Listen to this page being read:
We all make choices every day, and every one of them is made for the same reason: because we believe, at the moment of choice, that the alternative we choose will bring us more of what we want, and less of what we don’t want, than any other option. This is true even when that belief is entirely misplaced, and the choice leaves us either disappointed, or even destroyed.
But none of us is born with the beliefs that form the basis of our choices. To create a system of beliefs we need help. This help usually comes from parents and family. It also gets contributions from neighbors, friends, teachers, clergy, the media, and anyone and anything else we take the least bit seriously. Our beliefs don’t all come in the form of overt lessons that tell us to believe this or that. They often come from our own conclusions (based on our existing beliefs) as to how we should interpret our life experiences.
As our lives progress, we form models in our minds of who we and other people are and how things work. We form these models around the beliefs we hold. When we see a decision coming, we take our best estimate of the status quo and feed it to the mental model that most closely fits the situation, and the model informs us what our options are and what we should expect if we choose each of them. We then choose the option that seems most beneficial.
This approach works pretty well, provided our beliefs about life, the universe, and everything conform reasonably well to the way things actually are. This allows us to create mental models that predict outcomes with a fair degree of accuracy most of the time.
But when we hold beliefs that do not provide a valid picture of our own true nature, or that of other people, or of the world and universe at large, we can’t help but create models that are flawed. And flawed models inform us of outcomes of choice and action that bear little or no resemblance to what actually happens.
We all hold erroneous beliefs, and we use them to build models that are flawed, and those models misinform us such that we make choices that turn out very differently than we expected. Hopefully, these cases represent a fairly minor portion of the decision making part of our lives.
Some people, however, have been badly misinformed. They have been taught systems of beliefs that, for one reason or another, are badly flawed. This in turn leaves them little choice but to create mental models that are at least as damaged as the beliefs they used to create them. And in the end, they make one decision after another that they believe will be to their benefit, but that turn out to have unexpected and painfully disappointing results.
Why does this matter? It is shockingly simple. Because every person who commits an act of violence, or vandalism, or senseless destruction, or just plain meanness does so because their models have told them that it is their smart move, even though it isn’t. What’s more, they often keep making the same choices in the same situations over and over again until it either kills them, or something else does.
Case in point: suicide bombers. Imagine what you would have to believe about yourself and life in general that would convince you to strap explosives to your body, walk into a place filled with complete strangers who have never done you any harm, and detonate the bomb, killing yourself and as many others as you can. What would you have to believe to persuade you that this action was a stroke of genius? What would have to happen in your life to cause you to adopt such a belief system? Who would have jammed those beliefs down your mental throat until there was nothing left that could oppose them? How would they have to have gone about it? For how long? And why? What must their beliefs have had to be to inform them that brainwashing you in such a way was to their benefit?
These are the questions that never get asked. It is so much simpler to just say, “Kill the bastards!!” But that changes nothing, except to make things worse. Yet the overwhelming majority of people have come to believe that fighting fire with fire is a tactic that is in their own best interest. Well, it’s not. Not now. Not ever. And it seems to somehow remain invisible to almost everyone.
The only way to put an end to this kind of insanity is to find out how people acquire a belief system that leaves them little choice but to do the things we all know are self-destructive, and change it! Or better yet, prevent it! Nothing else will work. It can’t, because it completely disregards the actual process it proposes to change.
So let’s quit kidding ourselves. Killing murderers has never stopped murder. Preventing people from adopting beliefs that give them little choice but to murder is the only thing that will end murder. The same is true of all forms of violence, physical or otherwise. It is also true of the worship of competition over cooperation, of contempt over empathy, meanness over kindness, greed over generosity. We see these things every day, and they are all examples of people who have adopted beliefs that give them little or no option but to make the choices they do.
But what can we do to create such changes? How can we influence people to abandon beliefs that they hold dear, no matter how self-destructive those beliefs may be? What should people replace these beliefs with, and why? Where can we begin to answer these difficult questions?
These are the only questions worth answering, because once answered, and answered well, they provide us with a map to global transformation that humanity has been wanting for millennia, but didn’t know how to achieve.
We have tried countless other approaches, and look where they have led us. The reason why all of our attempts to create the peaceful, prosperous, and healthy world we say we want have failed is because our own beliefs, and the models they spawn, are themselves flawed.
We think we understand our own natures, and the natures of others, of our world, of our universe, but we don’t. Yes, we’ve got some of it dialed in pretty well. You don’t put men on the Moon without understanding anything. But when it comes to understanding human life, we have been far less successful.
So it is with ourselves that we must begin to weed the garden of our own beliefs, to pluck out those that do not serve us, and to plant new beliefs that will serve us well. Then we can pass what we have learned on to others who need the same kinds of changes, perhaps even worse than we do.
The next question is how to do this, for ourselves, and for the rest of humanity? Fortunately, we don’t need to do a massive brainwashing. We don’t need to kidnap children and drill our dogma into them. What we need to do is to find ways to appeal to the knowledge that lies within us all, the knowing that we are all born with, but that has been overwhelmed, the knowledge that informs us what is really true and what is not. We need only to draw that inner knowing to the surface and allow it to bring forth the needed changes.
And that is the strategy I believe is humanity’s best hope to transform our world. The question still remains, how does one go about accomplishing such a daunting task? In all honesty, I don’t know. But I do know where to start. In fact, the document you are reading at this very moment is part of that beginning. And I know what some of the next steps are, too.
As long as you know where you hope to go, and what your next step is, you do not need to know in advance all of the steps in between. So what are the next steps?
In broad strokes, it begins with you, if you’re willing—you and a few friends you may not even know yet. Together we will set an agenda for the next steps, which we will then take, and those will lead to the next ones.
So ask yourself, “Does this point of view make sense to me? Does it all really boil down to beliefs held by individual people? And can a change in those beliefs really change the world? Can the beliefs themselves really change?”
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then the only question left is whether you care enough to take action yourself. If you think that you might be willing, then join us in one or more of the open forums that are on the horizon. In them we will conspire together to create a path that we can believe will lead us forward to the world we all want. If you want to take that step, follow the instructions at the end of this document.
If you don’t feel drawn in this direction, or not at this time, then that is fine, too. No one wants to drag you into something you’re not fully behind. That would be the polar opposite of what this is all about. Maybe later you will change your mind, maybe never. That, like everything else, is entirely up to you.
- To learn more about the approach we intend to use to accomplish our mission, look here.
- To read a short paper on the path to global sanity, click here.
- This page contains nearly two dozen resources that will deepen your understanding of what the World Sanity Project is really about.
For those who do want to take at least one more step, you can join the party by submitting the form below. It will put you on our list to receive updates about scheduled events and more information as it becomes available. It will also give you email contact by which to make comments or suggestions.
Meanwhile, be well, and be always inspired. 🙂