Long ago, this writer was confronted with the startling fact that our brains really don’t work the way we think they do. It was during my teenage years in the1950s, when my uncle finally let me ride his beautiful Indian motorcycle with insightful advice only later understood and appreciated.
“When riding a motorcycle,” he instructed me, “you must play the invisible man.”
“What?” I replied. “Are you serious?”
I wanted everyone to see me ride that bike, especially while shifting drives smoothly with hand gear and foot clutch.
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Seeing my perplexed stare, he shouted: “But most people do not see you! Remember, when driving cars, most drivers really don’t see a motorcycle because they are only looking for other cars, so act as if they don’t see you; pretend you are invisible.”
Perhaps some of you have noticed in many car-motorcycle accidents most drivers claim they did not see the bikers. Turns out a majority of our brain activity consists of predictions about the world based on our past experience. We make hundreds of decisions every day by habit or reflex without really thinking because we have subconsciously programmed our brains by recurring feedback loops so we do not have to reinvent the wheel when confronted with new experiences.
That is how we survived!
All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits - practical, emotional, intellectual - sublimely programmed not only by us, but also by our heritage and culture.
For example, notice that you put on your shoes in the same order every day or brush your teeth with the same hand every day. Likewise, one can predict with absolute certainly that if a person is born of Muslim parents in a highly restricted society such as Iran, he or she will be a Shiite Muslim.
So how much “free will” exists when anyone chooses religion or makes countless other life decisions?
Obviously objective thinking is very difficult. Since recorded history, enlightened gadflies have challenged us to think.
Plato implored us to escape from the allegorical cave of ignorance and Aristotle reminded us that the unexamined life was not worth living. More recently Einstein defined “common sense” as the accumulation of all our prejudices by 18 years of age.
So today, in our age of information, how far have we progressed in our thinking? Obviously too many are being asphyxiated by mushrooming clouds of information and fail to acknowledge the first requirement for rational thinking - silence. Silence makes it possible to think.
Yet most seem to cherish ignorance by clinging 24/7 to the Internet with cell phones, computers, radio and TV, etc. A long “time out” from these ego enforcing devices is overdue.
Find a quiet place and examine your inner thoughts and beliefs. You may discover the better angels of your nature. Clearly, the current dysfunctional state of our American political system is a good example of a subject of critical importance crying out for a thorough examination of our individual perceptions and biases.
Does anyone really want the nuclear button in Donald Trump’s hand?
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.