By: Butch Swank
A while ago, I read a saying that stuck with me: The mind is like a raging elephant. Sometimes my brain says, “This is interesting, but I don’t understand it. Let’s file it away for later.” Well, now is later. I realized that so much information is being forced on us these days that all of our brains are like raging elephants. I believe the point of the saying is that we must master our minds, or the mind with no control takes over and proceeds to wreck things. That’s no way to live. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating that the news media is on life support, and the only way they can survive is to feed us more and more information about outrage because it is profitable. Humdrum news does not make them money, and they’ve gotten quite good at serving up outrage, and we, to our detriment, have really developed an appetite for it.
Life today is so complex, and the news media feeding us outrage is just one of the reasons.
Corporations, for example. If you’re old enough, you will remember the Occupy Wall Street protests. In summary, it was a protest against these massive New York banks that led everything, and the 99%(us) all suffered for it. The harsh reality is that people on Wall Street are very, very smart. They quickly realized an age-old strategy would work on us 99% – divide and conquer. I take a brief departure; I believe the ’80s, while not perfect (the hair and the parachute pants, Good Lord!), were about the best we had in terms of Americans really being on the same team and supporting each other. We had a common enemy in Russia, and we were all in it together. Back to today and the divide and conquer strategy, you now see protests that giant corporations actually sponsor. Keep in mind that they also support the other “side” of these protests. See where I am going here? They are literally investing money in demonstrations so that we focus on each other and not on them. It’s much better for big business if we’re at each other’s throats, so they can continue to count the money uninterrupted.
Last, I put this raging elephant phenomenon on politicians. Both sides have entirely given up on being bipartisan. Bipartisan means being a politician that is open-minded and willing to work with the other party. The two sides work together with totally different opinions until they find common ground and pass laws that are good for Americans. Nowadays, both parties treat politics like a religion. The “other side” is evil. If someone is evil, it would be morally wrong to work with them, right? To make matters worse, we keep electing the same people and wonder why things don’t improve. In the next election, take at least an hour to figure out who is running and for what. Research like your future depends on it because it does.
I am not all doom and gloom, however. There are real and concrete ways to fix this raging elephant mind mentality. I believe that simplicity, discipline, and purpose are the solution.
Simplicity – stop feeding your mind garbage. Clean up your social media. Turn off the news. Worry about what is local and what you have a chance to control. In short, unclutter your life from the unimportant things we’re being fed and see how much nicer things get.
Discipline – with your TV now off, go for walks. Every day! Enjoy the beautiful State we live in. Make time to talk to your neighbors – you know, the people you drive past and wave to so you can rush home and be outraged some more. Pay attention to what you eat. Corporations are very happy to sell us garbage disguised as food. If it costs $1 in the drive-thru, do you really think it’s going to be good for you? Go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. These take effort, but you are worth it. Plus, you will undoubtedly see other improvements pop up from this newfound discipline if you stick with it.
Purpose – think for a moment about why you are here. What is your purpose? News media, corporations, and politicians all want you rudderless and wandering. With no purpose, you find meaning only in what they are selling. Instead, find something that really moves you and focus on that. It’s impossible for me to nail down what drives you, but here’s a starter idea to begin with- find a local food pantry or pet adoption shelter and help them in their mission – even volunteering some time one day a month will help them a lot. You’ll meet amazing people and get some new friends. The other benefit here is that your mind and your soul get helped, too, simply because you helped them. Having a purpose in your life gives you a fuller life.
I’m no life coach, pfft, far from it! I just write about what I know or have done, including success and failure. There was a time not too long ago when I had some downtime, I looked forward to getting online and being outraged. Once I recognized I was investing precious time in things that I had zero control over and were not making my life better, it became clear that I needed to put my downtime energy elsewhere. For example, I now invest time with Lehigh Community Services and the Lee County School District. I know my actions genuinely help others, which directly helps me control my own elephant mind. These actions allow my mind peace. Peace then allows my mind focus. Focusing on the things that matter brings me contentment and happiness. My mind definitely still rages now and then, but overall, I find that using this recipe of simplicity, discipline, and purpose is an effective tool. My mind is controlled, so my heart is happy. Seeing a raging elephant is terrifying, whereas seeing a happy elephant seems to convey power, grace, and gentleness. I believe one thing everyone can agree on is that being happy is far better than being outraged.
To sum things up, focus each day on becoming a better person than you were yesterday, and by this time next year, you will be amazed at how far you have come! I will not have another article until this January, so in the meantime, I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year!