of it. A moment can be a lifetime or a much more localized experience, depending on the factors that are moving. All moments of time are not equal. For instance, beginnings matter. The way a cycle of any kind begins has enormous impact on what follows. There are pulsations in other words that impact the qualitative nature of time and that vary depending on the nature of the cycle. The traditional or intellectual perception of time largely ignores these issues and yet this range of perception is certainly available and actually easily understood. Our experience of time varies because time is in fact not fixed at all.

    Conventional translations of time are modifiable. We could put it in an appealing way for human beings by saying that you can in fact have all the time you need, whenever you want. How? By becoming fused in consciousness with the reality of Undimensional Being acting now. Then your experience of time will move accordingly. Flexibility in consciousness about the understanding of time is an emerging requirement for participating in the unfolding cycles of the recreative transition that is now underway.

    Finally, we could explore thinking itself. As I suggested above, there are many studies these days that chronicle the extensive biases and distortions that are present in human cognitive processes. Current research shows that much of what we take for granted and take as obvious is often quite distorted. We have very selective memory. We tend to give weight to the most recent statement we heard when forming an opinion, regardless of how accurate it is. We trust options from sources with which we are familiar more than from those we are not, regardless of their veracity. We can be easily influenced and are more open to suggestion than we like to think.

    These limits are functions of what the Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls "thinking fast"—associative thinking, which he named System 1. System 1 is our invisible automatic intuitive thinking mode. We also have an ability to think logically and rationally, which he calls System 2. System 2 works well, but requires a lot of energy, and can be lazy. System 1 makes suggestions to System 2, which often simply accepts these suggestions, even if they contain errors. The human capacity for rationalization knows no bounds and the research illustrates this well. Computers now perform system 2 activities, like finding patterns in large amounts of data, or making recommendations about the best way to manage industrial processes, far more effectively than human beings.

    The errors and distortions in human thinking that appear through (System 1) and the limited speed and enormous training and effort required to build the capacity of logic and reason (System 2) together point to ceilings in human thinking. Awareness of these limitations is growing, as people make efforts to compensate for them and computers increasingly—and for many worrisomely—to replace human beings.

    There is however a wider pattern of thinking available to human beings than is typically understood. The Romantic poet Coleridge called this capacity "primary imagination." This is the ability to have direct and inspired insight, something that emerges out of a pure heart and transformed subconscious, in combination with a conscious mind that is aligned with what is larger than itself. These can come together to allow perception far beyond the immediate. Call this System 3. The broader pattern of thinking is the thinking of the Whole. We live in a thinking cosmos, and to the degree that we express the Tone of that whole we participate in that thinking.

    There is much new thinking to be done by human beings in this transforming state in which we live. Many taken-for-granted ways of functioning are being challenged and brought under pressure. It is only as there are people who dare to notice that shifts are required in all these taken-for-granted ways of functioning that any change could occur. Movement into a vibrational range of perception in each of these areas: confidence, action, time, and thinking, are just a few dimensions of a new form of control and governance—new to human beings anyway—that is seeking to emerge through whomever is interested and available.

    Human beings, it was once said, were put on earth "to tend and keep the garden." The garden is the vibrational reality of Being emerging now, present now, through the forms of consciousness that are both familiar and that also need review. It's not that we go somewhere else and live somewhere else, but that we allow the reality of a new way of operating to be present, to allow new habits to emerge in the minute ranges of our experience. This quality of resonance allows a different level of authority, a different level of confidence, and the flexibility needed to allow new ranges of power to finally emerge on earth.

    It could be said that all these changes do appear to be taking a rather long time. Of course, that is purely from the perspective of a finite experience of a human life. We are quite capable of seeing our experience through the eyes of Undimensional Being. The reality is that there is plenty of time, and that necessary action occurs through the ease of this knowing. Human beings are on the planet to tend and keep the garden. We can each delight to participate in the ongoing recreative cycles for however long it takes.

November 26, 2017

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