TED Conversations

Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


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Each person is better served by self-reliance within the community of humankind than by subservience to ideologies.

The human path is not easy: Infants are uniformed, illiterate, inarticulate, sexually diffuse, self-centered, and dependent on conflicted societies (Overstreet). Each infant has duty to self to achieve psychological maturity. Societies encourage people to become compliant--to a god or a philosophy and a family and a country and a career. There’s almost no time to “know thy self.”

Each person’s path toward self-discovery is unique within a concurrent 80 years of humankind’s millions of years’ progress (involving perhaps 100 billion people). Thus, "I am" is not alone. The adolescent’s path lags humankind’s maturity, but the adult has the potential to lead.

Justice is necessary for liberty. But is unity beyond I am desirable? I’d like TEDsters’ thoughts.

Perhaps people who acquire hope, humility, and uncertainty develop the necessary, evolving skills for leadership. It is difficult to think of an example for all cultures, but Abraham Lincoln, whose time was cut short, comes to mind. Perhaps TEDsters can suggest people who led/lead humankind’s progress toward psychological maturity.

In addition to H. A. Overstreet's book, The Mature Mind, at least two TEDsters helped inspire this presentation.

1. Matthieu Mossec’s conversation, “Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion.”

2. Leslie Saunders’ phrase “independence within interdependence,” in the conversation, “It seems the conversationalists herein have relegated the golden rule to the world’s list of bad ideas.”

(General revision: 11/20/11, to "subservience to ideologies 11/22, added 2 related talks on 11/29-30, 1 on 12/6/11)


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    Nov 21 2011: Yes, basically this is what I am trying to say. As products of nature, up to some point we are absolutely similar to any other of its living things, even though each species have their own, different "agenda". We get to be born, develop into adult beings to then disappear. Up to here, where is the finality of life, and why are we here? Maybe, to come up with solutions to calculate and predict or control the future, but, in this case, we need to be something more than our predecessors on the evolutionary scale, conscious enough to control and dominate our self-destructive nature. Until here, religion and society played this role, and that is why people needed to be conditioned and submissive. But at some point in our individual development - and next, by cumulation of individuals, to be achieved at the whole scale of society - we need to take responsible control over our own will and destinies, so self-reliance is one step to take us there. I believe that up to some point the process is subconscious, and that there are at play unconscious evolutionary programs, which, similar to the DNA's role in the biological development, act as triggers to make us take the Big Dive into self-discovery. It usually starts with the big questions of life, as of who we are and why are we here. The process in itself is painful, and has been defined by the antics as a "symbolic death", where the old personality needs to die off to make place to the new, higher one. Jung describes it as the process of "individuation", where the old, ego-centered personality makes place to the new, centered around the soul. The resulting individual is "psychologically mature" and does not need neither society's whip (any form of coercion or correction), nor society's crutches (status, power, riches, and so on) to be well in his own skin. At this point, hubris gets to be replaced by humility, competition by cooperation - all for a higher good.
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      Nov 22 2011: Ms Jaber, it has taken me some time to try to digest all you have written, but here’s my best. I write to learn your reactions:

      Like other animals, humans are born, become adults, then disappear. The domestic cat species has repeated this cycle for 6-7 million years without societal change; pets can survive if banished to the wild. Like some animals, humans tend to form tribes. But humans divide themselves by doctrine more than natural benefits. Therefore, the tribes stagnated.

      Yet humankind progresses, because a few people break the “need for being subservient . . . and . . . give free expression to the more humane trait of self-reliance.” They “control and dominate [their] self-destructive” influences from “religion and society.” The will to become self-reliant is in our subconscious, and a growing portion of humankind is discovering psychological maturity comes not through coercion or crutches. Humility, cooperation, and preservation are fulfilling.

      Maturity does not come easily, because it requires “overpowering [subservience to our] emotions.” This does not imply denying joy and awe of reality, but rather that we appreciate shared nature rather than personal impulses. We have employed technology to “condition and manipulate tastes and opinions,” and must reform to “awareness to contain ourselves.”

      Omissions: First, I did not address “soul” and “deadly sins.” A couple years ago, I studied the idea of “soul” and found that Plato and Aristotle are credited with Western thought. However, it seems they were merely commenting on ideas originated by others. Unable to read the earlier thoughts, I concluded that ancient as the ideas may be, they are no more valuable than the thoughts in “Star Wars.” Like “Star Wars,” ideas, souls are mere intellectual constructs. (I do not know this but since having the thought cannot consider souls more than art.) Second, TEDsters apparent sins seem so far above Christianity’s seven deadly ones: the seven seem obsolete.

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