In the animal realm, it’s eat or be eaten; in the human realm, it’s define or be defined.—unknown
Over the ages, we have normalized an incredible number of falsehoods that separate us from ourselves, our experience, and our world. We each have a bullshit detector that we often refer to as common sense. But we have to work to keep the bullshit detector on point. If we don’t, bad assumptions creep into our basic understanding of life—our basic guidance system.
This is a truth for every single one of us. No one is exempt.
It’s hard for us to look at those aspects of our lives that we’ve come to assume are normal, common sense, expected, or real. It’s hard to see them, and it can be uncomfortable to question them, since questioning their reality may separate us from the understanding held by our peers.
But those of us who care deeply about helping this world would do well to vigilantly question the many things we “know” to be real or true. Doing so cultivates wisdom and deep understanding, making us more trustworthy to those around us.
Many erroneous assumptions have been passed down to us through cultural or family (often damaged) habitual patterns; absorbed from those around us by our desire to fit in rather than risk being ostracized, or most insidiously, astroturfed into us by powerful manipulators.
Manipulating our dreams and assumptions of what is real is the gold mine of those who would exercise power over us for personal profit, advantage or control. Such manipulation has been going on for millennia, and most would be shocked to realize how much manipulation has gone on over the years.
In the old days, the manipulation of common sense was known as a form of black magic; today it’s just common-sense marketing. Professional manipulators—marketers and PR professionals, robber barons and corrupt priesthoods, plutocrats and hidden influencers—have a word for getting you to see things the way they want you to—for getting you to accept their manipulated version of reality as real. Thye refer to it as normalization.
Consciously seeing how certain assumptions arose and became normalized is all it takes for entire assumption complexes to collapse. When we see through the bullshit, we feel freer, more genuine. Our inquisitiveness is enlivened, and most importantly, our bullshit detector—our prajña—is sharpened. This develops inner wisdom, making us harder to fool.
If we can purify our assumptions—if we can see them clearly—we will be able to create a ground of truth and goodness for our lives and for our communities that is genuine, reliable, and worth standing for.
Coming To Terms With Our Weakness
The biggest weakness we have when it comes to discerning the truth is our need to fit in with the people around us. This is the single, largest cause of ignorance and stupidity on the planet, and we all have a survival impetus that wires us for fitting in with the group.
A CIA study found that it took only three people to win over an audience to someone’s point of view: the person giving the speech and two visible people up front—looking like an enthusiastic believer and another with arms folded, looking skeptical, who gradually comes around and starts visibly looking reluctantly convinced. That’s it! One of our biggest criteria for letting a truth into our common sense is whether it will be accepted by others, and we take queues from others as to whether it’s safe to adopt an opinion.
Look at how speakers, preachers, and other orators are filmed today. In the past, the camera would focus solely on the speaker. But based on behavioral research, cutaways are now included constantly, showing people in the audience deeply moved to the point of tears, nodding their heads, cheering on. And we, the media audience, fall prey to this subtle manipulation, which lets us know that it’s okay to agree, and that by doing so, we will find acceptance.
A Running List of Questionable Beliefs that Keep Us Ignorant, Make us Vulnerable to Manipulation, and Create Toxic Culture
We are each complicit in whether we adopt the realities that are brought into being by believing the items in the list that follows. These are not necessarily evil things brought about by evil marketers (although some are). Many are the results of past trauma or of changes happening so fast or so globally that there was no time to question them or of respected people pronouncing things to be true that weren’t.
Regardless of where they arose from, holding such fallacious opinions puts us in a position where we are open to exploitation. Devious people can prey on the fears that accompany such attitudes, and because we are not willing to call bullshit on the opinions we hold, we are willing prey to those who would exploit us.
- That every human experience is monetizable.
- That every member of the household should have their own account.
- That corporations are nonthreatening and can be entrusted with sensitive information.
- That nature is dirty, dangerous and out to kill us.
- That all mysteries need to be clarified and unraveled.
- That knowing information about something is the same as knowing what it really is.
- That we exist separate from the world around us.
- That going it alone is best, since you’re free to do what you want to do.
- That every human experience is about personal satisfaction.
- That any human being is free from belief.
- That science is free from belief.
- That the Divine, God or the Gods are foreign to us, watching us, and waiting for us to fuck up so they can smite us
- That any words, definitions, and stories have an ultimate meaning or truth.
- That any history you’ve heard can accurately portray what actually happened.
- That there is such thing as a nonbiased narrative or nonbiased news.
- That the thoughts of famous people are more true or more important than the thoughts of nonfamous people.
- That there is any aspect of existence that is a nonfeeling “thing.”
- That there is any minute of your life that doesn’t count, is time off, or is just practice.
- That death is the opposite of life, is always sad, and is the worst most awful, scary thing that can happen
- That we are what we produce, and that productivity is a measure of your value as a human being
- That we are born in sin and should carry shame with us wherever we go
- That the universe is meaningless, random, or on a path of entropy
- That you should dream into exploring the infinite possibilities of the stars instead of relating to the sacred realm we live in right now
- That any aspect of life is unimportant
- That no one is watching, that someone is watching, or that anyone gives a shit about you
- That “it can’t happen here” and that the system will take care of it
- That in the modern age we have grown beyond magic and sorcery (we have actually normalized it!)
- That it is even remotely normal to go to the supermarket and expect to buy bananas from halfway around the world in the middle of winter
- That you should be able to buy whatever is on the recipe list any time you want it
- That the persona displayed on social media or when you smile for a camera has anything to do with who you really are
- That wealth or fame have to do with someone’s worthiness as a human being
- That cavemen were stupid and evolution is the same as progress
- That technology is an improvement and enhances the meaningfulness of our lives
- That thoughts are created by people, and thus can be owned and patented
- That good design means the company is trustworthy and not evil
- That the product you are using today should be available to purchase again tomorrow
- That animals do not have a soul
- That people who have not been brought up to believe what we believe, who have not been initiated into what we have been initiated into, or who are not one of us are suspect, lesser than us, or need to be converted
- That any one of us is even a little better than everyone else
- That the mind is bad and the feelings are good
- That the feelings are bad and the mind is good
- That merely by virtue of office, appointment, fame or any other non-hard-earned wisdom any person has a more direct line to God than any other person (sacerdotalism)
- That life is about personal satisfaction
- That having non-happy emotions, such as fear, anguish, sadness, grief, or malaise, is a sign that things are bad
- That your body is like a machine that can be fixed with pharmaceuticals
- That mainstream companies, companies in the medical industry, Swiss companies, or nonprofits are good and automatically working in your best interest
- That any human being on the planet—including yourself—is beyond manipulating or harming others.
- That sane people (and professionals, in particular) have fully integrated personalities from which they never deviate
- That one should be able to control their environment
- That making money is not spiritual
- The having money is proof the Gods love you and that you are on the right track