“Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”
The power that our worldviews carry to shape our lives is beautifully captured by Ben Okri, the Nigerian poet and author, in the above quote. Problem is, and challenge is, we are normally unaware of our particular worldviews the way a fish is unaware of say… water. We swim in them and drink them and teach them to our children and cohorts… all without realizing we are simply sharing in or passing on a memetic code, an interpretation of the nature of the world.
This dynamic would seem to be both cause for despair—and for hope. Despair because our worldviews may be killing us… and hope because it is possible to become aware of and shift the same. Take this list of worldviews presented in The 2008 Shift Report: Changing the Story of our Future, published by The Institute of Noetic Sciences.
- Growth is good; more is better.
- Economic wealth is the truest sign of progress.
- “The Market” is the most reliable measure of value.
- Individual selfishness serves the common good.
- We live in a world of scarcity.
- Humans are superior to other creatures.
- The Earth is ours to exploit.
- The world consists of “us” and “them.”
- People are intrinsically bad.
- Technology-or God-will save us.
The authors are careful to point out that, “Not all the problems of the world can be laid at the feet of a single dominant paradigm or worldview—we live in complicated times.” Yet the relationships between the identified worldviews and the critical challenges of our era are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Again an incomplete list from The 2008 Shift Report:
- Climate Change
- Mass Dislocation and Resource Wars
- Arms Sales
- Peak Oil
- Population Growth
We can no more solve these life-challenging issues by utilizing the models of thinking with which we created them than will a war against terrorism be won by military weaponry. Hence the invitation life is offering us to see Life differently:
How it is that our perceptions and even conceptions are narrowed by our expectations is absolutely fascinating to me. I first became aware of this when, as a youth, I got into heated religious arguments with my fundamentalist preacher father. That he could not see the theological inconsistencies leaking out of our bucket of Truth in which, I’m sorry but you were going to hell, angered me to no end.
Then with time I began to see that I really was no different from the man I grew to hate. I too was inclined to choose my beliefs out of personal affinities and conveniences; I too carried hypocrisies I preferred not to look at; I too preferred a worldview in which I was the center of the universe; I too held a worldview which preferred answers to questions; I too lived a worldview orbiting externalized authority; I too… lived my life out of a state of reaction more than out of openness and response-ability….
Damn. This being human can be hard to come to terms with sometimes!
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had a life altering experience in which she was forced to look at what it even means to be ‘human.’ Or perhaps, more correctly, she seized the opportunity to explore what it is to be more fully and wholly human.
She “had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.” http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/229
You can’t beat Ms Taylor for eloquence so I’ll not try. It does however, seem appropriate to close with another quote from the highly recommended 2008 Shift Report:
“We are living through one of the most fundamental shifts in history — a change in the actual belief structure of Western society. No economic, political, or military power can compare with the power of a change of mind. By deliberately changing their images of reality, people are changing the world.”
— Willis Harman, Global Mind Change
Note: The commercial with the moon walking bear is a demonstration of highly researched perceptual phenomena: http://host.uniroma3.it/progetti/kant/field/hurleysymp_noe.htm
“In one study, perceivers are asked to watch a video tape of a basketball game and they are asked to count the number of times one team takes possession of the ball [Simons & Chabris, in press]. During the film clip, which lasts a few minutes, a person in a gorilla suit strolls onto the center of the court, turns and faces the audience and does a little jig. The gorilla then slowly walks off the court. The remarkable fact is that perceivers (including this author) do not notice the gorilla. This is an example of what has been called inattentional blindness.< 5 > In a second study, due to O’Regan, a perceiver is asked to describe changes occurring in video clip of a drawing [O’Regan & Noë 2000].< 6 > Because the changes occur very slowly, and thus do not attract attention, they tend not to be perceived. The net effect of the changes, however, can be very substantial, such as a change in color of the central object in the image. This is an example of what is known as change blindness.”
“A demonstration of inattentional blindness goes something like this. Viewers are asked to monitor three basketball players in white T-shirts and count the number of times they pass the ball during a video clip. Thirty-four seconds into this experiment, a person wearing a gorilla suit walks through the game and even pauses to pound his chest before moving on. Despite their vigilance, approximately half the viewers never see the gorilla. Even after they are told about the gorilla and shown the video, they refuse to believe it. “Foul!” they cry, “that must be a different tape!”
The original gorilla video is owned by the Video Cognition Lab: http://viscog.beckman.uiuc.edu/media/ig.html