We are robots.
Now some of that is necessary, you don’t want to have to think yourself to sleep, or to sneeze or to have to go to the bathroom. It’s good if it just happens. That’s biological, but even psychological, if you automatically recoil from loud noises, or feel your heart beating if you’re surrounded by an encroaching mob with bats—all of this automation is desirable.
Nonetheless, it is striking how little we think for ourselves or make our own decisions. How often do we do something just because we can?
This is not about being a pretentious contrarian, or an anti-establishment anarchist. What is more interesting for me is realizing how little we actually think for ourselves about what we believe in, what we’re told and what we do. This can be in regards to large scale authority-social-establishment issues, but it can also be trivial small things that one believes in firmly, for example:
– You can only eat cereal in the morning. Says who? And what if you have a bowl at 6:00 pm, what will happen?
– Why does “fuck” or “cunt” offend you but “gosh darn it” and “stupid fool!” don’t?
– Do you only get hungry at 12pm or 1pm? Why can’t you eat at 11:00 am or 2:00 pm? I bet you 90% of people in offices have never even tried to go to lunch at 2:00 pm because “everybody goes to lunch at 1”.
– Is it true that you can’t go out on a Tuesday or Wednesday night?
Or on more broader issues, consider:
– Why is alcohol legal but marijuana isn’t?
– How are you sure that Mohamed/Jesus/Buddha/etc hold the absolute truth but that Mohamed/Jesus/Buddha etc don’t? Is it primarily because of how you were raised?
– Why are you embarrassed if someone sees you naked or if you see someone else naked? Why are you just fine in a bikini but you’re flustered in underwear yet it’s the same coverage?
– I’m sure you know of some beleifs people were certain of hundred years ago that are now flat out wrong or completely irrelevant. How sure are you that none of your pillars of belief today will not go the same way in a hundred years?
In concluding—how often do we expose ourselves to viewpoints that challenge our world-view? You don’t have to get in deep this can be 5 minute skimming of an article presenting a position you disagree with, listening to a speech, etc. I think it is good to question. To ask questions. And again I’m not saying to be a weirdo, don’t kill the vibe when you’re out at the club talking about philosophy and quantum mechanics for god’s sake. Also don’t take regular and consistent questioning to mean you should ‘worry’–don’t get all brooding and miserable. For me this kind of thing actually frees me and makes me less uptight.
So remember asking questions will develop independence, it enriches one’s life, and for the trivial stuff it adds variety and adventure to your life!
PS. Two great books on this are Prometheus Rising by Anton Wilson which I’m just finishing and Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina who has a lot of comments on personal power and responsibility.