The journey of life is really about living into our authentic selves. The first big gotcha is to hide that fact from us, to enculturate us in ways that foster the interests of society as a whole or of an elite few, while organizing the rest of us to conform and thereby consume. And that’s exactly what most of us do — consume more information (and more goodies!) and in doing so separate ourselves from our real selves.
I once enjoyed a wonderful lecture from Professor Carl LaPrecht. In the lecture he spoke of the four human drives, what he referred to as the four Fs: Fight, Flight, Feeding, and F*king. The students he was addressing were members of law enforcement, so the f*king in place of fornicating got a big laugh. I have never forgotten the four Fs in this context, because at the time I was working on a paper having to do with why there was so much interest it getting more — more money, more power, more time, more, more, more!
I consider the “more” to be a modern human adaptation, or fifth force, forming yet another human drive. Perhaps we have, as a species, always had a “more” drive, but if so, I am quite confident that never in humanity’s history has it exerted such a powerful influence as that we witness today.
I remember a conversation with a friend years ago about our economy and cash flow. We happened to be at a home show, where we had a team of salespeople at a booth offering security devices. There were many displays within the tent, and when you looked around, you could see an air pump in the corner literally keeping the tent up. My friend directed my attention to the pump and informed me that cash flow was like the pump. Lose the cash, and the tent will come down.
Consumption has become the air in the tent for our economy. Most of this consumption must now come from the private sector, and that means you. Advertisers are charged with motivating you to buy. Marketing experts develop more and more products and services, and banks create credit power so you can just “charge it. ” Individual debt increases, national debt increases, more money is printed, and we are told that more consumption is needed to pay back the interest on the debt and perhaps the debt itself.
It is this circularity, to which more and more individuals give their life, that diminishes who we are as human beings. Immanuel Kant, the great Prussian philosopher who has been credited with making philosophy professional, considered the human condition in a way similar to what Copernicus’s thinking about the solar system. Copernicus observed the solar system and concluded that Ptolemy’s idea of an earthcentric solar system made no sense, but with the sun at the center, the observations did make sense. Kant did something like this with human beings. He placed consciousness — the mind of man, mankind itself — in the center of his inquiry, and ever since, the individual rights of mankind have been central rather than peripheral. No longer was mankind seen as tangential to meaning; rather, mankind was seen as central to the meaning of everything!
One of Kant’s central messages and challenges that is as relevant today as ever, is “Dare to know. ” Modernity has placed an emphasis on our individual rights and freedoms, and this can arguably be traced to the works of Kant. As consumption animals, eager to ring yet another bell and gain another token or prize, anxious that we may miss out on the next big deal or the last one, so anxious that we will indebt ourselves for years to have something we quickly forget we ever needed — as consumption animals, gathering things that when we look around we see no reason to keep, we lose our freedom because we surrender our true identity.
I urge you to think back to who you were before you told who should be.
Thanks for the read,
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions