Piece of Mind
by Ted Cleaver
“When you are full of yourself, there is no room for others.”
– T. Cleaver
I’m a sucker for quotes. A true heavyweight champion in quotes is The Duke, who added one crucial word to the second phrase. Such a matter should not be taken lightly. These sayings work so well because of their simplicity. Expressing much with little is a difficult feat. If you manage to do so, you have the advantage that the reader fills in the blanks for you. “Room” is the perfect choice; it can denote physical, social, emotional or symbolical space. Or, if you’re English is really bad and food happens to be on your mind, you might read “no room for others” as the impossibility to eat more of what you are craving. Foolishness aside, I’m happy with this quote. So I googled it to see if anything pops up. For ef’s sake! Religious folk coined it centuries ago, replacing “others” with their deity. Here we go.
Bashing religion with rational arguments is like beating minesweeper on easy mode. Tricky on your first attempt, but understand the incredibly simple logic behind it and you’ll sweep away. Many great comedians excel at bashing religion, and I wholeheartedly admit that I fell out of my chair laughing many times, for instance while watching Carlin’s performances. A Dutch comedian said it best in a live “debate” – more like a rhetorical massacre – with three head scarf donning hypocrites: Religion, all organized religion, has the pretense of having a monopoly on truth. In a democratic and open society, the freedom to meet flaws and fallacies with satire is a necessary function. It reminds us to not take things too seriously and accept the pluriformity of perspectives. In the live TV incident, the comedian exposed the three hypocrites as such by pointing out how they openly discriminated against homosexuals on earlier episodes, and now cried wolf for being referenced in a pornographic context by the antagonist. He was actually the voice of reason, as grimy as it was. Quick quote:
“I was Catholic until I reached the age of reason.”
– G. Carlin
The problem with religion lies in ontology and epistemology. Can’t know, can’t prove it. That’s why poking fun at organized faith is no challenge. I’m bummed out. Who in the world would accept the warning that you must not let your ego swell, on account of the “room” a make believe omnipotence requires in your mind?
Here’s the thing. Look at religion functionally and it is very useful. It provides a moral compass, an ethical framework, social morphology, social cohesion, meaning and purpose, each of them for better or for worse. And the list goes on. I completely accept and respect people who choose to follow a faith, will however laugh at their believing in what essentially is a magic being. Since I try not to have double standards, I invite anyone to deride my run-of-the-mill conception that “there is more between heaven and Earth, I just don’t want to put a label on it.”
But the quote, which my pious forerunners claimed and wasted, has nothing to do with function. Sure you could wring it in, but fundamentally it is about idealism. In your mind, there should always be room for the invisible man, with his list of 10 things he does not want you to do (George! Genius!). Keep your self in check and let that set of abstract assumptions rife with unrealistic expectations nestle deep in your mind.
“When did I realize I was god? Well, I was praying and suddenly realized I was talking to myself.”
– P. O’Toole
“In your mind”. Science is advancing quickly. In your mind is a concept that is becoming more and more measurable. Take mirror neurons. They literally simulate in your mind what you perceive in the outside world. An abstract concept in a way does transform into a physical entity in your brain. Neurons and synapses build actual networks in your brain, representing whatever it is your CPU needs to process. So taking that into account, who do you want in your head? An old man with a beard, which is completely sexist; or your loved ones and sexy lover? In case anyone sees merit in this argument, thank you, I’m afraid neuroscientists would shake their heads at the over-simplification.
Let’s go at it from a different angle. Do you ever hear voices in your head? I hear voices in my head. I think situations through. This process is scenario-based and usually involves more than one actor. My scenarios are advanced enough for the characters involved to get speaking roles. Unless you are mentally severely impaired, the voices of others are a part of you. “What did Mr Freeze advise to do again? Lift the heavy thing?” He actually cautioned us to wear warm clothes, but regardless, point is that if you saw Batman & Robin and appreciate the brilliance of Dylan Moran, you might have just heard a commanding “get down” in a heavy Austrian accent.
The voices of others are part of me. My brain, like any functioning brain, constructs networks that represent what I know about the world. Who or what I know best gets special privileges like more room. Everyone will agree that the people most important to you occupy a special place in your life. Apart from the fact that we allocate more time to being merry with our loved ones, they have more influence on us. Influence is not only exerted during conversations, but also indirectly by taking into account the other’s expectations. If this happens consciously, there you have it, representation of another person directly in your mind. A representation that does not magically exist, but is the result of hardwiring a network and firing it up with electrical impulses. Our brains create the equivalent of entities in our mind, a repository for labels and information, memories and expectations, positive emotions and negative.
When you are full of yourself, there is no room for others.
It works so well when “other” refers to family, friends, and people who have stories to share. We are social creatures. We learn from each other, and we derive happiness from being with loved ones. I damn well make sure that there are many others in my life, many people whose attitudes and dispositions in life resonate with mine. For someone who’d throw me in a fire pit on a whim, no dice. But then again, one function of nonsensical propositions is to challenge, recalibrate, and reassert the validity of your own assumptions. I’m pretty clear on the matter.
Ego up. Mutual respect +1. Allowing yourself to let other people in, 1up.