Gandhi once gave his grandson, Arun, a talisman that listed seven "blunders" he believed led to violence. They are:
Wealth without work.Pleasure without conscience.Knowledge without character.Commerce without morality.Science without humanity.Religion without sacrifice.Politics without principle.
Just now, as I was trying to figure out which way to go with this, my fingers stopped while I blankly stared off into the coffeeshop-distance, and I realized what it made me think of.
It made me think of life. (Groundbreaking, I know.)
More specifically, it made me think of the lack of emphasis society puts on being good at life.
When I say “being good at life,” I don’t mean having skills or knowing how to make money: I mean being good at understanding oneself and how he or she interacts with the world based on this understanding.
We grow up memorizing facts and figures and dates under the pretense that this is going to prepare us for a future in our capitalistic society. Having knowledge is supposed to help us get a job so we can support a family and pay taxes and become an all-around, working-class American.
If there ever was a “corporate system,” this is it.
Unfortunately, most of us are sucked into this vortex of bullshit because it is how we grew up. Because our parents grew up in it. Because our teachers are in it. And, most importantly, because our peers are in it.
Every so often—at a rate of probably 1% of the time—a renegade emerges that questions the status quo and challenges social mores. This individual asks “why?” It is programmed into her being to need an explanation and understanding of why she is supposed to act, think and do what everyone is telling her to.
She (or he) can’t help needing an explanation. And thus, she ends up being one of these small percent that go their own route, and as a result, often end up changing the world.
I don’t think the enlightened life should only be reserved for the 1%. It should be available to everyone.
The thing is, it is now available thanks to the Internet, but few grasp it because they are still blinded by the vortex that is pop culture, politics, and the consumer reality of their community and family life.
This is why I propose a change.
Our children need to be educated differently. And the rest of us need to wake up and see the truth: that most of what you’ve been fed your whole life is biased-crap. That happiness is not found in a high-paying job or through being famous or rich. That you don’t have to freak-out in traffic. That life can be lived in a way that brings happiness regardless of circumstance.
Let’s start with education. These are my suggestions:
Ideas and questions should rule the classroom, not facts and figures.
Practical philosophy needs to be a required course in every year of schooling, like math or english is.
Sociology and morality should be taught, debated and lead to students asking more and better questions. Problem solving for the actual things that happen in life should be practiced over problem solving some made-up fixed-set problem that will never apply to the real world.
Students should learn to debate constructively and embrace other points of view. They should learn how to challenge their own beliefs instead of holding-fast to their perceived ideas and perceptions. They should not shy away from disagreement, but see it as a constructive, necessary even, path to learning.
The Lying Culture
We have a culture that would rather lie than disagree. That would rather take the easy path than the difficult path.
This is the root of it all.
This “seeking of easy” is why we would rather watch YouTube videos than to read or watch content that challenges us. We would rather say “I’m fine” than tell the truth. We would rather take the safest path that protects us and those around us from unpleasantness. We would rather bottle our feelings up than having an “uncomfortable” conversation.
And on and on and on.
The world has more access to information than ever before yet is becoming more and more segregated. On one side you have the “enlightened”—those that ask themselves hard questions, that seek out what’s difficult, and that thrive in business, relationships, and in their own person happiness. On the other side you have the blind majority that sit in front of their TV or computer in an attempt to entertain their problems away—which is, in m opinion, just a more socially accepted form of addition.
The blind majority rarely tries to understand themselves or the world around them. They don’t ask themselves or those around them hard questions. They are polite liars. And, deep down, they are full of discontent and always searching for the next “fix.” Their fix is found in the multiple forms of pleasure. Basically, they float through life plugged into the Matrix.
So, what is the answer?
Well, I’m not going to pretend I have one, or all of them, but I do think that changing the way our children are educated is a great start. Plus, we all know the education system needs to get with the 21st century.
Schools teach you how to read and write, but do they teach you how to learn? Do they teach you how to problem solve? Do they teach you how to know thyself? Do they teach you how to be happy?
Fundamentally, our schools are not teaching us how to be good at life. And really, shouldn’t that be the ultimate point of education? To be good at life?
I’ve already shared a few ideas I have about what education can do to produce more students that are “good at life,” but there are plenty of people much smarter than me that already address this, so I’ll just leave it at that.
And everyone else?
Maybe you have kids, maybe you are a teenager or maybe you are an adult that is caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Whatever the case is, this is a calling for you to take matters into your own hands and educate yourself. If you won’t take the learning of life into your own hands, no one will.
How to do this?
First, start asking yourself hard and objective questions. Be as honest as you can with yourself, no matter how much it hurts. (In fact, it hurting is a sign you are doing it right.)
Second, start asking others hard and objective questions—and make sure you shut-up and listen.
Third, read the great philosophers.
Four, learn the basics of psychology.
Fifth, learn about our ancestors and how the way they lived plays an integral role in your physical and mental health.
Sixth, slow down and spend more time in the moment. Be mindful, mediate, slow down.
Seventh, take time to think. Take a walk without music, sit outside without a book, and do things in nature without external mental stimulation.
Eighth, be open-minded. Forget everything you think you know. Be like Socrates when he said, “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” This is the ego-separation we all need to live better lives and to truly learn who we are as people.
Finally, go back to the beginning of this piece and reread the list of “blunders” Gandhi observed of mankind. Now try to think about them and how they might apply in your life.