WEEK 27: Gain Wisdom From Others

“Our best thoughts come from others” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gathering of the Minds.jpg
The way I have felt about this week’s topic is the same way I felt after the first day of Philosophy 101 my freshman year in college…totally paralyzed by the enormity of what I was being asked to consider. I can remember trying to do my homework that first night of class and simply not being able to wrap my head around the concept of infinity. There was just no safe place for my thoughts to go – and the harder I tried to figure it out, the more the answers seemed to elude me.
 
It was definitelty not my favorite class.
 
And even though I know it seems a little absurd to compare this week’s topic to ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ with a concept as big as infinity, I have had the same kind of trouble finding a safe path for my thoughts on this subject to go. There are so many different directions I could take that I’ve found myself going in circles trying to decide which way would be best.
 
And needless to say, since it’s been 8 (yikes!) months since I started to think about this, I’ve been going around in circles for a while.
 
I think the main problem I’ve had is that really, when you think about it, the only way we really ever learn anything is from other people, right? I mean, the knowledge that each of us has, individually, didn’t just come out of nowhere…it had to come from something, or someone, outside of us. Otherwise we would have been born knowing everything we need to know.
 
But that’s just not the case. We are born pretty much an empty slate, and as we interact with others, we gain knowledge from them. Just as they gained knowledge from the people they interacted with. And the people before them. It’s a never-ending spiral of knowledge that gets passed from generation to generation, person to person.
 
The thing that really gets my mind going in circles, though, is when I start wondering about the very first idea. There must have been one. There must have been a kind of ‘aha’ moment when one of our earliest ancestors realized he (or she) had knowledge to share.
 
In her movie, The Story, Barbara Marx Hubbard refers to these early ancestors as ‘the ones who know they know’. Somehow they became consciously aware enough to understand that by sharing and collaborating with each other, their ability to survive became stronger. It is the movie’s premise that this ability to share and collaborate could be what allowed Homo-Sapiens to continue to evolve, while others, such as Homo-Neanderthal, died out.
 
Which is probably why ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ is on the list of ways to raise one’s consciousness. Because in order for us to keep evolving, we need to keep learning. And in order for us to keep learning, we need to keep sharing, otherwise the whole system breaks down.
 
Somehow, though, it seems humanity has moved away from this sharing philosophy in the last few years. Individuals (and corporations) seem to be more concerned with getting themselves ahead, than getting humanity ahead. Copyright infringement, CISPA, SOPA…I can’t help but believe that this ‘me me me’ culture is going to lead us down the same path as Homo-Neanderthal.
 
Thankfully, though, I don’t think it’s too late for us. There are a lot of people and organizations out there who understand the importance of sharing and collaborating. There’s TED (Ideas Worth Sharing), Creative Commons (Share Your Knowledge and Creativity With The World), Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia), Linux (Free and Open Source Software Collaboration) and Minds.com (Free and Open Souce Everything), to name just a few.
 
There is definitely a shift taking place toward a world where sharing and collaboration are the norm, rather than the alternative.
 
There’s an ancient African word called Ubuntu, which loosely translated means, ‘humanity to others’. In the Xhosa culture it means “I am because we are’. Gregg Braden, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, shared the following story on Facebook, and it really struck a chord with me:
 
“An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

It is my greatest hope that one day we will all join hands together and share the fruit.

P.S. I am in the process of moving My Consciousness Project over to Minds.com, a new open source social media site. Please consider joining Minds and subscribing to the My Consciousness Project channel. Thanks!

WEEK 6: Tell the Truth

“Our lives improve only when we take chances…and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” Walter Anderson

As with most of the preceding posts, the topic for this week seemed, at first, as though it would be pretty easy for me. I consider myself a fairly honest person, so I just didn’t think it would be too hard to tell the truth for a week. But what I am beginning to understand as my project goes along, is that what appears simple at first glance, becomes ever increasingly complex the more I think about it. And the more I remember my rule to push myself (Guideline #7), the harder these ‘assignments’ become. So when I decided, instead, that I would tell the truth to myself this week, rather than other people, well, the bar definitely rose a little higher, taking me right out of my comfort zone. That surprised me a little, too…why would the thought of being honest with myself make me uncomfortable? Well, maybe it’s because I just don’t often think about what I truly believe, about life, or myself. A little sad, I know, but, nonetheless, pretty true.

Another thing that worried me about all of this, is that other people may perceive these beliefs of mine as somehow wrong, or different, or even worse, foolish. So I just had to keep reminding myself that nobody’s truth is the ‘right’ truth, because we all experience life differently. And what I believe to be true about something, may just not be the same for someone else…but that is ok. I think that where we, as human beings, tend to run into trouble, is when we convince ourselves that our truth is the ‘right’ truth, rather than considering that another person’s truth could be just as ‘right’ for them. Max Born, a German physicist, said, “The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil”. Well, the good news is that I definitely don’t believe my truths are the only truths, so I guess I don’t need to be nervous, or worried, that I am going to offend anyone. But still…this is very scary!

So, what truths do I have about myself? Well, I am loyal. I am a little impulsive. I am thoughtful. I am fair. I am kind of lazy. I am tolerant. I am, at times, a bit manipulative (this was a hard one to spit out!).

And what are my beliefs about life?  Well, hmmm, this is a little harder. But ok, I know I believe that we are all connected. That our souls are eternal, so death is really just a transition to a different vibration. I believe we are all here to learn lessons, both individually and collectively, so that our souls can evolve. And I truly believe, that right now, we are, as a species, being spiritually challenged to evolve to the next level.

What I found kind of interesting, as I contemplated these truths, was that the things that I believe about myself haven’t changed much over the years, while the things I believe about life have changed dramatically from when I was younger. For instance, as a child I believed that when people died, they disappeared forever into a completely black nothingness. I don’t know where I got this idea, since I know I understood about God and heaven, but I remember, distinctly, laying in bed at night and trying to imagine being nothing, forever. Needless to say, with thoughts like these, I was terrified of dying, and continued to fear it well into my adulthood. But when my father passed away, it was like a switch went off in my head, and I realized that it just couldn’t be possible that we become nothing when we die…our souls must go somewhere. And this new belief, that my dad’s soul would be waiting for me wherever it is that we go, brought me incredible comfort, and allowed me to let go of the old belief that had brought me so much pain.

I guess, in a perfect world, we would always be able to recognize when certain beliefs we have aren’t working, and consciously replace them with some that may work better. And, also in that perfect world, we would accept the idea that the truths we have for ourselves are no better, or worse, than the truths someone else might have…they might just be different. In his book, The New Revelations, A Conversation with God, Neale Donald Walsch suggests, among many other things, that the world would be so much better off if, when voicing either our individual or collective beliefs, we would begin by saying, “We are all one. Mine is not a better way, mine is merely another way.”

Just imagine a world where our first impulse, when faced with an opposing point of view, was to acknowledge that it’s really ok for that person (or country, or culture, or religion) to have that belief, instead of immediately trying to challenge it, or worse, condemn it. In our family, we call this impulse to challenge each other “the oppositional reflex,” and, unfortunately, it’s a bad habit we all share, and one that definitely creates a lot of unnecessary conflict. And since I am one of those people who really hates to argue (another truth about myself), it is a habit that I would love to see broken. I don’t know why it has to be so hard to simply agree to disagree…and to not always have to be ‘right.’ Anyway, I just have to believe that the world (and our dinner table!) would be a lot more peaceful if we would just allow each other the freedom of our own truths, and not feel threatened by their differences.

I think, in the end, what this very soul-baring week has taught me is that, in order to create my perfect world, it’s not only important that I’m honest with myself, about who I am and what I believe, but that I honor those beliefs, without dishonoring anyone else’s. I know that it won’t always be easy, but for a chance at that perfect world, it just has to be worth a try.