Repeat after me, I am the water not the fish. On a daily basis however, I live my life like a fish. Oh how precious are my thoughts. Because they’re mine! And oh how very special they are. I hunt for more examples of ingrained thoughts, values, perceptions, and systems to sustain them.
Never mind they’ve been given to me by somebody else. Never mind I heard them on Fox News, MSNBC, read them in the New York Times, Newsmax, the Atlantic, it almost doesn’t matter, from whence they came.
But of course it does!
We are all programmed. We come into this world as a blank slate, the water as consciousness, hardware waiting to be programmed, ripe for being written on or formed by parents, by extended family, by society small and large. It gives structure and form to our lives, it provides direction impulses, goals, satisfaction, and pleasures. It can be benign, or odious. In short order we identify as a fish, which is to say, a physical being with a mishmash of content.
Where does it go wrong? As a little girl I went to school and learned many things. I learned about information, some real, some distorted, through no conscious fault of my own, nor my teachers or parents because they learned it before I, from someone and somewhere else. But more than anything I learned a set of rules, guided by how I was taught to perceive, on how to live and how to survive second, third, fourth grades, etc.
And The Hits Just Keep Coming.
I learned how to sit still, clean my plate after each meal, praying beforehand for where that came from. (I was hoping for more at the next meal, in secret, particularly candy!) I learned about comfort and I learned about denial of that comfort. I learned how to tie my shoes, button my shirt, walk straight ahead, finish my lessons.
As I grew, I learned how to absorb information around me, putting it into little cubicles of the mind for later retrieval when necessary. I learned how to tell the truth, but I also learned some form of distortion or self-promotion, as early as second grade! (Got cured when shamefully exposed the same year.) It really has become not just the American way but integral to the human condition. There’s no use pretending.
Subtle Program Shifts
It (the distortion) starts innocently enough—to be liked, accepted as part of the herd. Presenting some aspect of yourself that’s not quite accurate. Or as a member of the school of fish. Because we are communal beings.
Many years later I began to view the world, people, systems, humanity differently. Many years! As we grow we do two things: we become entrenched with old ideas and habits. But we also gaze upon new ones, trying them on for size to see if they advantage us in some way. Some new ideas are suggested by friends, schools, workplaces, mass media. Moving a lot and travel made a big difference in my life. By expanding my horizons, I was exposed to many new things.
Some Ideas or concepts felt/feel quite warm, authentic, comforting in the best possible way, providing peace, love, calmness, expansion of some sense of soul. Others are adopted, driven by a slow seduction of either fear, aggression, self-righteousness, perceived or actual, some threat of deprivation.
Oh I Am So Special!
Do you think you’re exempt? Do you think you haven’t been programmed in one way or another? Think about it. Sometimes it might be a religious tradition that becomes ingrained that serves a person far better than it harms. Still others chuck the idea of God, assuming the position themselves! The great wide middle in between is where most of us navigate. Yet this often is expressed dualistically (in tech terms its binary,) as if compartmentalized, resulting in the inability to see the nuances.
If you know anything about physics, including quantum physics and mechanics, you will certainly understand the concept of energy fields, attractor fields, and aversion principles. Like radar silently looking for atom particles to attach, so too, our thoughts and ideas are either positively or negatively charged to conveniently “dock” with preconceived belief systems. Or create new attachments one can enhance life or rigidly block or entrench old perceptions that no longer serve a new context.
Consciousness Is As Consciousness Does
In human terms, we begin perceiving life as primarily physical survival, perceived needs, and desires. it can include money, things that money can buy, and a means to an end for more money. This almost always includes the concept of power (or lack thereof). Power can be yielded for noble purposes as well as malevolent ones. But as we know, power corrupts, especially when base impulses of we humans drive it.
These attractor fields can also be quite positive, peaceful, calming, spiritual. If we humans over here on this side of the globe were instead born in Tibet as a Buddhist say, we would be subject to a different set of both attractor and aversion fields. Our programming would have been quite different, less outer world driven, more inner world cultivated and expressed.
Enter Mass Media: Tech World
Technology can be programmed for anything, as do the ethics that bind it (or not.) And the repetition. And addiction. Yes, there’s all that! The tantalizing effect of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram is ravenous, lying in wait for the next fix. Notice how it’s binary by its very nature. These are the tools of programming these days, of the drunken monkey syndrome. To imbibe or not. It’s a yes — not yes, a “this doesn’t fit my worldview, or it might.”
I’m not saying technology is bad in and of itself. Like so much in life, it’s to what purpose and to what end. The ability to program people, entrain people, etc. by false information is big business these days. But technology also serves us. The conundrum of its usefulness, its enhancement of life depends upon the integrity from which it is applied or operates from. And its user.
Context versus Content
The inability to tell truth from false is a profound problem in mass media these days, driven by split second technological downloads. And the repetition! Why, even Hitler would be impressed with the massive propaganda contained therein. With enough repetition of falseness a new dynamic takes root. It all too often becomes a kind of pollution from which we are unable to see clearly. A mass brainwashing or kind of hypnosis can result.
Mixed with not just lies, but add absurd conspiracy theories and the false equivalent of contending it’s protected by Freedom of Speech, and rationality is thrown out the window. The defense of the “freedom” to say what you want and claim it’s protected by the first amendment has become distorted for spurious ends and the need for self soothing.
The Self Soothing Problem
Often self soothing is advantageous when the human organism becomes fearful. I quite like to hug myself at times. While self soothing is inherently benign, it all too often can be externally hijacked for destructive ends. Sadly, fear sells and can be exploited, and some entities are exceptionally effective at preying on those most vulnerable. Thus begins the cycle of puffed up self soothing in the form of self righteousness that is actually anything but, becoming a grotesque distortion of the very act itself.
When presented with a problem that I am fearful about, I forage for as much information as I can get my hands on. From Reliable sources. Facts, anecdotal information, others input who are experts, etc., these have been part of my program from childhood, further reinforced by advanced education. As a child, when I would ask either of my parents, say, what a word meant or about some subject matter, they would more often than not, tell me to look it up.
It was irritating at times but in short order, I became “hooked” on the power of knowledge, my ability to get it, and the inherent capability to expand myself the act entailed. It is no small miracle that I stumbled on some unquantifiable instinct to sort information, a kind of discernment within a “pool of water” in which I swam. It also became apparent that it was my responsibility.
Foraging Vs Being Fed
As I grew I began to notice some folks wanted to “be fed,” to not forage for facts, for information, for new ways of thinking. They only wanted to reinforce the same patterns, not curious at all, instead defaulting to a kind of mental and emotional rigor mortis, relying on what others proscribe as true or false, docking nicely with their previous programs.
This contrast could be our downfall, the fed (and the feeders) part. The world has gotten increasingly more complex, and America along with it. It is so easy in a fast-paced world, to just let other entities feed us with what we think is true. All too many rely on passively being fed far too much, like baby birds, beaks open, waiting for parental regurgitation. And even the curious among us have a hard time keeping up, sorting and discerning the speed information erupts and accrues.
Rights, Responsibility and Privilege
On the other hand, to be a citizen in America, or anywhere else quite frankly, it’s necessary to forage for facts, to find out from multiple sources that are reliable where in fact the truth of the matter, any matter, lies. Besides legislation to curtail some of the excesses by certain social media companies—but equally by some television outlets—we owe it to ourselves to own up to the fact that not only have things become increasingly difficult to understand and sort out, but to know where the truth of it is is a personal responsibly as well as a collective one.
Confusion Is As Confusion Does
In a world where things move at breakneck speed both in terms of hard information, as well as delivery of that information, we are dizzied, grabbing onto the easiest conclusion that fits preconceived notion‘s failing to update context, let alone verify facts contained thereof. I get the overwhelming quality of it all. It is hard but it is also essential for the modern world.
Our democracy is fragile indeed. Yet if we don’t mature as citizens, taking more personal responsibility in the process, foraging instead of being fed, we will lose the democracy we have inherited.
I am the water not the fish! Which is to say, I am the consciousness from which I gather information, that primal awareness, the hardware if you will. I am not a fixed set of programs others have proscribed me to think and operate from. This is my and our liberation but this includes our responsibility, individually and as a nation. Do you want to be just fed, not knowing what you don’t even know? Told what to think by others because it’s too hard to think for yourself?
We all have not just an opportunity but more importantly, an imperative to dig more for truth, information, facts. Opinions are all fine and good but if based on madness we are doomed to repeat history in a way that serves none of us. It’s high time we sober up from self righteousness, arrogance based on ignorance provided by others, for their agenda and not remotely in our personal and group welfare. It is time.
Additional essays, articles and books by Rosalie Cushman available on this website.
I love it. I would rather read about the different sides of a question or watch/listen to a podcast for information. The former gives me more time to digest the information well. The latter seems unecumbered by as many needs as the televised networks. Many biased versions of the news are places where television networks and their pundits make a fortune stirring our anger until hyperrtension is a national problem, Thanks so much for your incisive thoughts on this critical portion of our everyday lives.
Thanks, Bob. I too have a huge appetite for learning. Anyone can do it, forage. No degree required. (Though helpful)
I so get the foraging vs. being fed! And being the water not the fish — as always, your ideas get me thinking about things in new and different ways — here’s to swimming in the big pond!
Thanks Mary. Hope you are doing well.
Rosalie!!! I love this article so much thank you for the reminder I needed. Love this metaphor so much. Sending you love as well 🙂
Thanks, Katie. You are a treasure. ❤️