“Think for yourself and question authority” – Timothy Leary
“Why?” is an authority question. It points inside or outside. It asks you to consider your justification, your values, your morals. It is also one of those questions that pulls you straight up and into your head.
Have you ever noticed that once someone asks “Why?”a disappearing act takes place. Eyes disengage, heads tilt down, everyone’s expression drifts off to some far away place so they can hear their thoughts. We become introspective. And the answer is never outside. Yes. Our thoughts may refer to something we experienced which was outside – but how we take up and add to that experience is completely internal. AND it is completely social.
Since “Why?” is an authority question, what we want is some combination of personal and social authority that offers a sense of legitimacy, veracity, and recognition. Shakespeare’s injunction against whatever may be “dreamt of in our philosophy” is, by implication, an injunction against accumulated social learning. While it’s true – we are unique individuals – the vast majority of what we learn is social. So, by asking “Why?,” we are engaged in a process of social discernment – one that includes a small – but very important – piece of personal discernment.
And what’s really interesting here is that everything we looked at regarding resourcefulness and “skillful means” in yesterday’s blog is relevant. (see …resourcefulness and skillful means…)
And you may have already guessed … authority and resourcefulness are tightly linked. The more resourceful we are, the more authority we have. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.
What creates authority?
- Having faith in one’s ability to solve problems?
- Supporting independent thinking and decision-making?
- Demonstrating determination?
Sure. All of that’s important, but what’s really important is being larger than our limited self-interest. That’s what creates authority.
And the more we can bend whatever resistance we have towards a wider integration by putting trust where we choose – then we are empowered to make choices that benefit others – and not only ourselves. That small – but very important – piece of personal discernment is about how we choose to make use of our egos.
If the ego can bend itself, by its own desire to be larger than itself, it can restore mobility through integration. And by doing so, the ego accepts the challenge of complexity by broadening the terms of its own limited self-interest. That’s what creates authority.
And “skillful means”? That’s the resourcefulness we have been talking about. It’s our ability to take responsiblity for ourselves and transcend the circumstances of fear and loss of control that often overwhelms us. It returns us to a state of calm composure where a spontaneous, flowing energy generates its own kind of satisfaction and contentment. We are embraced by a kind of spaciousness.
So if you truly think for yourself, and learn to question authority, then finding the answer to “Why?” will be a walk in the park. You will be joining a larger world and leaving that narrow (self-interested) one behind.
Thanks for listening!