Sharing the Path: Politics and Reality

white house

I have often wondered how my background academic educational career in International Relations connects to the part of me that writes books on the body, mindfulness and philosophy. We are used to compartmentalizing different fields and pursuits instead of seeing them as part of a whole. It has only been in light of the recent heightened political climate that I see this more clearly with my own interests. I completed a dual master’s degree in International Relations and Communications back in the 1980’s, which now helps me understand current political circumstances in ways I am grateful. I have also been a news junkie for much of my adult life, though of late this has become quite horrifying. However, as I now write books regarding human behavior, physical reality, mindfulness and free will, I tend to view politics and world events differently than how I was trained.

When considering behavior of various national leaders, it is easy to get caught up in judgment and opinion about how people should and should not act. This is normal political discourse and something we would generally not question. We naturally believe people can act differently than they do, and when they do not, they are bad and wrong. This is the natural thread of understanding morality, especially the way it plays out in government and legal systems. This is the place where the expression of philosophy, science and politics often do not jive. Some would just say there is a time and place for different kinds of discussions: philosophy should be massaged between philosophers at conferences, science thrown around in the lab, politics at cocktail parties and in congressional hallways. But, if in these disciplines we are addressing the same basic actors, human beings, is there a way to find an interdisciplinary overlap?

Current events refer to things happening currently, or, events occurring now. This boils down to individual people in real time: bodies moving about on the surfaces they are on with their particular objects of interaction in relation to their environments. Or, maybe the phrase current events refers to the stories we tell about things happening by and to people. In either case, philosophy, science and politics have their unique explanations for how and why people conduct themselves as they do. I guess it all comes down to reasons. We claim there are reasons why we and others act as we do, and then we judge and blame the behavior. We are really talking about actions. How do they occur and where do they come from? And, once that is distinguished, what can we do about them when they are not to our liking?

It is clear to me that one can only see what she/he is doing after an action has occurred (despite any mental planning that may have passed through that mind). This means there is no way for one to know what she/he will do before the exact time a physical act occurs. This clashes with the way we generally conceive of the word decision. Nevertheless, if one makes a decision to act a certain way, there is no inner way to voluntarily take that decision/intention and put it into action the way it is felt. This is a cognitive illusion, and one that I discuss thoroughly in my books. It is a sense of voluntarily executing an action based on a voluntary mental decision to do something. This is illusory because the mental thought process that reads as a decision occurs involuntarily, as thoughts can only surface spontaneously in a mind. Additionally, we have many thoughts coursing through our mind regularly that pose as potential winners of our decision-making processes, but unless we act accordingly, they were never final decisions. So, thought processes themselves are involuntary and actual actions take place before we have any way of seeing (discovering) what they are going to be. All physical acts are caused by neurophysiological processes behind the scenes (and whatever causes those) that no “I” has control over executing or knowing of in advance (as it is felt).

How does this fit into the way governmental, legal and political activities are generally considered? It doesn’t really. It fits into categories of mindfulness, philosophy or science. But this limitation does not need to be the case. What I am describing are basic truths that can easily be observed by taking a moment to tune into one’s momentary thought process and behavior (physical body and movement in the space one is occupying). There is no person on the planet who has control over her/his decision-making process or execution of action the way it is familiarly perceived and assumed. However, this understanding need not be reserved for science labs, philosophy books or Zen centers. Upon gradual, acquired knowledge (revealed by science), societies have historically integrated changes in various physical understandings into governmental, legal and political discourse. And, the personal awareness I described above doesn’t even require a trained scientist to point out. We can see it for ourselves.

Humans are humans. We are all subject to the same physical laws. This is the interdisciplinary bridge of the aforementioned categories. If each of our bodies are bound by physical laws and do not have the option to act other than they do, that could change the way we view history, politics, law and government. It could affect how we regard and discuss the issues currently at hand. I am simply pointing something out, not advocating a direction per se. The common thread among these various disciplines is the physical organism that is a human being. Whatever individual names or backgrounds they have, they are composed of the same organic materials and processes. I am offering food for thought. We are all being heavily bombarded with horrors and shocks from our current political atmosphere. Government leaders and others are behaving in ways unfamiliar to what we are used to. As a result, there is a lot of pointing, blaming and assuming people can act otherwise. If it were general knowledge that that were not the case, would personal and global conversations be altered? Would we feel differently?

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