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How To Be Wise

How To Be Wise

Why?

Why are things as they are?

In this one question we define our humanity. Our consciousness.

Humans, so far as we know, are the only species to ask this question - and we demand an answer.

World Concept

It is this burning need to understand the world, to explain the inexplicable, to categorize, organize, that makes our world concept. We each have a world concept uniquely our own. A world concept formed from the intersection of our physical bodies, our emotions, in-born temperament, developed traits, experience and learning, and from our reason or intellect. The way we interpret events in the world, how we know, is our world concept. We, as humans, need our world concept. It is as fundamental to our human nature as walking on two legs. Even more essential than our five senses. Right behind our animal needs, food and water, shelter, and sex, our first human need is to understand the world in which we live. It is through our world concept that we choose how to interact with the world.

That water flows downhill, that crying will bring a sympathetic mother to sooth us, that gravity and clumsy feet are a bad combination, that the cookie jar is too high are the whys of a child. As we mature we ask more complex whys. Why is there water? Why is there gravity? Why is mom caring for me? Why is there an Earth? Why are we humans here? Why is everything as it is? Why am I different from others? And, most importantly to our individual world concept, why am I as I am?

We demand answers. We must know how the world works. You must know. I must know. Everyone must know and so we arrive at an explanation. For many of us, that explanation comes in the form of what our parents, family, and teachers told us. They explained the world and we absorbed the information. For others, we had to try it. We had to stick our fingers into the light socket after our parents told us not to. We had to touch the hot stove. We had to learn from experience. Most of us adopted the world concept of our families and our societies mixed with the experiences of our own lives. All of it, regardless of how we came by it, was filtered through our individual personality. This became our truth. Our answer to the eternal question why and the practical question why. Our truth about the world, our whys, are our world concept.

Easy Answers

Searching for truth is the ultimate occupation of mankind. We seek therefore we are human. For nearly all of human existence, our search was limited by the tools we had to understand the world around us. Our five senses, our brains, and those of others, formed the basic tools. We could see the world around us, experience the vagaries of storms and earthquakes, of birth and death, of beauty and danger. We found answers, for we had to, and when it came to the ultimate explanations we found the simplest best. Why is everything as it is? It is God's will. God the creator, God the planner, God the mover. God provides the simplest path to explaining everything. And so it was. And, for many of you, you will say, and so it is.

I'm Going To Rock Your World...Concept

I'll go gently here for your world concept is not something trivial to be played with. We are going to talk about your most sacred, most fundamental beliefs, the reality upon which you base the world. We are going to do this, not to assert my world concept over yours, no, but to allow you to open yourself to your own exploration of yourself. A self-discovery leading to a path of self-questioning and reasoning. Your path to enlightenment.

Our world concept forms when we are young and we are informed of the answers by our traditions, our society, and our experiences. Most of us accept our child-learned world concept until a crisis, or simply middle age, challenges us to reconsider. Then what? We seek, hope, pray and try to reconcile our new ideas with our old. A deliberate act of renewal of our world concept. A time of pain for our world concept is our truth and to challenge our truth we must accept our error. We must allow ourselves to be wrong and, oh, we so hate to be wrong.

It was in being wrong that we were the ones attacked by the lion, the ones who failed to lead our families away from the flood, or into the infertile valley without food. We evolved to dislike being wrong. Our emotions are our teachers. Don't touch that burner, not only is there pain but there is real danger there, there is being wrong there. We hate that feeling and, yet, when the world challenges us to face our wrongness, our errors, we must find a way to accept and integrate that wrongness. We do not do this lightly and so, for most of us we wait until we are forced into it.

What is rare is for us to have the courage to choose to challenge our world concept, to accept the mere possibility of being wrong, and to voluntarily move towards a new world concept before life forces us to adapt. We, you, can make that choice.

Small Moves

Crisis. That's the word we use when our world concept is challenged. So, if it's a crisis we must enter, why would we voluntarily choose to examine our world concept? The answer is that we need not go into crisis. We, having control over our process, can decide how fast or slow to move ourselves. To explore at a pace of comfort, even child-like curiosity, of excitement and happiness. We can, by choosing our place and time, prepare for life's crises by having considered them in advance like a military strategist. We can be our own life strategist. Flexible, adaptable, and knowledgeable.

The pathway here is to move yourself slowly. A gentle pace. Preserve your traditions with deeper understanding. Treasure your experiences in a whole new way. Take joy in the possibilities your expanded awareness offers the world. Gain wisdom through deeper knowledge. Step by step. In your own way on your own path. Do not discard your truth to obtain a new one but, rather, build upon it. Maintain your tradition but add depth and wisdom to your understanding. See the wisdom of the ages but extended to the knowledge of the present. Add valuable complexity to childhood simplicity.

Most of all, allow yourself to discard what you find to be wrong. Do it gradually, with compassion for yourself. To help you with this remember the Platinum Rule: Do unto anyone as they would have done unto them. Anyone includes you. In other words, be as kind to yourself as you would to someone you love. Remember, it's okay to be wrong. We all are, far more than you might like to know.

Personal Dogma

If you were raised in a religion, odds are you have retained some part of that religion, strongly, or less so, and that religion forms much of the basis of your world concept. It may well be that you believe that everything is God's design or that morality can only exist when handed down through a holy book. You may believe that people are fundamentally evil or ultimately good. You may be certain, having faith, that you know.

You may believe that experience talks and everyone else walks. Maybe you believe in the potential of humanity. Or perhaps you see the world in its technical complexity without the humanity of it all.

However your world concept was formed and however it is informed, you have the opportunity to exceed that position, to expand your world concept and, most importantly, to improve upon it.

Each of us has our own world concept, our own personal dogma about how things are. Fortunately, it is our dogma and we are free to improve it. I would even say we are driven to do so. That, ultimately, is what it means to be human and what most separates us from other animals.

Making The World Your Oyster

Raising our level of understanding about the world is perhaps the only real pathway to true happiness. The path to enlightenment or transcendence. It is through knowledge and deep understanding that we are able to accept the world for what it is, just as it is. From a place of knowing understanding we see clearly both the world and ourselves.

Through knowledge and understanding we are better able to accept whatever life throws at us, aware in advance of its meaning and purpose in our personal world concept. A death remains painful but is accepted as a process of life. Joy is enjoyed without the disappointment of its ending. Loss is seen as a change in our world concept, a door to be left open or, perhaps, a door to be closed when it no longer leads where we wish to go.

Learning In A New Language

It is the process of understanding that sages, wizards, philosophers, and prophets have been sharing with us for ages. A process of enlightenment, of transcendence. A process in which we intuitively recognize the wisdom within. The messages speak to our hearts, to our deepest need to know and comprehend, to explain the world and the society in which we humans find ourselves.

When the prophet speaks, the philosopher opines, and the sages divine, they speak our language. One of the heart. A human message in human terms. Feelings, love, anger, joy, and sadness. Possibilities and protections. Good and evil. In this way we come to understand and accept what is said. We learn from the language of emotions more than from the language of ideas.

It is through our emotions that we learn most quickly for our emotions are our primal, animal, drivers, the needed instincts for the survival of our species. It is only through our intellect that we can exceed our animal nature and so it is through intellect that we can discover and grow our world concept. We must learn to speak the language of reason. To understand the emotional in terms of the rational. See the science of ourselves in the science of the universe. It is by questioning, thinking, and learning that our way into a fulfilled, blissful, and enlightened life is achieved.

Mystical Mastery

We must remove the mist from the mystical. When we see the mystical, we see unclearly, as through a fog, a mist. It is the raising of this mist, the explaining of the mysterious, in which we can most easily grow. It is when we lift the fog that the wonderment of the world becomes manifest. We see the beauty of all in which we live more clearly, as the sunshine breaking through clouds. Our life fills with the light of understanding and we replace mystical with magical. Magic being something we can explain when we learn how the trick is performed. The world, when seen clearly, is more than we imagine it might be. All things interconnected. The oneness spoken of by Hindus and Buddhists, the Garden of Eden, Heaven. Our knowledge is our bliss.

It is through the process of knowing that we gain our deepest desire and, at last after so long a time, we have the keys. Science, the language of what is, provides that key. Yes, the cold, hard language of science. Science, all formulas and technical terms. The language utterly lacking in emotion. Hypotheses, models, and theories. Cold, hard facts. So often, we look at science and we see the practicalities, the technical, so rarely the beauty revealed. We fail to see the connection to our humanity.

Humanizing Science

If science, knowledge, offers us the path, and if we, as humans, learn best through emotion, can we make the path of science move us? I think I have the secret. We must learn to see the science for its beauty. To relate the beauty to the rational. Merge the emotional with the factual. We must bring the subconscious into accord with the conscious.

That clouds are a condensation of water does not diminish their beauty, that the stars in the heavens twinkle with the burning of hydrogen gas does not diminish their mystery, nor does awareness that our fears originate in the amygdala deep within our brain eliminate those fears. This knowledge empowers us, leaving us awestruck at the implications, a path forward illuminated. Clouds are water vapor, the cycle of evaporation, cloud formation, and rainfall is the cycle of life. The mist in the air as the morning fog burns away from the heat of our personal star, our hydrogen fusion engine, the Sun. The resultant evening thunderstorm, beautiful and frightening all at once, our fear rising with the clap of thunder and shock of lightning. The life-giving rain. All understood as atoms, molecules, gases, liquids, and solids. As fusion and electricity. As photons and wavelengths. As reactions and interactions. Felt and overcome. No less is the science beautiful, no less is it emotional, so long as we bring the science, the knowledge, the truth, to our humanity.

Conversely, our reason, our scientific knowledge alone cannot suffice. We are human beings. We are emotional creatures and to deny ourselves this is to ignore our fundamental selves, to make ourselves inhuman. Those of us who are scientists, engineers, rationalists, need to see the science within our humanity. See the spiritual within the practical. Not to add the mystical but rather to add the emotional. To accept our human nature and to, just as with any other scientific understanding, know thy self.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. - Aristotle

Experience the world as it is. Through knowledge and through experience. See life as it is. Hands on, here, now, and also as it has always been. Be within it and see the beauty not as unknowing mystery but as awareness of the true deep beauty of reality.

Explore the potential of what is unknown, of the spiritual, not through belief, hope, faith, and possible, but through the known and the likely. Through the dreams of what can be from what is. The magical born from the rational.

Take your traditions and release the lock on your certainty. Question, explore, and integrate what you find into your traditions. See how your family, your friends, your community, even the whole world, can benefit from your new understanding, your depth. Bring your strength of character to the task of self understanding and to universal understanding. Embrace the wisdom of those who went before, those, who, without the tools of the scientific method, divined the fundamental realities. Improve on their insight with deeper knowledge from the sciences.

Of Babies And Bath Water

Let's start by defining what we are trying to do here and, more importantly, what we are not. One thing we are definitely not trying to do is throw out our existing world concept. We cannot, and should not, try to do this. We need our foundations to function. What we are trying to do is improve and refine those ideas. To answer the "why" question from a position of knowledge and understanding rather than from a position of "because."

In short, we do not want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Our world concept is the life's work of our childhood. Somewhere along the way, usually as a teenager, we decide we have learned enough (everything?) and off we go into the world. Applying our concepts and making our way. Usually we continue this way, slightly confused but excited by the experiences of living, of developing our innate skills, of loving, and parenting. No longer do we concern ourselves overly much with expanding our world concept. Until...

Crises, Mid-life And Otherwise

We arrive ill-prepared for what we have not experienced and have not had explained. A crisis is, by definition, a situation for which we are not prepared. We, of course, cope. Sometimes well, sometimes poorly. We learn and we adjust our world concept to allow the experience to integrate. Always, we ask "why?"

What if we could know the answer before the question was asked? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to answer something more than "I don't know" or "It's God's will?" It is through understanding and knowledge that we gain this advantage. A crisis becomes merely a problem. A challenge to overcome. Not the threat to your fundamental humanity, your personal world concept. Emotional pain, while perhaps not eliminated entirely, becomes more manageable. Fear, often driven by uncertainty and unknowing, eliminated by knowledge. Mistrust becomes trust (or knowing mistrust). A basis in truth for your human basis in emotion. A set of tools to manage your animal instincts.

Satisfying Your Curiosity

Curiosity is the lifeblood of human nature. Those who wish to control us do so by two means. First is the destruction of our curiosity. Trust me. Don't ask. Curiosity killed the cat. It is written. Have faith. In the loss of curiosity we depend upon our faith. We are locked into a world concept not of our own choosing. Unconsidered in clear light of day or based upon ignorance. We follow tradition for tradition's sake. By faithfully following others without questioning and without curiosity we lose our independence. Our uniqueness is lost into the sea of what was, of what we have been told.

Faith, blind and unquestioning as it is, provides the ultimate foundation for our manipulation and control by those who wish to do so. And there are many. It is human nature to seek power. Some choose the route of deception to achieve their aims. Faith provides the pathway. Only through the overcoming, the expansion, the comprehension, of the wisdom of our childhood world concept can we see the aims of others clearly and choose, for ourselves, our own path through life. Inquiry, not certainty, is the requirement for freedom.

Freedom is found where we choose to question our world concept. We may determine our childhood ideas to be valid, though we may not. We may learn something new, only to find a refinement later. We may, and I'll venture out to say, we will, find that the process of learning about the meaning of life, the universe, everything, is an utterly engrossing, blissful act. We may find, through deep introspection that it all comes down to this: 42. Then, again, perhaps we haven't read the "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and are utterly confused by my last sentence. The point here is that we should question our world concept and learn. We can then, through knowledge, become wise in the ways of ourselves and the world.

Curiosity is bliss.

What, How, and Where To Learn

Nothing could be more intensely personal than your world concept. Only you can decide what, where and how to expand your understanding. My suggestion is to follow your heart. Not your mind. Don't follow what is trendy, what you think you should know. Go where you have doubts and let your heart, your subconscious, be your guide. Pick a topic and explore.

Each of us learns in a different way, depending on our temperament. Some of us need solid, concrete ideas we can apply to life, some abstract, conceptual ideas to fill our minds. Some of us want to understand our individuality, some our community. An artist might want to understand color theory and human vision to improve their world concept of how to make a painting beautiful. A therapist might be more interested in understanding why people feel certain ways and explore the emerging science of the mind to discover new approaches and a deeper connection. The homemaker or solid citizen might choose to better understand the diversity of the human community which he or she serves. And engineering types, like myself, might explore our emotional mind to gain a better understanding of ourselves and others.

Regardless of the path you take to reach your personal wisdom, choose trustworthy sources. Diminish the role of faith in your life while keeping the wisdom and elevate your world concept to a position of knowledge, whether gained by experience, observation, education, or experimentation. Go, gain the freedom to be you, to follow the path to enlightenment, and to live a life of curiosity.

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How are you expanding your world concept?

5 comments
donnaleigh
donnaleigh

I really dig this artical. I have always been called a hippy freak, nonconformist, rebilious, even communist because I march to the beat of my own drum.. I have gotten flack from my family since I was like 5 years ole. I am different than the rest of my family. I  have never put much stock in status, class, position, material things, or what other people thought of the way I believe a life should be lead. I have never felt the need to compete with other to prove my worth. I feel like it's more important to compete with myself to be the best me I can be. I have had several different types of work in the past. A problem I always ran into is the underhanded nature that goes with making money. I don't believe a person should make profit at the expennse ofothers. Wather it's emotional, physical, social or spiritual. I don't believe that's waat the plan was at the time of creation. It was deffinately not like thing are today. The world is becoming so egocentric that it hurts my soul. I really have a rough time with the idea of captialsm. Well lke it is now. We are suppose to care for one another, help one another, lover one aanother. Now everyone is so selfinvolved that they don't think how can Ihelp. They think what will I get out the deal. It's becoming like that even in families.Mine for instance. I am one of 6 but 1 sister passed. I have a married brother in TX. A brother with a girlfriend in GA.  A married sister who works in TX. And a sister who is married with grown children out the house who is a stay at home and lives between 45 min and 11 hour away in New Orleans ( I am in Covington after Katrina). I do have health problems and get disability because I'm not able to do reliable work and need to have health care. I now have become the primary caregiver for my elderly and ill parents. My siblings out of town only come in to visit maybe 2 times a year for afew days and call every 6 weeks or so. Now my sister who lives closer comes to visit maybe every 2 or 3 months and never returnes our calls and calls maybe every 4 to 6 weeks. Now it has gotten to the point where the house we are in is too much to handle alone, and not very accessible for my parents. My sister wants us to move closer to her so nit would be more convenient for her to help but my  parents are 79 abd 80 and have chronic illnesses and established relationships with the health care professionals close to us. Also, I havre 2 aunts and an uncle who always help. In Feb. I was hospitialized for 7 days I called my sibd and asked them to check on the folks. Not one caled me or my parents. Well until 2 days after I yexted all I was home and then they asked me to help them plan something. Now they are coming for a family meeting to talk about the iving situatuin and they say it's so we can deside what's best for everyone. I dont now who else matters but the needs of my parents. And I don't see where they get a say since they don't call or visit. We had lookedat a condo and my siblings hated that idea.And the reaason they gave was that it would be hard to sell. My parents are not going to move again it's not rational given their ages and health. My loving siblings are worried how much they will get in the end. And the are concerened that ifI am living with my parents in a smaller house my folks may make stipulations that I can reside in the home until I move or die.I just do not understand how people can  be so selfish. I pay half the bills , do all the running and tending to them, I pay for food, and my sibling think I live off my prentsl. I don't spend like they do. They are very materilistic. They some how feel the need to seem better than everyine else and actually want people to be jelous of them. And not for them but what they have. None of that stuff is real. Money is like wqter it flows in and out your life. And as for thing I think it'sa need to fill a void. And then that's not enough. They need the newer or fresher or better one soon after. It's not what we have in this life that will make us happy. It's our actions and the joy we will be given in the next life that is important. Just a funny note. I still ware clothes I got from the '60 '70 and '80 mosy of the time. I love myself and if a person doesn't want to befriend me because of what I  ware or drive they are missing out. And I don't think I want people like that in my life anyway. I am myself,I am proud of me, I live my values and convictions without any appologies. I don't even ask people to agree with me. But I do deserve respect as a human and the right to live the way I di.I don;t hurt anyone, take advantage of antone, steal from anyone, a person of great faith in the Lord and treat other as I would like to be treated.I just don't understand what happend to the worl. I find it sad that no one valuse tridition or culture anymore. I love the things that make people unique and different. Now we sre becoming a socity of Kardashians or E! people. They want everyione to look alike, think alike, act alike and all be the same. I guess my being from New Orleeans , the New Orleans that was, with some many different cultures foods nationalities and it's own unique triditions thatare all going away that makes me feel so strong about the way thing are now. I just thin people need to stop video games, sitcoms, going to malls, and learn to think for themselves and find the truth. Not what the netwirks want us to think and realize what;s truly important in life. We all need to take responsability for the stste of the world and all try to help not wait for someone else to do it or say it's not my problem. Because it is all of our peoplems. I can't resy at nigh if I wouldn't do what Im canin my community and support my charities and just even tell people my views and how I like to live my life hopeing that they will just do one small thing. I wish I could do more. The only thing more I can do is to pray for everyone un the world..

Jim Callahan
Jim Callahan

Hi Ken,

I was trying to figure out the relationship between the unconscious (wherein resides most belief in God, as I understand you) and regular beliefs (it's going to rain today), when you referred me back to this article.

I am a rationalist according to your Personality Test a while back, and I suppose that affects my view, that beliefs are ultimately rational. Even a person with an unconsciously-derived belief in God will want to explain "why" to another in rational terms.

I think the above article is really excellent. I do detect a "bias", if you will, a concept you previously discussed, towards scientific inquiry with an open mind, and away from unconscious conditioning, as in childhood or by tradition. Indeed, it seems one point of the article. I still wonder about the validity of unconsciously-derived beliefs. Then there is the intuitive aspect, and how that fits in.

For what it's worth.....

Kenneth Benjamin
Kenneth Benjamin moderator

@Jim Callahan Hi Jim,

Yes, I have a definite bias towards rational inquiry as I think it's necessary if we are to form beliefs that are meaningful throughout our lives. Old wisdom can be (and much of it has been) found inaccurate so if you have no mental constructs to replace the errors with corrections then you are stuck in error.

It is this limitation of our traditional approaches that I think is most problematic, or dogmatic, to be precise.

What we all do is confirm our beliefs to explain our beliefs. That doesn't make them correct, per se, and people are slow to change - we don't like to be wrong even to ourselves.

My suggestion is to look carefully at your beliefs to see where the sources come from and then question them. You might find that when really examined carefully with what you now know, that some do not hold up. Go gently here as it can be quite disruptive to find your deeply held beliefs failing but stay the course and explore.

I also recommend trying to find the underlying value that fits the not-quite-accurate belief you had and holding to that. I'm trying to do that with this website, to show the values in otherwise scientifically inaccurate systems. As I state right on the homepage, I want to help you to "form a new, non-mystical approach to living well."

Unconscious = intuitive = subconscious. These terms are one in the same. There might be some further breakdown that we could explore vis a vis various brain functions such as the amygdala and fear but for a generalization, we can just use these terms. Likewise, conscious = rational.

About rain vs. god: Is there a difference? In the case of god, what evidence are you using? My guess is that you were raised with that belief or had an experience you could not explain rationally that led you there. With the rain, your experience tells you it looks like rain today.

These two beliefs are at extreme ends of the spectrum, one permanent, the other transitory. How would you feel if you were wrong about both? If you look inside and try that out, I think you will find that being wrong about it raining (short-term, unreinforced belief) is less painful than being wrong about the existence of god (long-term, strongly reinforced belief).

The only plus about the rain is you can prove your hypothesis before the day is out or even set odds through a bit of weather science. God's a bit trickier.

Jim Callahan
Jim Callahan

Hi Ken,

This is a really snazzy set up you have here. It takes me right to this reply page straight from my e-mail, which of course you know!

I think I misused the word "bias" in my original reply, giving the impression that I defend unconsciously-derived beliefs. No, I agree with your views to question and examine all beliefs for unconscious influences, and expose them.

I also must have given the impression that I have a belief in God, and wish to defend that. Quite the contrary. No, I was just trying to compare the two kinds of belief noted in humans, one generated unconsciously, and one based on the facts of existence. Like those clouds are sure dark, I believe it's going to rain today.

When you talked about the bell curve, I originally thought you viewed both kinds of belief as just two equal sides of the belief continuum. I now understand you to be highly suspect of unconsciously-derived beliefs, as am I.

Starting with the premise that "I don't know", makes dialogue interesting and fruitful, would you agree?

Good Morning!

Jim

Kenneth Benjamin
Kenneth Benjamin moderator

@Jim Callahan Hi Jim,

Yes, you were correct about my assumptions.

On the bell-curves, I think two curves, one for intuitive (gut) reactions and one for rational reactions is needed. We all have both, the question is where we are on the scale of each. It may be, and personality testing implies this, that some people are more strongly intuitive AND rational than others. Much like some people are more gifted musicians AND visual artists.

Glad you like the comment system.

Finally, "I don't know" should always be the starting point and even when "I do know" there is the possibility of being wrong (something written in stone religions deny to their disadvantage).

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  1. [...] It’s only my opinion, but I think we should admire our rational brains – that part of us that got us to the top of the food chain. Besides, it’s one way to become wise. [...]

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