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In his book “The Happiness Hypothesis” Jonathan Haidt uses the metaphor of a rider on the back of an elephant as a way to describe how our lives work. He points to our conscious mind as the rider and our unconscious mind is the elephant. He recognizes we can’t control the elephant we ride by force of will or just thinking and wishing or expecting. He also recognizes that while this is not an effective means to live an intentional life, it is a common mistake in many of our approaches to life. He identifies this as a common reason why we do so many things outside what we would otherwise decide for ourselves.
Destructive addictions, attraction to toxic relationships and losing our temper at inappropriate times are just a few examples of these portions of our lives where we appear to be more “along for the ride” than steering in any intentional, meaningful and purposeful direction. Jon points to learning how to train the elephant as the way to a satisfied life. It is fairly clear that some of us don’t treat our elephants very well much less take the time to build a solid cooperative mutually nourishing relationship with them even though they’re willing to work for peanuts. Peanuts anyone?
How we perceive things as being of use determines their meaning. To a farmer a large rock can mean an obstacle, to a snake it can mean shelter, to a mason or a sculptor the rock can mean raw material. It is the possibilities we envision that breathe meaning into what we see. If we do not see the possibilities, we cannot see the meaning. This is why life has so little value for some, and so much value for others and why these polar opposites are both driven by the winds of possibility once breathed into them and where they now hold the heat or the chill of these projected possibilities… and why apathy is the greatest violence we can possibly perpetrate on each other. Apathy starves us of meaning and can turn once vibrant flesh coursing with nourished blood into still and rotting meat that feeds the grave and turns us into living expressions of that poverty of meaning – even if we never considered what we would have chosen to mean if we had recognized the possibility that we have a choice in what we will allow our lives to be used as a vessel to express.
Posted in Wisdom
Tagged Awareness, cooperative relationships, fulfillment, inspiration, life, Nature, Nonverbal communication, philosophy, Sociology, truth, wisdom