Friday, November 12, 2010

Wandering minds and happiness now.

"A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost." Psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University reporting on a recent study in the journal Science.
I went to a Remembrance Day ceremony yesterday with my youngest daughter and my friend BA who is visiting from Vancouver. We stood in the cool November sunshine as TAPS played and a moment of silence descended upon the large crowd that was gathered. Unlike in previous years, the gathered crowd did not fit into the park where the Cenotaph is situated. The large crowd flowed over into the street requiring police supervision to re-direct traffic where the road was blocked off to accommodate all the people.

As I stood and watched and listened my mind wandered. I wondered about our Neanderthal forbears and who was the first person killed by another. Was it out of fear? Love? Desire? Did that person want something the other had. Was it an accident? And what happened after he or she realized the power they had over another human being's life?

Did they feel remorse? Surprise. Confusion. Did they care? Did they even know they'd done something 'wrong' or, was it simply part of their world. We kill animals. We kill people. Did they even have a 'word' or symbol or emotion for killing?

Did they look at the person they'd killed as a member of their 'family', or did they look at them as a source of food? Was it a kill them or be killed survival instinct that kicked in and caused them to respond to a situation that took them by surprise and left them wondering, 'what have I done?' Did they feel a sense of loss. Of sadness. Of sorrow? Did they know that what they'd done had the potential to change the course of our lives today?

According to scientists it's unlikely our Neanderthal ancestors even thought about these questions. Their cognitive abilities were far different, far less developed than ours. In a report published in the Nov. 9 issue of
Current Biology, Philipp Gunz of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology writes, "In modern humans, the connections between diverse brain regions that are established in the first years of life are important for higher-order social, emotional, and communication functions. It is therefore unlikely that Neanderthals saw the world as we do."

I wonder how our ancestors saw the killing of another human being. I wonder how much we've learned.

I stood at the Cenotaph yesterday and honoured the fallen, those men and women who went off to war and never came home alive, and I wondered, what is the point of war if we cannot find peace on our planet?

War kills. For every mother's child who dies in an act of war a seed of hatred is sown into the soils of our collective consciousness. How can we not hate when we cannot love each other enough not to kill? How can we have peace when we look at our fellow human beings as enemies?

Is the antidote to war forgiveness?

I stood at the Cenotaph and I wondered and agree with Killingsworth and Gilbert, wondering about war comes at great emotional cost. And thinking about all the peace that is not happening in our world today causes me distress.

I must balance my thinking. Go back to my center and focus on the peace I create in my world around me. Aligned with Gandhi's teachings, I must be the peace I want to create.

If I am unhappy about the state of world peace, thinking about it doesn't change the world. It just makes me more unhappy.

Focusing my thinking on the here and now, staying present in the moment has greater possibilities for my well-being than letting my mind wander into the past, the future or the lack of what is or isn't in my life today. I was not there to honour war, I was there to remember those who gave their lives so I can be free today to experience all this planet has to offer -- in war and peace.

I went to a Remembrance Day Ceremony yesterday and in that moment of silence found myself once again where I need to be, living this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now, celebrating all that I have and all that I can do to make it my best moment yet so that my ripple affect becomes a celebration of life and love, not war. Nameste.

And for those who have an IPhone, you can track your happiness in the now and be part of Killingsworth and Gilbert's research on human happiness by visiting Track Your Happiness here.


Jingle said...

true, we all need to balance our thinking.
lovely post,
Happy Friday.

Claim awards from my post if you wish.

Maureen said...

This aspect of the research of Killingsworth and Gilbert is fascinating.

How it might be applied by the person in the street is worth considering, too, because the cost is more than emotional.

I think in some respects we're not so much seeking happiness, however that's defined, as trying to find a way to find meaning in the life we create or have.