He was a respected man, a wisdom keeper of the ancient culture of his people, and a healer. People came from miles around to sit with him, to hear him, to share and discuss. At least that’s the idealized version of what they were doing. Truly, what they were doing, many of them, was interrupting him to orate a story from their lives, to show the room how powerful their knowledge was. They put him on a pedestal not to knock him down but to hoist themselves up. His life story, his perceived power, became part of their monologues and their monologues took over. Soon, no matter how politely he tried to take the floor, he couldn’t steal it back.
Those of us there to hear him were treated to hearing them. When they weren’t telling longwinded tales of their own grandeur, they were barging into his sentences to translate them in terms of what they “knew” he meant. This is what happens when brain people—even from heart cultures—encounter one who stays in heart: their best intentions reveal their selfishness and insecurities all along.
Still, he said he was probably preaching to the choir. Probably everyone already knew what he had to offer, because, “Everyone in this room is a healer.” He said this not ironically, but because practically everyone in the room fancied themselves healers and he took them at their word.
But don’t healers know when to shut up? Don’t healers know the difference between dialoguing with someone and monologuing at someone? Don’t healers understand listening?
Why do we imitate those people we perceive to be powerful or enlightened in some way, like it’s a contest? We know the usual psychological explanations, so let us discover another reason—an impersonal Westernized cultural root for our obvious rudeness: modeling behavior.
We’re taught from birth onward to imitate people who are models for specific roles: father, mother, citizen, authority figure, etc. If we don’t obey authority, we are disciplined. In childhood, we are disciplined by parental figures and teachers, perhaps religious figures, and in adulthood by law and by shunning. This disciplining is supposed to guide us to do the right thing, be a good person, and learn important information, however those are defined. But the act of disciplining comes first and so that, not the reason for the disciplining, is the first learned thing; the intended lesson is secondary. In these ways it is imprinted upon us from the word go to emulate the speaker rather than engage what’s being said.
We are told to strive to be the “best” we can be and so we want to be the authority figure. We take our cues on how much we need to learn to achieve this status from societal forces, such as economics and advertising. Teachers and intellectuals may tell us we need a certain depth of knowledge to be taken seriously, but who listens to them? By and large, not us. Not anymore. For too many of us, our definition of what it means to be a student is relaxed by permission of the collective, which is the externalized expression of our own unconscious desire. In other words, we create external forces that pressure us to pretend we’re great or deserving of greatness and then react to them as if they are separate from us and not coming from us.
How does that work? Let’s see….
Society As Tulpa (1)
Hierarchy demands a top, a middle, and a bottom. Economically, in America, we say there’s an upper class, middle class, and lower class of people. The middle class has been shrinking since the 1980s, so that the perception has shifted to “the have’s and have nots.” The hierarchy is looking more like a pyramid scheme that is mostly base with a tiny spire of a top. With less financial freedom to move in the world and less of a belief in the American Dream of “moving up” in our careers, we move inwardly. But inwardly, the self has little room to move because we have no clue what we are nor what we’re doing. The illusory self is a confused seeker losing freedom. It has little choice but to explode creatively. In a culture that worships caucasian science and does not respect the arts anymore, that creativity is primarily technological. (2)
Avoiding a dark night of the soul, we substitute not leaving our houses for looking inward. We sit in front of computers and televisions and if, god forbid, we have to leave the house, we bring the indoors hypnosis with us in the form of “smart” phones, turning our happy place into a mobile home. (Heck, we’re doing it right now!)
But it doesn’t end there. We are incorporating this track in our personal lives in another way: by shifting the importance of learning to the importance of being a teacher. Not the importance of teaching, for most of us haven’t the expertise to teach our interests. We want the spotlight. We want to be considered powerful, worthy of attention. Everyone’s a master; everyone knows it all. It’s all or nothing, have’s and have nots.
And this is a cover for what we really know: not too much.
(1) A tulpa is a thought that seems to take form and come to life when concentrated on.
(2) In such a world, the arts are treated as mere entertainment, no different than sports. In our racism, this is largely the creative outlet of disenfranchised nonwhites.