Choices: Make the Right Ones and Avoid Makig the Wrong Ones
By: J. Marlando
Years ago when I worked as an acting coach I was forever reminding the actors to develop characters that make choices. If the stage direction is to “turn up right” the turn must be at least a subtle choosing by the character being portrayed. “If it’s not,” I used to say, “you’re acting and your job is not to act but to be.” In “real” life we make a continuum of choices throughout each timeless moment of every day. Most are inconsequential of course, should I set the coffee cup here or there…should I empty the trash now or later and so forth. When baby cries or the pet pooch yelps we respond immediately and our actions feel like they switch to automatic but we are just making faster decisions. The brain is a marvelous and amazing instrument when it comes to decision making but is it our brain that actually makes the choice or does it simply carries the message to the rest of the body telling it what to do?
We will not spend much time on this topic for the purposes here but let us take at least a moment or two to decide what we actually believe about our mind/brains.
Most of today’s scientists concur that the mind and brain are the same in that the mind is a working component of the physical brain and thus a physical construct. The big-word for this is to say that the mind is an “epiphenomenon” of the brain. This was first determined, incidentally, by a brainy gent by the name of Edward Wilson, a Harvard scientist, in the mid-1970s.
I disagree vehemently!
First of all the assumption that our minds are centered in our brains is almost certainly an egocentric conclusion made by scientists wanting to substantiate their reductionist’s views. The major one being that we are nothing more than the totality of our parts.
For one thing there is just so much evidence today that our consciousness is spread throughout our bodies that only those holding to the old mechanical world view are placing the mind and brain into a single unit. In fact, it is much more reasonable to understand that the mind gives life to the brain instead of it being the other way around. Recall that the light bulb is a dead, useless thing until electricity pours through it giving it light and life so to speak.
This is not to say that the brain isn’t a fascinating piece of hardware. Ever get lost deep in thought while driving and wake up miles and miles later without any recall of how you got there? Well, your brain has taken control during “your absence” and stayed in control until something snapped you back into reality—like a stop sign or a squirrel in the middle of the road. That is, whenever freewill is necessitated. Now that’s a phenomenon to think about!
There is one theory that tells us that the brain’s EM (electromagnetic) field is consciousness itself. We needn’t explore such theories in this article but what is important to grasp is that except for practiced abilities, like riding a bicycle, which the brain records, the brain is merely a transmitter and receiver of instructions—a brilliantly complex transmitter and receiver but a transmitter and receiver nevertheless.
A transmitter or receiver cannot be put into action, however, without a sender and that sender obviously includes…you!
The “you of you”—call it the ghost in the machine, spirit, mind or consciousness but, at bottom line, you are in charge of your decision making. It can be said then that you are the result of your choices no matter what your situation or circumstances—Indeed, you have moved your entire life through freewill.
Bad Choice Making
The subject is the chooser. It is not cogito ergo sum, as Descartes
thought but opto ergo sum: I choose, therefore I am.
The old axiom never stops proving itself true—to error is human. We typically make wrong decisions all along our paths and then, at every fork in the road wonder why we’re not as happy and content that we would like to be.
The truth is that people marry people they don’t love to please parents, to displease parents or just because they are in a hurry to be married. People do all kinds of things that they don’t want to do not excluding building careers they truly don’t want…going places they really don’t want to go…doing all kinds of stuff that they wish they hadn’t done and suffering the consequences for their “bad” decisions sometimes for entire lifetimes!
We all scoff (at least softly) at people who say, “I could ‘ave/should ‘ave” but the truth is that they once could have and probably should have made different decisions than the ones that they made.
Since no one ever does anything that they don’t want to do and if you don’t believe me try it! Even if you force yourself to do something you hate doing, you are still choosing to do it. Indeed, the only time that you are not at the helm of what you do in life is when you are tied down but philosophically even this is questionable.
Even if you have a serious addition for, we’ll say, eating too many sweets—it is not the addiction that decides to reach into the cookie jar, it is you deciding to appease the addiction.
But why are people so prone to making poor decisions when most people, as is said, didn’t just fall off the turnip truck—most folks, poorly educated and highly educated, are endowed with good “working brains” in either case. The uneducated laborer buys cars and a home and often invests and changes his life for the better—my father was such a man, a coal miner who rose above his station in life and, as said, made something of himself. On the other hand, there are highly educated people who make all kinds of poor decisions and fail miserably in their lives. Most people are somewhere in between doing their utmost to do what’s right and overcoming or simply living with, the mistakes that they’ve made along their way.
[As a quick aside, in case you are one of those people who believe they are forever doing thing that they don't want to do--go try and do something that you don't want to do--it's impossible but go on, give it a try, I'll wait]
But how can a person with a mind working in (should we say through) a healthy brain make so many poor or bad decisions along their way…especially the kind of bad choices that show up as “could have been avoided” in their future?
Does the fault really lie with the individual? Well, yes, sometimes…but I am going to let the chooser off the hook for being totally responsible for a great many of his or her bad choices. In fact, I’m going to accuse our culture as being at the root of the problem.
And yes, of course, I am well aware of all those pompous sayings like, “You made your own bed now lie in it” and “we’re all responsible for what we do.” Just remember we are also indoctrinated and even brainwashed into making a great many of our poorest decisions.
A major part of our brainwashing is a false belief in the brain’s ability itself. It is probably safe to say that we’ve all been raised to believe that the little, 3-pound wonder between our ears is the center of our thinking; the seat of our intelligence so to speak. Indeed, we have been taught by our parents, our teachers, by the scientific community and by a stable of our most esteemed scholars that our brains are us and that our brain’s capacity is our capacity to think and so to decide.
It is my intention …to change your mind about all this.
While it is a mere modern myth that our brains can be thought of as extreme computers—there are no computers that can even come close to being brain-capable except in the minds of high-tech radicals—there is, however, one exception: We can say that our brains work somewhat like computer hardware in that it is dependent upon its software. An example I have used before is that when we tell our brains that the rose bush is a thorn bush, our brains believe us and transmit that information…as truth.
What our brains have over computer hardware is that they come equipped with genetic information to keep the body alive in order that consciousness has a physical lifespan. Without our brains we would not breathe or have a blood flow and so on. A great deal of the miracle of life then is brain-power. However, this is a long distance from saying that the brain thinks any more than the computer I’m typing all this on thinks.
The brain probably thinks that it thinks but that is merely egotistic self-aggrandizing because ego is its grand possession. But then again, the ego is, at bottom line, a self-serving survival mechanism.
Now then, let’s talk about the brains as a decision maker:
Most probably you have heard all of your life that you need to “be smart” in all that you do—in romance, in business; in how you make all your choices. And, in order to be smart, you need to avoid emotionalism which means “putting your mind to work.” And, as said, the common assumption has always been that “mind” is in your head. Permit me to give you new realization.
When people in general speak of “mind” they are meaning brain, they even have saying like “use your noggin” or “it takes brains” and so forth. Remembering, however, that the brain’s fundamental job is to self-protect and so it is the brain and not the heart (said to be the seat of the emotions) that is self-serving, desirous and possessive. And, because of these deep-seated motives, it is the brain that delivers jealousy, greed, selfishness, covetousness and other egocentricities. It is our brain that upsets us when we fail to get what we want or don’t get our way; our brain that holds grudges and judges self by others and others by the self; that gives us our sexism and racism and our very arrogance!
The brain is matter after all and so, if you will, it believes itself to be the center of the physical universe. The heart on the other hand is most mindful; a gateway to universal wisdom while, at best, the brain remains a mere storehouse for learned knowledge.
We will talk about the heart next.
Good Choice Making
We cannot venture into the subject of making “good” choices until we expand our knowledge of the heart. And when I speak of the heart, I am not speaking metaphorically but about the actually physical “pump” that virtually sits in the center of our being.
With only a couple of historic exceptions it has nearly always been thought that the brain housed the mind and so the mind’s conscious awareness. More and more physicists and other scientists are agreeing today that consciousness is throughout our bodies while some are even saying that consciousness is outside us as well. For certain there are a lot of brand new concepts when it comes to our humanism. One of those major concepts is that our hearts play an actual role in directly communicating with the brain and, in fact, some are saying that there is a section of the heart with a (small) brain like substance. One far out discovery arrived from heart transplant patients, some of which actually began recalling the donor’s memories, food preferences and feelings about the world and others. There have been many pros and cons on this observation however but nevertheless, researchers began offering the idea of a functional heart/brain as early as 1994.
Even the most ancient cultures have assumed that the heart was the seat of emotions because we most “feel” our pain and pleasures there. That is, when we feel deep grief or loss we even call it being “broken hearted.” Also, when we feel extreme enthusiasm or strongly in favor of an issue we are apt to say that, “we feel it in our hearts.”
While this is not the narrative to go much deeper into the heart/brain connection it is said that the heart communicates through the nervous system…pulse wave….hormones…and EM (electromagnetic field). It is also said, incidentally, that the heart’s magnetic component is hundreds, even thousands of times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and that it can be detected a number of feet away from the body. (This may well explain why people who are very sensitive to the hearts magnetic field can make judgment values on folks they don’t know—they might say that person is not trustworthy or is devious, very kind, honest, etc., I just know (sense/feel) that he or she is a good or evil person. Might this be a person's heart’s magnetic field receiving the invisible vibrations from another?
With the above in mind we can do some speculating ourselves. For example if it is true as I say that it is, it is the brain-mind that is petty and selfish; that becomes the jealous old woman. The greedy male predator and avenger and so forth! If it is true and that it is the human brain-mind that is the emotional trickster, what then does the “thinking” heart do?
After years of contemplating these kinds of questions, I am convinced that it is the heart that is connected to universal mind (call it consciousness) while the brain/mind is localized and individualistic. That is, for lack of a better way of explaining it, the heart/mind is tapped into omniscience, which is wisdom operating out of empathy for others while the brain/mind is operating out of self-serving motives.
And so, if a person stands at a fork in the road between say doing the right thing and the wrong this and the heart is saying go right and the brain is saying left there is dilemma. The brain however can overcome the heart’s desire easily through justification—I wouldn’t steal but people have been taking from me all my life so it’s my turn…I wouldn’t cheat except, heck, everybody else does…Why should I give that fellow on the street any help, he’s probably got more money stashed away than I do…
In other words when we make wrong choices we have used our “free will” to close off our hearts. Indeed, over the years I have had opportunities to work, as a writer, with real psychopaths. Human beings who have murdered other human beings without regret or remorse; who have done what can only be called evil acts. How can this be? Something in common with the men I’ve worked with is that they all had truly cruel and neglectful childhoods and I suspected that they turned off (or closed down) their hearts to survive the terrible conditions of their lives. (In fact, I have been thinking for years to attempt writing a book with title, “The Making of the Sociopath” since it is not only convicts and killers who endure the malady. After all, the psychopath can be businesspersons, policemen, ministers, school teachers, doctors or the guy or gal next door. Being cut off from one’s own empathy and compassion, understanding and caring for other living things is not exclusively a condition of only serious law breakers but can belong to anyone; anyone who has closed themselves off from their own hearts!
With the above aside, how many times in your life have you said or heard someone else say, if only I’d followed my heart…I wouldn’t be in this jam, this situation, this fix and so forth?
Invariably when we do NOT listen to our hearts, we make poor or bad choices—stop and think about it. How many times have you “felt” that your heart was arguing with your brain before you made some choice? Indeed, how many times have you justified fulfilling some selfish desire by telling yourself that you’re doing the wrong thing for the right reason—stop and think about it.
And so when we say that the “heart” knows best we have both metaphysics and science on our side based on the most current research! Science, by and large, remains skeptical of course since science is clearly brain-driven and not heartfelt. Nevertheless, that the heart is much more than a tireless pump is no longer a consideration even by the most devout skeptic. We are slowly learning that our connectedness to the universe is far more tightly weaved than ever thought before and that we are far more than we think we are is all but a given and this not only implies to our own species.
When we talk about making the right decisions in our lives this can be demonstrated by the pet pooches that have found their ways home after being left or lost hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Indeed, I remember some years ago reading an article about a dog that got out of his owner’s car somewhere back east and was left behind after a frantic search for him by his owners. His owners lived in Kansas or Colorado, I don’t recall which.
Anyway, the owners drove home hating to have left the lost dog behind, especially in the traffic and cold-heartedness of the big city. And so, they drove the 1000 miles or so and when they got home had a good cry over their pooch but then went back to their normal life.
The dog, however, wanted to be home too so he started out on an incredible journey to find his way home.
The dog traveled through sunshine and rain, through hot weather and cold. He had no map and as far as scent, that could not be serving him—after all, his owners had traveled busy freeways and highways; a thousand…perhaps a million cars had been on those roads between the time his owners had left the city and he had begun his trek home.
The winter passed and then one spring day, the wife being at home happen to look out her window and there was Rusty, her dog, come home; he looked ragged and exhausted but there he was not ten feet outside the kitchen door.
The reunion is impossible to describe—there were tears and love and when the woman’s husband came home the same emotional gladness was repeated. Such a unique happy ending! The question, however, is how did that faithful, old pooch travel all those miles to find his house and his yard over a thousand miles away—even common sense tells us that his journey would be likened to looking for a needle in a haystack. Yet, he made it home…but how?
This mysterious ability demonstrated by pets—certainly there has been a great many reported than the one I just shared—has baffled scientists and researchers for years. It has been said that migrating birds use the magnitude and direction of weak magnetic fields but the problem with this is that magnetic fields do not necessarily stay constant especially since power lines and so forth also produce electromagnetic fields as does the earth itself. But even as miraculous as this phenomenon is for our feathered friends being able to navigate for thousands of miles using the EM fields of earth and energy fields of mountains this is far from explaining how a dog, driven for hundreds of miles inside a car can get lost in a strange environment and somehow finds his way home through all kinds of terrain from cities to long stretches of farm land, hills and valleys, etc. However researchers Vincent and Margaret Gaddis have made a daring suggestion to explain this and I certainly see merit in what they say. They say that animals follow a “directional beam of love, a magnet of the heart.”
When we follow our hearts we simply never get lost and always make the right choices to get to where we truly want to be.
I believe we all have, so to speak, a “magnet” of the heart in that it is our hearts that give us attraction or repulsion to what we desire and/or decide to do. And, unless we have closed the pathways of our hearts for one reason or another, our hearts are forever whispering to us which direction to go in. Remember it is our brains that are emotional and self-serving and so they can be irrational telling us to throw the rock or tell the lie or do some other wrong…Yet, at the same time, it is our heart that remains wise and consistent telling us always to do the loving and kind thing.
We spend our entire life standing at one fork in the road after another: The brain-mind will always take the easiest path which is not always the wisest or most rewarding. As a result we often end up saying things such as, life just never gives me a break…if it weren’t for bad luck I’d have none at all…I just never get what I want and so forth. In this regard, it is never the world that has landed us in hot water or unhappiness. It is invariably where our own choices have taken us.
And so, the next time you are at some crossroads in your life open yourself to your own heart and, beyond all else…listen.