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Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

Winning Back the Future: Here’s How! (Part 1)

Everyone, I think, wants a better future, even when troubled times arise and a better future seems far away. Our leaders are forced to keep their spirits up by promising a vision of the future – that’s how they stay in office – and yet it is very hard to get anyone to agree on a vision that insures a better life for everyone. A lot of the difficulty centers on your view of reality, and I’d like to see if there is a vision that unites all versions of reality, East and West, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, political and psychological. It’s a huge task to unite the world’s deepest conflicts, but there is a way to approach the problem.

We must begin at the beginning. Getting any two people to agree on something is difficult in terms of knowing what is actually being asked. It is only reasonable to settle on the order of meaning that is involved. An order of meaning is like a fence that encloses certain terms and facts. At the same time it leaves out other terms and facts. At the same time it leaves out other terms and facts. If I go to work and pass someone in the hall, automatically I ask, “How are you today?” This seems like a meaningful question, but that’s deceptive. Break the question down, and what I am asking is open to many interpretations, such as

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How is your health?

What’s your mood like?

How are your relationships doing?

Is your work going well?

How do you view the state of the world?

What does your future look like right now?

These are all viable ways of interpreting “How are you today?” since we rarely stop to break it down, the question, being so vague, usually gets a vague answer: “I’m fine, thank.” If you decide to pinpoint the question, you have to specify the order of meaning you have in mind. For example,

How is your health?

– The meaning is medical.

What’s your mood like?

– The meaning is emotional or psychological.

How are your relationships going?

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– The meaning is interpersonal and intimate.

Is your work going well?

– The meaning is professional.

How do you view the state of the world?

– The meaning is political.

What does your future look like right now?

– The meaning is philosophical.

In each case, the question builds a fence that includes some facts and excludes the rest. If I know you were away from work because you had the flu, asking, “How are you?” implies that I want a medical answer. But things are more complex than they appear even when you know the order of meaning. There is also the arena of the unconscious, the unspoken aspect of life that we hesitate to bring to the surface. When I ask a simple question like “How are you?” I could be testing the waters of the unconscious. My question could imply the following:

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— I am intimidated by you and want to see if it’s safe to talk to you.

— I am your boss and want to send a signal that I can cross the line between employer and employee.

— I may be attracted to you sexually, and this is a mild opening to see if we connect.

— We had a negative interaction the last time we met, and this is a gesture of peace.

— I think you are mentally unbalanced and want to test if you seem normal today.

When you combine all these complexities, both on the surface and lurking beneath, the simplest question turns out to lead practically in all directions. That’s why we compartmentalize our lives. We put tight fences around what we mean, because that way life seems simpler and easier. For example, we reserve intimate questions for those we feel close to, excluding office co-workers and strangers. We keep our emotions to ourselves most of the time. We put up warning signs like “It’s just business, nothing personal” and “If it’s okay to ask, I was wondering.” For many of these fences are electrified, and one has to be very careful about touching them, much less trying to break them down.

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There are areas, however, where almost no fences exist, and some people find it exhilarating to explore these areas. This eagerness sets them apart from ordinary citizens going about their normal lives. Scientists and philosophers enjoy the domain of no fences. You can tell this by the kinds of open-ended questions they ask:

Where did the cosmos come from?

What makes us human?

What is the meaning of life?

Who am I?

You might say that such questions are reserved for a small percentage of people who have the time and the inclination for them. We quickly apply ambiguous labels to show that open-ended minds are outside normal existence: geek, egghead, dreamer, genius, and brainiac are just a few. But as much as it may seem that these types are outsiders, in fact they are totally necessary to the human race. From them we get vision, knowledge, and wisdom of a very high order. The so-called “big questions” form the foundation of the human mind. There must be keepers of meaning who look over the fence. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have any idea what reality is really like or how far our minds can stretch.

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This doesn’t mean that all visionaries agree with one another. In fact, there are three camps that sometimes fiercely contend, and bloody wars have been fought simply to stake out a claim for truth. The three camps are

Scientists – Those who search for objective facts and who define reality according to data.

Philosophers – those who search for truth according to universal principles of the mind.

Spiritual guides – Those who seek God or enlightenment.

You could say that these are the three major fences that people decide to live inside, and like all fences, science, philosophy, and spirituality make you feel safe if you are inside the fence. By the same token straying outside the fence feels quite dangerous. Therefore, each of us has a stake in defending our comfort zone. For centuries the wars between religions have come down to the issue of defending one version of God against another. Religious conflicts are a matter of life and death to devout believers, but if you consult philosophers, they shrug their shoulders. Which God prevails means little or nothing to them. If you consult a scientist, he also shrugs his shoulders, because religion is subjective – as science sees it – and therefore there are no data to measure.

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In short, the things that are deeply meaningful inside one fence are practically meaningless inside another fence. If Religious people are very worried about the issue of the soul, leading to a question like “Does an embryo in the womb have a soul?” To a pure scientist, this isn’t a valid question. The soul isn’t a scientific term, and therefore no questions with the word “soul” in them count. As we all know very well, many quarrels break out over issues where the real fight is about the big fences. The famous war between science and religion is a big-fence struggle. Five hundred years ago the Pope could condemn Galileo’s science on religious grounds, because religion had won the underlying power struggle over what reality is. Today science is dominant; it has won the underlying power struggle over what is real. Philosophy lags far behind; you have to go back to the origins of civilization – to the ancient Greeks in the West and the Vedic rishis, or sages, in the East – to find a time when philosophy was so dominant that it answered questions that we assign today either to God or to laboratory experiments.

www.deepakchopra.com

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