Feed Before You Eat

Feed Before You Eat
by Art Ticknor

                     
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What distinguishes man from the so-called lower animals? As Temple Grandin tells us in Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, one of the major differences is that "animals aren't ambivalent." She points out that neuroscience is showing us that animals and humans have the same core emotions, but animals don't have the mixed emotions that normal adults have. In that respect, animals are more like children and autistic people. The child and the autistic person are innocents whose feelings are direct and open. The difference may be explained neurologically by the development of the frontal lobes. They don't have the mental equipment to support love-hate relationships or to entertain the resulting psychodrama that normal adults engage in. (Suggestion: don't read any further until you've identified and considered an example of the psychodrama that you indulge in.)

feeding the lambs Jesus exhorted his followers: "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Richard Rose tried to make it clearer by saying: "... become like an autistic child." To know the self, we have to somehow become innocents again. How can that be done?

We aren't going to rewire the prefrontal lobes, to "dumb" them down to pre-adult simplicity. So we have to somehow transcend the turmoil of mixed emotions. All this requires is a shift in our observation platform. From being caught up in the swirl of conflicting emotions, we find ourselves watching the struggle from an anterior position. There's no formula for making this shift, but the general approach is one of 1) noticing what we're observing, 2) providing room for our curiosity to work at trying to understand what we observe, and 3) overcoming our disbelief in the possibility of attaining a radically different perspective. This approach is synonymous with productive meditation.

Education in self-knowledge generally comes in the form of shocks that jar us out of self-complacency. But these shocks impel hypnotic psychodrama. So we need an alternation of being focused on the inner drama with putting our attention on something else. In other words, if we spend too much time "in our heads," we need to disrupt that spell with some focus on the outer world. One of the best ways to do this is to ask ourselves what we can do for someone else. Not to win points toward some do-gooder prize, not to pump ourselves up as more benevolent than the next-door neighbor, but just to stop taking our personal psychodrama as being so important. (It's not.)

When you reach the pinnacle of self-knowledge, you may find yourself aligned with the view expressed by Nisargadatta: "My stand is clear: produce to distribute, feed before you eat, give before you take, think of others before you think of yourself."


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