I am especially excited about the next four wisdom tips because they serve as a foundation for everything that follows. Today’s wisdom will identify the three masters who control our life’s experience, the first two being dictators and the third being what we call “self-mastery,” the exercise of our freed will to personally direct our life experience. The second wisdom will explain the power of interpretation that makes us different from all life on earth; the third reveals the secret means by which we become powerful creators; and the fourth wisdom introduces the important concept that inspires the newer way of thinking that enables anyone to lead a joyous, meaningful life.
Without exception, all life is controlled by two dictators that we identify by such labels as nature and nurture or fate and circumstance. The simplest forms of life are innately equipped by nature to survive at birth. More complex life requires nurturing from external providers such as parents. Only humankind has been gifted with a sufficiently intelligent specialized organ to become a powerful creator through the process we call by such terms as becoming one’s own person, mental freedom, and self-mastery. As the portion of our unique human brain that we call the cerebral cortex matures we attain the power to program ourselves. We alone acquire, store, share, and grow knowledge by passing it forward to successive generations. Increasingly, we have joined nature and nurture in determining who we are and what we will become. Our recent explosive growth of knowledge has made us so powerful that we can now create the utopia within our imagination and/or we can make ourselves history by unleashing our unprecedented weapons of ultimate destruction.
Let’s recognize that both as individuals and collectively as humankind, we are a work-in-progress with a mission. Mental freedom is the power to create both wisely and foolishly. Our unprecedented creative and destructive power makes us responsible for consistently directing actions to constructive outcomes. Our work-in-progress is quite clearly defined – we must urgently develop the wisdom to manage our new weapons of ultimate destructive power. The future of our loved ones and humanity has suddenly become the responsibility of our generation. Our future requires that we teach ourselves a newer way of thinking based on common sense wisdom where instinct and tradition have become maladaptive.
We take the beginning step to add wisdom to self-management when we identify the sources that control the way we think, feel, and act. Let’s begin today to create an indelible picture in our mind that enlightens our consciousness to the three masters that direct our life’s experience. Think of turning a light “on” or “off.” If just thinking “Let there be light” worked, you’d probably think you had magic. However, you know the trick of creating light is quite easily accomplished. You simply walk over to a light switch and change its position. Most light switches have two positions, “on” or “off”. You know it works “unmagically” because someone previously provided a source of electric power and placed wiring to convey energy to the light bulb. Even though the mechanical action is hidden behind the wall, you make a verifiable assumption that the light switch has such connections.
Now look at another location where there are two light switches. The switches look identical. However, one leads to an action entirely different than the other. Again, we understand why – the wiring behind the wall which we don’t see is distinct for each switch. The second switch adds a new option to the first choice.
Let’s now consider another location where we see three switches, the third being slightly different than the first two. This newer third switch has a variable slide device that adds the ability to “dim” and “brighten” alongside turning it “on” or “off.” Instead of two choices, there are now multiple options ranging from totally “off” to totally “on.” This third switch provides us far more variety in determining the light we select. The image of these three light switches provides a powerful analogy to recognize our opportunity for self-mastery.
Like the wires hidden behind the wall that we don’t see, our brain has very complex wiring that we don’t see. We can develop insight into the operation of our brain if we create a simple model like the three light switches, and label the first “nature,” the second “nurture,” and the third “self-mastery.” Each master switch turns “on” or “off” a unique pattern of wiring that influences the way we think, feel, and act. The first wiring, established during the 9 months of our creation, provided us with nerves and chemicals set to automatically carry out vital functions such as regulating our heart rate, body temperature, and breathing. Nature also provides us genes prewired with the proven instinctive behaviors that enabled our ancestors to survive and thrive through the most savage environments. These automatic behaviors have allowed us to reach our advanced state of knowledge and creative power. An innate bias towards survival of the fittest and flight or fight behavior is prominent among all life including humankind. These instinctive wisdoms have become established through trial-and-error learning to be adaptive to the demands of an uncivilized environment. Instinct links us to our extended ancestral beginnings.
After we are born, the external world becomes a newer master who would control our thinking, feelings, and behavior. Our nurturers, including culture and circumstance introduce a new set of wiring that has different characteristics than our innate wiring. For example, “instinct” and the automatic regulation of our vital systems are quite similar and predictable in each of us and in other species. Indeed, we are so similar that we may exchange many body parts and sometimes even use those of animals. “Survival of the fittest” and “fight or flight” instinct is a quite predictable bias to be found in all species.
The wiring we receive from outside sources, primarily our nurturers, has far more diversity than that provided by our biology. Unlike the internal wiring present at birth, our external creators wire us through repetition. For example, our knowledge of the alphabet, the meaning of words, and our understanding of ourselves and the world is due to our nurturer’s perspective. We are not asked and we have limited power to resist whatever training we receive. Through our early years we are quite like parrots, mimicking whatever fate and circumstance provide. Our external controllers program us to think, feel, and act according to the model they provide. The thinking part of our brain that I label our “freedom organ,” what most call “the cerebral cortex,” is not fully mature until about the age of 18. Like wet clay or putty, we are easily molded in the design prescribed by our nurturers before our brain cells become fully mature.
During the first decades of our maturing, we have been described as a “tabula rasa,” a blank or unwritten on tablet. For example, our nurturers may “wire” us Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, Nazi, democrat, republican, or communist. We are prescribed with the specific language we are to think and speak. If we are programmed for perfectionism and guilt, we are prone to go through life demanding more of ourselves than is reasonable resulting is depression no matter how productive we are. If we are programmed for optimism and problem-solving, we are inspired with chronic enthusiasm to become creators and appreciate ourselves and others. At one extreme, our nurturers may educate us to develop wings and fly off on our own to assume personal responsibility for who we are and what we become. At the other extreme, they may keep our wings so clipped that we are inclined to closely adhere to their indoctrination. In this case becoming one’s own person may require extraordinary effort and risk-taking. Repetition becomes habit. Habit passed on from generation to generation becomes tradition. Tradition, like instinct, is a difficult master to resist.
Do you recognize that our first two masters, instinct and tradition, are dictators? They prescribe who we are and what we are to become. Action not in compliance with the perspective of a dictator’s way is the wrong way. Their demands are supported by the authority of instinct and tradition and commonly lack common sense logic. Nature and our nurturer’s manner of dealing with issues were effective to solve yesterday’s issues. They continue to be effective as most of today’s challenges remain relatively unchanged. However, instinct and tradition’s predetermined solutions have little resilience to solve today’s problems when they are unlike past experience. They are ill suited to deal with new problems such as pollution, global warming, and the depletion of our food supply on land and in the oceans. Instinct and tradition are especially dangerous when applied to the most immediate threat to our loved ones and civilization, the proliferation of weapons of ultimate destruction to tribes who already state it is their intent to use them.
The Story of Us becomes most interesting when we recognize the third switch and its distinct set of wiring. As our freedom organ becomes physically mature we acquire the power to create an original third pattern of wiring. Our human freedom organ is our creator’s unique gift of intelligence. It provides us the opportunity to become self-programmers. By acquiring knowledge and skill in thinking, we become creators! As we discover knowledge, share it, and pass it forward from generation to generation, we make ourselves more powerful creators. In the last 100 years, our explosive growth of knowledge in every direction is enlightening us with such quantum speed that we can envision creating the utopia of our dreams while at the same time we are making widely available our new weapons of self-extinction. No life on earth, past or present, has ever possessed such power and the freedom to determine its destiny as our current generation. True mental freedom includes the opportunity to create alternative actions and choose among them. Creative thought in the service of instinct or tradition or a human dictator is not true mental freedom. Our freedom organ, like the third light switch, empowers us to create increasingly constructive and destructive outcomes. My understanding of Einstein’s insight is that if we choose to survive and thrive, we must wire our freedom organ with the wisdoms that consistently direct our unprecedented creative power to constructive outcomes. We have already created sufficient nuclear weapons on release ready status to destroy the world for human life many times over. We can no longer tolerate the unleashing of our newest biological and nuclear creations. Our work-in-progress is to make ourselves the wise, humane person to which we aspire.
The three wisdoms that follow are extremely important because they explain the process that we become powerful creators and create the newer way of thinking that enables us to continue to make history instead of become history
Summary: Our Three Masters
1. Nature [Instinct/Fate]
2. Our Nurturers [Tradition/Circumstance]
3. Self-mastery [Our mature properly educated cerebral cortex (freedom organ)]
+ 2. Circumstance
+ 3. Freed will power
= Who we are and what we choose to become
Only humankind may attain a significant degree of freedom from what fate and circumstance make of us.
Immature → Mature → Super Mature