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A losing game or a state of mind

We, humans, take great pride on things we have achieved, battles we have won and things we have created, invented, discovered or built. We tell stories about it, write books, papers, studies, assessments and we give prizes and make monuments. We make revolutions and wars, build empires and then destroy them and create new ones all over again. It’s both fascinating and scary to see human power at work, in “the pursuit of happiness”.

Yes, we have done amazing things. We have surpassed our own imagination, expectations and abilities. But, we have surpassed our imagination also in doing ugly and awful things, things so terrible that even the thought of them makes you sick. Under the same skin lays both the good and the evil, the genius and the monster, the great and the filthy and the worst part is that everyone can be both. That shouldn’t surprise us; just think of the terrible things that go through your mind in a moment of anger or despair, or about your darkest undisclosed desires. Under the right circumstances anyone can become a repulsing beast. It’s only a matter of control and choice. I have mentioned previously the importance of our thoughts and the necessity to train yourself to have control over your own mind. This might sound a little too paranoid but remember that even the most innocent thought can develop to become a dangerous black hole that could trap your mind. The results vary from obsession to depression and even madness. But it’s you who determines which wolf to feed, the good or the bad.

If you put it this way doesn’t seem like a big deal but it’s easier said than done! It is quite easy to speak theoretically about choice and especially based on other people’s experiences. When things happen to other people we try to put ourselves in their shoes, we try to comprehend what happened or what was the cause of that action or reaction and most of the time we “think” that we know or understand. Sometime we fail to understand or see why someone acted in a certain way because we believe that in the same situation we would have acted differently, we would have showed better judgment or we wouldn’t have made the same mistake, all because we see things from outside and we have the time and possibility to evaluate the options. The truth is, we will never know for sure what we would have done if we were in someone else’s shoes.

Prepare to be surprised by yourself. Except for the fact that people are very different from each other, in the way they think, feel and react, in the things they believe, their backgrounds, their previous experiences and in many other things that are crucial in determining human behavior, you will notice that even the same person might not react the same way over the same situation.

Human action is defined by a multitude of factors but thought plays probably the most important role. So, practically, we decide to act one way or another based on our need to do so, our desire to achieve something, on our previous knowledge of the benefits of acting so and experiences of potential consequences of acting or not acting in a certain way. So far, so good. Nothing weird! We have choice. Now, my question is what motivates us to choose something over the other. For some actions it’s quite easy because consequences are pretty obvious and acting one way rather than the other immediately excludes the negative consequences. So, the motivation in this case is the elimination of bad consequences, in other words our general well being. But we know that in the act of choosing what to do we are not always that rational and that there are other “forces” that interfere. Some “forces” that come to my mind are desires, passions and emotions. All of these contribute to our general well being but have both positive and negative effects. They interfere with reasoning and corrupt our way of thinking by manipulating the potential consequences of a certain action. So, based on the amount of each of these ingredients, in different situations, our thinking can lead us to different ways of reaction. In other words, we are not exactly free in the process of choosing.

We need to escape from ourselves, not in the sense that we shouldn’t have any passions or desires, but in the sense that we are aware to what kind of passions we are surrendering ourselves and most importantly where will these passions lead us. We also need to know that if our thoughts start to feed our passions, eventually our passion will take over our thoughts and soon enough our actions. There’s no need to give up our passions, desires or emotions, as long as they are not harmful to us or others. We just need to acknowledge this kind of relationship between reason and passion, in order to be able to choose freely.