Monday, February 7, 2011
Anyway, I was talking with a friend over the weekend about autism and she said something that had occurred to me before as well. Doesn't it seem as if autism, which multiplies in numbers, is an evolutionary step as we all move toward robots or humans combined with robots?
And concurrent with this evolutionary stage, this step away from deep feeling toward more programmable feeling, is positive psychology. We no longer spend most of our lives at the psychiatrist's door, like Woody Allen, and quickly learn ways to change the direction of our thoughts to create more peace and self love.
Let me explain what I mean about programmable feeling. Brain research with MRIs shows that we can deprogram ourselves from negative thought, which seems to be hard-wired into the human brain. We can then light up more restful and hence positive areas of the brain by switching to more positive thought. This is not a bad thing, believe me, because we all know very negative people (perhaps we're one of them) who could use a switcheroo over into seeing the day as half full instead of half empty. I guess what concerns me is manipulating ourselves to the point where we're so docile and kind and happy that it's damned easy to round us all up and put us into little pens.
Think about countries like Myanmar where, I daresay, the Buddhist religion has provided great solace to people who are still being ruled by extremely cruel dictators. Buddhism is a religion for which I have respect, and its practices include meditations that calm the brain and allow it to move into more serenity. But I've seen its dark side. I lived in a Buddhist meditation center for a few years, and one of the hallmarks of that place was that you couldn't be totally yourself there. Meditation was the great palliative for whatever ailed you, especially if your ailment questioned established norms of the center. If you had a stick up your ass, you needed to try a variant of kindness meditation to soothe the pain of the stick. Believe me, there's a lot of wisdom in sending yourself kindness when you are in pain, but what if you have a legitimate political beef that shouldn't be soothed away with mind altering techniques?
Well, this is probably obvious to those of you reading my words, but it boils down to this: life is a complex balance and no one technique is the answer. Go ahead and do this positive psychology that's all the rage now and no doubt it will do a great deal of good. But take it too far without exploring the reasons for negative feeling, and we all turn out like robots.