The Power And The Glory
Memory is a fascinating thing. I'm often in awe of how memory works, and how it can hold on to such things as words, images, feelings and even sounds and smells.
A few years ago I read a challenging book called "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" - by Julian Jaynes. The author postulated that we originally heard literal voices in our heads (one part of the brain talking to the other part), and that when these voices ceased (due to the increasing complexity of life), we turned to those who still heard these voices - and so religion was born.
In the course of laying out his thesis, Jaynes touches upon such phenomena as hypnotism and schizophrenia - and suggests that these are residual elements of our bicameral (two chamber) brain.
Anyway, he also quotes a number of experiments that have been conducted at various times - on the brain itself. And one that particularly fascinated me was where a person's brain was stimulated in certain areas with a mild electric current. The result of these experiments was to activate memories from the subject's childhood. But not just memories as is "thinking" about something that happened - but rather, a sensory replay of the original happening, complete with emotions and a vivid sense of reality. In other words, an effective reliving of the original experience.
The conclusion of these experiments was that every experience is fully recorded in our brains - even though we may never fully access them again in the future.
At the time, that got me thinking about memories of my own - and whether there were any "deep" memories other than the ones I was fully conscious of. But without having my brain wired and tickled with electricity, I guess I'll never know!
But even without such electrotherapy, I do recall vivid memories which carry significant emotional impact.
One early memory sticks vividly in my mind. I was four years of age, or thereabouts. I had been to church - for perhaps the first time. And I was obviously impressed by what I saw and heard. In fact, I was so impressed that I immediately came home and began to role-play the part of the minister.
But it wasn't the minister so much that impressed me, it was the words he had uttered. In particular the words "The Power and the Glory!" Now, it seems (from the way my mother described it) that these words had a profound effect upon me - in that I began to stand up and pronounce them around the home. I liked the sound of the words so much and believed the words carried some innate power of their own.
My mother told the story so often, that it's obvious it impressed her also. And many times over the past few years I've recalled the memory in an attempt to recapture what was on my mind at that time.
Why was I mesmerised by the words "power and glory"? What was the emotional state it induced in me?
You know, it's enlightening to try and put yourself back into your childhood world - to try and get a feel for what was on your mind. And to grasp in some way how the world appeared to you at the time.
For me, the words "the power and the glory" held aloft a promise of something important. A promise of great things to come. A promise of an extraordinary life and world. It captured the essence of "expectation" of "wonder". In fact, it captured the essence of how children often see the world - the belief in their ability to recreate it in some way, to their advantage.
Don't you remember when you used to dream of what you could become when you grew up? At that age, anything seems possible.
"Johnny, what do you want to be when you grow up?", asks mother. "An astronaut" is just as likely to be the reply. Yet, how many boys end up as astronauts?
A young girl may say, "a ballerina" or "film star". But how many end up as ballerinas or film stars? How many, instead, end up living in what's more like a prison camp of mediocrity? How many people have their dreams squeezed out them - piece by piece, until there is no dream, no hope left?
What happened to all that childhood wonderment? Where did we lose it? Don't you ever ask yourself that question? I do.
You see, I believe our lives are entirely the result of the vision we hold of ourselves. Our lives become what we believe they will become. We smile at the dreams we held as children. We think of them as childhood naivety - something to be put away with childhood toys. And in many cases we carry that over to the way we respond to our own children's dreams and hopes.
But not everyone does.
Haven't you ever wondered how someone like Britain's well known multimillionaire, Richard Branson (of Virgin Records, Virgin Airways), got to be where he is today. What sort of "difference" in his life caused him to end up living his dreams? How come he is living the sort of life that we as children may very well have imagined - but that he has somehow pulled off?
I know the answer. It's so fundamental that we overlook it. We become exactly what we believe we will become. If our lives are less than we had hoped for, then it's because our dreams and hopes became "less" than we hoped for. Somewhere along the line, we may have given up believing that anything is possible. We may have decided that our childhood hopes were "fantasy" and that in the real world these things are not possible.
Why? So many reasons. Maybe we were discouraged or put down at home and school. Maybe we were too influenced by those around us - those who laughed at or disparaged our dreams.
But, whatever the reasons, somewhere, somehow, our dreams faded - and our lives followed.
When I think of those words from my childhood, "the Power and the Glory", they inspire me to once again capture the dream, and to realise that with the vision, anything is truly possible.
And there's the rub. Just as it's possible for me and you to realise our dreams - it's also possible for everyone else!
This wouldn't be a problem in a free society, where property rights are sacrosanct. But it can certainly be a problem in society as it's currently conceived and configured.
You see, when someone realises their own dream, it must usually impact on others. Just take the Richard Branson illustration - or, to add another dimension, that of Bill Gates.
Both of these visionary men have realised their dreams - and in so doing have impacted on the world around them. In my mind, for the better. Their dreams (and the dreams of all productive people) always impact positively on others. And in a free market this must always be the case.
But there are other "dreamers" also - the "political" dreamers - those who have big dreams of a different nature. Hitler, Lenin and Mao Zedong come to mind. Their dreams and visions lead them to create the reality they aspired to - and to annihilate millions of people in the process.
Dreaming of a life as an inventor, who brings forth a new form of energy device which everyone can benefit from, is of a completely different order to someone who dreams of power over others - and brings forth chaos, mayhem and death. And yet, both dreams originate in human consciousness.
Given the power of human consciousness, to literally create what has not gone before, it behoves us to understand the nature of such power, and to be able to identify the crucial pivot point upon which dreams are to be considered good or bad.
The world we live in now is the result of a lot of different people's dreams.
We have cars, planes, computers, movies, museums, music, art, dishwashers, restaurants, wine, gardens, books, boats and super markets - to name a few. That's the good. But then there's the bad and the ugly also - the weapons, the nuclear bomb, the secret services, torture, totalitarianism, dictatorship, poverty, imprisonment, war, graft, propaganda and censorship.
The first set of dreams is realised in the environment of free interaction - what we call the market, that place of voluntary exchange of value. The second set of dreams is realised in the environment of force and fraud - that essential breeding ground of the party political process and the resultant slave state.
The day we wake up to the essential difference in these types of dreams - and how they impact on our lives - is the day we can move forward to a truly free society. A society where only good dreams can come true.
Yours in freedom