The Two Sentences That Determine Our Destiny
Dear World Peace Leader,
Welcome to letter 3 of the mini-course on How to Become a Powerful Force For World Peace and a Mental Wealth Millionaire. Today’s wisdom reveals the single most important action critical to allowing our loved ones to survive and thrive. The actual task is quite easy; the will to proceed is not. Simply replace sentence “A” with sentence “B”; substitute “both...and” for the either/or two-category way of thinking that is currently more prevalent. Sentence A biases us towards destructive aggression. Instinct and tradition hardwire either/or thinking into every native language. Sentence B is a newer way of thinking (ANWOT) that we must initiate to create world peace and a wonderful life experience. The preferred, newer way of thinking is our work-in-progress to make common sense common. We have created a new era in history. Multiple tribes will soon have weapons with ultimate destructive power. As we popularize Einstein’s ANWOT solution to prevent imminent catastrophe, we increase the likelihood that we will survive and thrive. Working together, we will be unstoppable.
Sentence “A” characterizes our prevalent two-category either/or way of thinking:
“Our tribe’s way is superior and punishment, even murder, is justified for any person(s) not of my tribe.” Abbreviated: “My way, the right way!”
Given the present proliferation of our newest weapons, this outdated belief is leading to our self-annihilation; it threatens our loved ones and all of humanity. Our generation has already created sufficient nuclear destructive power to end humanity 10 times over, has put it on 24/7 ready release status, and has installed triggers that allow the word of one person or a mechanical error to release its fury by a single act.
Sentence “B” conveys our both...and preferred newer way of common sense thinking:
“Given any situation, what is most likely to benefit us and them, for now and the future?”
Sentence A is the manner of thinking we all first learn and habitually maintain. Either/or thinking limits the processing of data to two conflicting categories: either good or evil; us or them; safe or dangerous; right or wrong; O.K. or not O.K.; win or lose; on and on. If my way, my family, my team, my values, my religion, and my flag are good, right, and just, then what is not me or not us is bad, wrong, evil, lacks respect, and may be deserving of harm. Either/or thinking characteristically emphasizes differences and effectively filters out our similarities. It assigns all “good” to one side and all “bad” to anyone or anything “not our side.”
Our history is defined by its destructive aggression fought for “good” against “evil.” During war, “our” side is all-deserving while “not our side” is evil, demonized, sub-human and therefore O.K. to treat without regard. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” A superior being or ideology is often depicted by all parties as favoring “our side.” Religions engage in harmful conflict on the basis of either/or thinking even though the areas of agreement are huge and areas of disagreement are so limited. Either/or thinking supports harmful ongoing confrontation even within the same religion. Ditto for ideologies such a democracy, socialism, and communism. For example, we now witness Democrats and Republicans automatically opposed irrespective of the logical merits of any issue. The ubiquitous conflict we see among tribes of every sort is easily explained as the outcome of remaining stuck in the either/or dichotomous thinking dictated by instinct and current tradition. Either/or thinking is the root cause of bigotry, prejudice, and harmful confrontation.
On an individual rather than a tribal basis, immature either/or thinking leads to the self-serving sentence, “My needs are important; others are not.” Our innate drive for physical superiority is modified in contemporary society to include insatiable pursuit of the symbols of power and dominance: these include money, status, immortality, and “rightness.” Whereas animals are satisfied with enough, humankind expands need to greed. No matter how much wealth some individuals achieve, enough is not enough. Emotion overrules common sense intelligence as we observe Mr. Madoff and his many equivalents who choose to enrich themselves without regard for the consequences to others.
Until we change our either/or way of thinking, this root cause of destructive aggression will persist. Tribes will continue to seek to dominate other tribes. A “tribe” may consist of any political, religious, ethnic, or geographic group joined in a common interest. Individuals will continue to be guided by greed and speed instead of wise creeds and good deeds. Either/or thinking demands that individuals maintain allegiance to local priorities. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to multiple tribes is the most imminent threat to our loved ones and humanity. The shrinking world that makes everyone our neighbor now requires that we become citizens of the global community and contribute to its well-being.
Humankind differs from all other earth creatures by the degree to which we make ourselves powerful creators. We manage not only our own destiny; our generation has assumed responsibility for all that is about us, including Mother Earth. Our sophisticated cerebral cortex, what I call our freedom organ, creates language, mentally manipulates symbols to imagine original phenomenon, and applies will power to change the world we all share. While our creative power provides multiple benefits, misdirected knowledge adds new problems such as pollution, global warming, overpopulation, and weapons with ultimate destructive power.
The persistence of the “either/or” way of thinking that we all learn during our immature years creates the most important dangerous creed that threatens our survival. Either/or thinking divides the world’s tribes into opposing forces, each with a mission to dominate the non-members who also have, or will soon have the power of ultimate destructive weapons. Instinct’ssurvival of the fittest and fight or flight perspective and tradition’s repeated use of force through intimidation and war are more likely to result in destruction of the fittest instead of survival of the fittest. When we put the test of common sense to instinct and tradition’s hardwired solutions to new problems, we recognize theirtransparent foolishness.
Each of us first learn to process data into two either/or categories because neither we nor our nurturers have a choice. During our prolonged immaturity we lack the knowledge and common sense wisdom to survive. We require predetermined mindless behaviors dictated by authority to sustain us through our years of helplessness. To free ourselves from our first masters, which I label instinct and tradition, we must first attain sufficient physical and mental maturity, sophisticated use of language, self-worth, and common sense wisdom. Others may prefer to label the creative forces that first control us nature and nurture,fate and circumstance, or God.
Instinct includes the survival of the fittest and fight or flight trial-and-error behaviors that were adaptive to the demands of the savage environments our early ancestors faced. Instinct is hardwired into our biology at birth. Tradition also consists of the behaviors that worked for our ancestors, but unlike innate instinct, our nurturers hardwire us with tradition after birth. Through repetition, our nurturer’s ways become habit. Habit passed forward from generation to generation becomes tradition. Instinct and tradition hardwire our thinking pathways before we are sufficiently mature to resist, before we can assume personal direction of our life’s experience. Our intelligent freedom organ is not fully physically mature until about the age of 18. Studies of adult development indicate most people don’t acquire significant mental freedom from instinct and tradition, i.e. self-mastery,until their late twenties or early thirties - some later; others never. Until we teach ourselves competence in common sense interpretations, the way we think remains stuck in the two-category either/or thinking prescribed by dictators. We remain servants to instinct, tradition, and human dictators.
Instinct and tradition provide us the protection and the direction we require to progress to the stage of maturity. Becoming our own person, what we call self-mastery, is a gradual process. Instinct and tradition consists of the rules of living that have allowed us to remain among the 2-3% of species that have not become extinct. We benefit from the trial-and-error successes and mistakes of our ancestors. Those who survive gladly pass forward for our benefit the actions that have proven successful. The action pathways hardwired by instinct and tradition provide us quick and relatively effortless automatic responses proven to manage emergency confrontations. They are the mindless behaviors that direct us on how to survive established dangers. Hardwired action pathways are powerful because they are programmed with emotion.
Let’s keep in mind the fatal shortcoming of the action patterns we passively acquire from the first masters of our thinking. Instinct and tradition direct us to effectively manage yesterday’s issues using yesterday’s level of knowledge. Unfortunately, yesterday’s solutions may no longer work for today’s problems. Our work-in-progress is to selectively replace action patterns that no longer work or have become dangerous with common sense solutions using today’s knowledge and wisdom.
We are, by nature’s design, prone to distort events toward the negative; there is no corresponding inherited tendency to think optimistically. The earliest function of conscious awareness (consciousness), in animals and humans, is to protect us from danger by anticipating any source of harm. Our primitive innate consciousness is programmed from birth to seek what we need and to avoid what is dangerous - our inherited “survival of the fittest” and “fight or flight” instincts.
The concerns of early thoughts are generally physical needs, such as food, warmth, and providing for our life and safety. These innate self-preservation behaviors direct us to focus on “the empty part of the glass.” Anticipating the worst (worry) and remaining in a red alert state are life-preserving in a savage environment. We preoccupy ourselves with the aggressors that may cause harm. We are prone to get stuck in such negative thinking. Humor is a relatively recent human invention that many contemporaries scarcely engage in. Animals are not known for laughter, and I have read that primitive humankind did not laugh at all. Ditto for “optimism.” How often have you heard someone say “I was worrying” (anticipating the worst), as compared to “I was optimizing” (anticipating the best)?
Traditionhas established symbols with assigned meanings that promote the self-serving interests of dictators, claims that are not supported by knowledge or logic, and that threaten to lead to harmful aggression. For example, through history, tradition commonly asserts that God (or many gods) is a personal advocate of our tribe’s views, labels “the other side” as evil, will magically punish those who disagree, and grants our side permission to punish, even kill those whose views differ. Our most urgent need is to unite our problem-solving energy to discredit one dangerous belief: “My way; the only way!” “Our side is superior and punishment, even murder, is justified for non-members.” A newer way of thinking focuses on our commonalities and shared interests more than our differences.
Our education to curb physical aggression often leads to the use of mental aggression to symbolically assert superiority. We acquire skills in blaming, dominating in competition, being right, owning better “toys,” elevating ourselves by demeaning others, and so on. We are expected to “succeed” at a high level. When we don’t meet the expectations of “others,” or be as good or nice as we “should,” we verbally attack ourselves quite skillfully. This human invention is called “guilt.” In my observation, we commonly become “our own worst enemy.” We demean and criticize ourselves. We engage in self-putdowns like no other creature. We attack ourselves with words and thoughts, make ourselves depressed, and may even do physical harm to ourselves. In the extreme, we call this “murdering oneself” or “suicide.” Perfectionists tend to make themselves especially miserable, with most developing advanced skills in self-blame. The expected and observed outcome is anxiety, worry, depression, apathy, and related attributes of a difficult life experience.
Sentence B is the universal “magical” problem-solving sentence. It turns-oncommon sense action pathways that are most certain to lead to constructive outcomes. While not actually “magic,” it works so effectively that it seems like magic.
Learn and regularly apply this simple sentence that conveys our preferred way of thinking:
Given this situation, what is most likely to make things better for me AND you (or us and them), for now AND the future?
Let’s now explain why B, the “both...and” sentence, is the mature means of processing information. Einstein told us the one most certain way to prevent catastrophe and elevate ourselves to become the humane individuals to which we aspire:
“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our modes of thinking.... a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.”
Sentence B, the problem-solving newer way of thinking sentence, is universally effective because it corrects the two most common causes of resentment and harmful confrontation. First, it emphasizes a “win/win” outcome in which all parties walk away with a sense of accomplishment. Instinct and our dominant tradition emphasize that I or we must “win,” irrespective of the harm to “not me or not us.”
The second important wisdom contained in this problem-solving sentence is envisioning the long-term outcome of today’s action. We are naturally impatient. Our early way of thinking focuses on short-term gain at the cost of long-term pain.
The first and most important step is substituting mature “both...and” processing of information for our established “either/or” way of thinking. Both...and thinking switches our mental action pathways to apply the universal rules of logic to create effective solutions to today’s issues. Our work-in-progress is to make common sense thinking common.
Both...and thinking, by switching or to and, recognizes the positives and the negatives of each alternative choice, both right and wrong, good and bad, mine and yours, and the shared interests of us and them. Both...and thinking focuses on our similarities and the power of collaboration. It promotes tolerance and common sense problem-solving. Both...and recognizes common interests, values, and goals; it promotes cooperation for mutual gain. It replaces the either/or thinking characteristic of immaturity that limits our perception to two opposing extremes.
Both...and switches our thinking from dependence on authority to supply the “correct” action pathways to self-initiated common sense problem-solving. Perception is focused on our similarities more than our differences for a very logical reason: common sense tells us we are far more alike than different! The power of collaboration replaces our instinctive competitive need to rule others with authority. Either/or thinking commonly lacks rational explanation and is often supported only by the authority of a dictator. Dictators usually offer what is purported to be common sense justification for their claim of absolute correctness. However, when viewed by non-tribe members, their transparent self-serving motives for power, greed, and the like rarely pass the test of universal common sense. Dictators, driven by mindless emotions, usually refuse to consider common sense logic.
Use this example to keep in mind how both...and differs from either/or thinking. When we look at the menu of a restaurant we find multiple choices that can be enjoyed; one is not “all” right and all the others are not “all” wrong. The real world presents us with choices that have pluses and minuses on each side. It is more appropriate that we emphasize making our choice “right” instead of obsessing over the “right” choice. The great attraction of the immature either/or thinking of dictators is that life’s challenges are relatively effortless and stress-free when the “right choice” has been clearly defined. It matters little that the outcome may be catastrophic if, at the moment, we believe at we are doing the “right” thing.
The both...and “B” sentence is effective because it switches thinking away from mindless obedience to authority to seeking common sense solutions to new problems. Like a searchlight, common sense thinking reveals and selectively censors established action pathways that are no longer effective or have become dangerous. Common sense solutions are universal, accessible by all tribes, and validated by consensus. Common sense wisdom doesn’t favor one side at the expense of another.
The “magical” problem-solving sentence gets consistent results because it works without ascribing blame. It shuts down the most common mental response that gets us into difficulty, what I call the “blaming” response. Once you know the blaming formula, it is easy to recognize. It goes as follows:
He (she, they, it, I, God, etc.) did what he shouldn’t have done (didn’t do what he should have done) and therefore deserves punishment.
Blaming others or blaming ourselves, what we call “guilt,” is a non-productive skill that becomes habitual in our way of thinking very early. As we regularly use the universal problem-solving sentence, we say goodbye to blaming and guilt. Good riddance! Regular use of the universal problem-solving sentence will replace other common action pathways imbedded in our mind that are no longer productive. These include procrastination, avoidance, apathy, depression, substance abuse, worry, phobic anxiety, and stress-related physical pain. Consistent use of the “magical” Problem-solving and Self-endorsementword-switches (described in letter #6) will cause the negative mental response pathways to atrophy from disuse.
ANWOT, unlike instinct and tradition, requires active self-education of multiple universal common sense wisdoms; each wisdom strengthens our ability to create better action pathways to manage new knowledge. Instinct and tradition bias us to dwell on what has been lost, what we lack now, and what we may not attain in the future. Our primitive either/or thinking has limited creative capacity. As we free our thinking from dictators to initiate original common sense actions, we can teach ourselves human skills such as appreciation, gratitude, optimism, enthusiasm, and love. If we have not been fortunate enough to have been taught these skills by our nurturers, we may now teach our self.
Mature human consciousness need no longer be dominated by the survival needs of our physical self. Language allows us to scan past, present, and future time, and deal with reality through mental rehearsal (thinking). We are capable of developing our own personal, creative, problem-solving action patterns. Our human consciousness may readily be taught to emphasize past positive accomplishments, present achievements and acquisitions, and goals yet to come so that we may generate appreciation and positive feelings now. We no long need to remain dominated by the rules of our innate, automatic dictators, and the acquired patterns of blaming others and ourselves. The ability to keep the positive in focus and not to simply dwell on the negative, on what is missing in our life, is a basic skill for maintaining positive feelings. To make misery, simply dwell on what you have lost, don’t have now, or may not get. Teach yourself to focus on what you have achieved, have now, and can yet accomplish. Wow! That is the wise choice available to each of us.
Don’t overlook this critical insight. Both...and processing of information emphasizes mental rehearsal to anticipate multiple alternative future consequences of actions before choosing among action possibilities. This is the basis of prevention, and we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! This is especially true when there may not be a cure available. Unleashing our weapons of ultimate destructive power offers no second chance.
IN SUMMARY: Negative anticipation and bias towards harmful confrontation are strongly biological. The mandatory either/or thinking, that becomes tradition through the years when we are immature and unequipped with common sense, requires that we uncritically accept direction by authority. Two-category processing of data is the source of bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance. It emphasizes our differences and the need to resolve them through harmful confrontation. Maturity provides us the opportunity to switch either/or to a newer way of both...and thinking. ANWOT is our means to redirect the action pathways hardwired by instinct and habit to mature problem-solving using universal common sense wisdom. It emancipates us from childhood dependency to assume responsibility for who we are and what we become.
As we proliferate our new weapons, the tick, tick, ticking of the doomsday clock gets louder. The more we substitute both...and for either/or thinking, the slower the ticking. Our efforts to elevate ourselves, humanity, and civilization are among the best investments we can make. Can you think of a more worthy mission and meaningful purpose for our existence? Working together we can stop and even reverse the doomsday clock. The alternatives are far less inviting.
Letter number 4 will identify the short list of concepts that inspire us to create World Peace and become a Mental Wealth Millionaire. Thereafter you will be provided the specific proven wisdoms that can make anyone a wise powerful creator of their own destiny.