As long as anyone believes that his ideal and purpose is outside him, that it is above the clouds, in the past or in the future, he will go outside himself and seek fulfillment where it cannot be found. He will look for solutions and answers at every point except where they can be found–in himself.
– Erich Frohm, social psychologist and psychoanalystSimple. It’s the key to life. It’s the way to learn the purpose of our lives, the mysterious Arc of the Covenant on a personal level. Then why is it so difficult to do?
We humans aren’t built to conform to that model.
We’re a social species, which means that we need each other and we depend on our leaders to give our tribe the best advice. We need someone to tell us what to do.
Interesting. We need each other, yet we teach our children that they should be independent. At the same time we teach them that they should conform, not just to the laws of their country and their community, but to moral codes, religious dogma and sometimes arbitrarily chosen wills and whims.
We teach our kids that they must conform to dress codes in certain environments, then we complain that they choose their own fairly uniform dress code for their school and free time, according to the fashion of the day and of their school.
We teach them that they have free will, then covertly attempt to make them followers of our political, religious and value systems.
As social animals, we must know how to follow our leaders. However, our leaders are no longer selected according to the best fighters in the tribe. Or are they? We follow them, in general, but when we don’t want to follow them we fight more often than we compromise.
As adults, we depend on employers to tell us what to do so that we don’t have to figure out how to earn a living by ourselves. Witness the trauma that some people experience when they lose their jobs. Some don’t even know where to turn, how to pay the next month’s rent, how to go about finding a new job. Although self employment is at an all time high, that’s more because we have a much greater population base than because more people know how to earn a living from their own individual efforts.
Where do we spend our vacations? It’s a well accepted belief among travel agents that their regular clients know more about the sights in distant lands than they do about the beauty and wonders within a day’s drive of their own homes. To learn about what’s great locally would require us to depend on ourselves to find out. To learn about what’s great in some far off land we only need to consult a travel agent or travel program on television. In other words, to let others tell us what’s great far away from home.
We depend on others to tell us what to believe, what to eat, what movies to watch, what to wear, what cars to drive, where to work, even to a great extent how to spend our free time (what little we may have of it).
Virtually every important message in our world, the messages that determine what we do with our daily lives, comes from outside of us. As followers in a social species, we have come to expect that this is how it should be.
We wonder what the meaning of life could be. Then we look to others to tell us, as if they have individual insight that we don’t. This is exactly what the members of all social species of animals do.
Are we nothing more than animals that can walk upright, whisper, think and use language then? We are and will be until we learn to look within ourselves to determine what the meaning of our own life will be and how we will invest the limited time we have in it to the best advantage of ourselves and those closest to us.
Jesus of Nazareth said “The kingdom of Heaven is within you” but very few look for it there. Erich Frohm said that we should look for solutions and answers within ourselves.
As someone who can bear witness to the fact that there are more wonders within ourselves than without, having made that grand discovery myself, I’m giving you the same message. I can show you the path. You must walk it yourself.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the important lessons of life so that they don’t grow up learning the wrong lessons from the wrong people earlier.
Learn more at http://billallin.com