The Illusion Of Control

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The Illusion of Control

I struggle most of the time with writing articles because I constantly put pressure on myself to write the best article possible on the subject matter, and while this has been helpful in helping me write some well accepted articles, it’s a major drain of my creativity and happiness for the most part, because when I write something I’m not happy with, I beat myself up about it. So I have decided to just go with the flow on this article.

There are few thoughts you come across —and consciously or subconsciously accept — that changes who you are and how you view the world. The effects on you as a person is different depending upon what truth or idea you have just accepted into your core belief.

For me, one such idea is the much despised-but unavoidable truth that the idea that we have no control over how our lives will panned/will pan out in the end.

There are many people who would never agree with this, they find it hard to; “It’s my life, I am in control” they would say. But the cold reality is that we have no control over our lives, and I’ll tell you why.

To fully grasp this, we must first be willing to distinguish the “self” —who is consciously aware, the you who makes decisions— and the “other self” —who is pure sub-consciousness, the you you do not know.

Consider this analogy, the body is a computer (hardware), the operating system however is our minds because it essentially controls the body. Now imagine that in this operating system resides a portion that holds all our personal data — likes, dislikes, identity, etc. This portion is the self, it has some level of control over the system as a whole, but this control is based on authorizations/settings that has been granted to it by the operating system which holds all the information of our very existence and basically runs the show. The self in this case is just consciously aware of its existence in the system. This is not very accurate analogy as the full information in my head is a bit to complicated for the length of this article, but I think it helps drive my point for a home run!

The self’s control over the system and the world at large is limited to what the operating system has decided for it even before the realisation of the self (it has been proven that the sense of self develop after a few months on earth). Leaving this analogy behind, we can move forward.

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Chains

To really understand our total lack of control regarding the way our life has, is and will pan out, we only have to look in the mirror and pay attention to our features. Arguably one of the most important part about you (your looks) were totally out of your control and that of your parents’, it was just biology. Going deeper into this, just one event could have resulted in your not existing right now, maybe your mum and dad decided to Netflix but not chill, or your mum found your dad’s friend to be a more suitable match for her.

As is the case with the world now, where you are born and to which family you are born into decides 98% how your life will pan out, in almost every facet of life. The friends you keep, your religious belief, your future/present success. This most important driver of how our life will pan out is not in our country, never was and never will be for the trillions of humans that will exist after us.

Which is why when I see christians or Muslims saying believing so strongly in their respective faiths, I wonder if they realise just how different that believe would be if they were born to opposite families.

DNA Gene

Furthermore, our talents —one of the few things we believe make us unique— are not down to our choosing, we just find them within ourselves. It was already encoded into our genes (for lack of a better phrase) before we even became conscious, much less when we became consciously aware. Add onto this list our likes and dislikes, the kind of people we are drawn to, the hobbies we have. We didn’t choose any of these things, these things were chosen for us, we just became aware of them.

The billionaire business man who hails his drive and determination as the reason why “he” made it and then looks down on others for not having the courage to take risks. This drive and determination he speaks of, how did he get it? Did he train himself to get it, or he already had it? And if he did train himself to get it, where did this desire come from? His environment? What he had seen or heard from someone? If yes, then he didn’t choose to see or hear these things, he already had a predisposition for them.

If Mark Zuckerberg was born in Nigeria, I bet the N109.00 (N9 during proof-reading. I bought credit) in my account that he doesn’t create Facebook, heck he doesn’t even know what coding is. The environment around him would have shaped his ambition, interests, friends. He’d probably be debating who is richer, Linda Ikeji or Wizkid.

I am in no way saying that you should give up trying to achieve whatever dream you have — hell, I have dreams of dominating the billboard charts with my music and taking home the much coveted grammys, and I’ve known this for over a year now. This reality — that you are not in control, you never were — is scary for some people to accept, but whether or not you choose to accept it, it is still there. Knowing this shouldn’t make you feel sad or helpless, rather it should let you see that much of your life is not entirely in your control so there is no need feeling regret and hating yourself, or beating yourself up for not achieving the goals you set out to achieve. No, this should however help you realise that what will be will be and your one aim in life should be to be happy.

If you’d like to have a discussion about this article, or life in general, don’t be shy to post in the comments section below, or send me a DM (direct message) on twitter @gillianbaci.

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PERCEPTION: THE MAGIC OF THE MIND

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The Magic is in Our Minds

Countless works of fictions have been based on the concept of magic, the greatest being the Harry Potter book series by JK Rowling, my personal favourite. But we all knew that, we’ve either read these stories or seen movies. What aren’t aware of however and I aim to show is that the greatest feat of magic happens within us, in our very heads. Without the magic of the mind, no other magic in the world would exist.

A lot of words have been written and said about the pitfalls of one of Man’s greatest attributes, and while I do agree that it does have its drawbacks, this article focuses on what makes it one of the most important flaws we posses.

Our innate ability to perceive…

In the dictionary, there are two main definitions of the word “Perceive”. The first definition

become aware or conscious of (something); come to realise or understand

while a core attribute that makes Man Man because it alludes to our self awareness and consciousness fails to describe what makes perception one of man’s greatest flaws.

The second definition however opens up a window from which we can see this greatness soar.

interpret or regard (someone or something) in a particular way

Our ability to perceive things for more than what they are is what gives our existence a richness that can’t be found in any other known species (at least to a level that we can observe). We are able to see things not just for what they are, but also for what they aren’t.

This innate ability to see things for more than what they are is what gave birth to one of Man’s greatest abilities, the one without which we’d still be wandering the earth as cavemen, imagination.

Every work of art and human invention ever created has been sparked first by an imagination, an ability to see something that wasn’t there.

To fully understand the importance of this ability is to first consider our understanding of the universe which we live in. Without an ability to imagine, we wouldn’t be able to make mini models of the solar system, we wouldn’t be able to imagine what the sun would look like even though we haven’t seen it up close.

A great storyteller, a brilliant songwriter and a wonderful artist all have at the core of their awe inspiring talent, an uncanny ability to see things for more than what they are, whereby giving alternate — and often times deep meaning — to regular things and events. Given how much humanity gravitates towards the arts, be it music, stories, drawings, it is not far fetched to assume that the creators of all of this works of art represent humanity at its peak. This however doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is any less human. To appreciate any work of art is to draw an understanding of that work, in so doing you become man at his peak.

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Everyone has an ability to create because everyone has this innate ability to perceive, to imagine. Some of us however spend a lot of time developing the tools we need to create something that people want to be lost in. The greatest musicians, artists, actors, authors, scientists etc, spent their lives doing just that.

You don’t even have to be a listen to songs, read fiction books or appreciate beautiful art to tap into this. This phenomena is most prevalent in the use of memes on social media. A picture taken in a certain context is made to draw from your body a great deal of laughter when someone makes you see it in the context of another situation. The emergence and subsequent dominance of funny vines and memes stand as further proof, the ability of any and every human to see things beyond what the are.

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Every facet of our technological advancement has depended squarely on our ability to imagine. Airplanes, mobile phones, tablets, cars, spaceships etc. None of them would be possible if we had no ability to perceive them first. Think of it this way, every equation that was ever solved to figure out how to design an airplane came after the fact, it all resulted from having a goal first. All started from the imagination that we could fly like the birds too, I think Leonardo Da Vinci.

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Da Vinci’s Imagination

To be unable to perceive things for more than what they are is to lose what makes our humanity what it is. Even man’s greatest fear has been conquered by a large dose of imagination for some. Most of us believe that when we die, we aren’t truly dead, that we will some how live on in hell or heaven. Whether this is accurate or not is not the purpose of this article, what I aim to show however is that by imagining a future after death, we are able to live in peace.

Imagine a world without a humanity that has an ability to imagine. It’s like a black hole singularity.

So don’t be afraid to perceive things, don’t be scared to imagine.

THE GRAND STAGE

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A Stage

The purpose of this article is based on two premises. The first, “we are all terrible actors“. To this some might say “but I already know that, I’ve never tried to act” or that “it’s a lie, Leonardo Di Caprio is a great actor, as are a ton of the people in the movie industry, from Hollywood to Bollywood to our very own Nollywood and every other ‘wood that exists thereof.”

The second premise however gives context to the first premise “life is the grand stage“.

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The Grand Stage

DISCLAIMER: The point of view encased in this article is in no way my complete view of the subject, however, it is as I thought, an interesting idea or point of view and so I decided to honour it by expanding on it.

Almost everyone I’ve come across during my two decade stint (a little over) on earth has admitted to having a favorite fictional character whom they would most like to be like.

Note however that the term ‘fictional character‘ in this context is not limited to just characters (people, Wizards, gods, vampires, lycans, magical beasts, superheroes, etc.) found in works of fiction, but also extends to any real person who is regarded by another as a role model or mentor.

My reason for this is simple, whatever thought you have of that person’s life is not itself based entirely on just facts, but a blend of fiction that makes that attributes of that character all the more desirable.

For example I think that Albus Percival Dumbledore is the greatest man that never lived, and in reality, only Arsene Wenger comes close.

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Dumbledore – “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

Alright, enough with the introduction.

How many times have you seen a work of fiction and thought to yourself how cool it would be to adopt the traits of (a) certain character(s)? Or read/heard about a real person who has achieved something you would like to achieve and thought how useful it would be to try to become that person? (Maybe it’s never happened to you, in that case you can stop reading at this point)

In each of these moments, we begin to alter our very actions to suit the image we have set for ourselves either consciously or subconsciously. Very few of us are able to keep this facade over a long period, ranging from months to years to even a lifetime, but the bulk of us can barely go a day without breaking character.

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#OneArseneWenger – “The only time possible for happiness is the present. The past gives regrets and future uncertainties.”

Our reasons for wanting to be like other people are just as different as our faces, and that is beyond the scope of this article. However I would like to point the reason I think most of us fail, and this in itself is not a bad thing at all, on the contrary, it shows that our sense of self is much stronger.

We fail at becoming like other characters on this grand stage of life simply because we already have our roles, the problem however is that most of us don’t yet know what our roles are, so we audition for other roles in a quest to find our roles. Think of it this way, you are already playing your role on this stage, but you can however play it better if you understand who your character is, that way you can easily make improvs if need be, because you already understand who your character is, just like in filmmaking.

Take the movie Titanic for instance, Leonardo Di Caprio is able to play the role of Jack so effectively because prior to the shoot, he has read the script, researched on his character, and in so doing develops a great understanding of this character. Imagine for a second then if he tried to play the character of Jack whilst using the persona of Cobb (a character he plays in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant 2010 movie Inception). We instantly lose some form of connection to this character.

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The Joker – “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you…stranger”

Another great example that springs to mind is Heath Ledger’s phenomenal portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight (easily the best superhero movie ever made). We are captivated by the Joker because Heath does a perfect job portraying him. Prior to the shoot, Heath “locked” himself away in a hotel room for a span of six weeks, forming a character diary (which can be found online) and experimenting with voices. Those were the lengths Ledger took to fully understand his character and deliver arguably the super villain performance of a lifetime.

Unlike in filmmaking however, we the actors don’t get any scripts that detail who our characters are, so we are flying blind, this is scary to us because of the uncertainty that surrounds our role, of which we don’t know yet. Slowly however we begin to get a feel of who our character is by the things and people we like or dislike, by our dreams and ambitions. We begin to realise who we are, we begin to get a feel for who our character is. But then something unprecedented happens. I will expand on this in sequel to this post.

At this point, some people may stop exploring their characters because just like before, the uncertainty of a blank script with no instructions is scary, so we look at the successful characters we like and adopt their script and try to play it to the best of our abilities. For some people it works, for others it doesn’t. But everytime we explore, we find out something different about our character, until we get to a point where we find out just enough about who we are and are able to improv when the need arises.

The idea for this article filtered into my consciousness eight months ago, but my laziness as proven by the number of articles on this blog should lend some idea as to why it is just being posted now. So hopefully the sequel doesn’t spend as much time being produced as it’s taking James Cameron to produce Avatar 2.

 

The Sun and The Moon, Sisters of Light

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Tales of the sun and the moon have been told for thousands of years, all of which reaffirms the point that, the sun rules the day and the moon rules the night. Very few however, try to tell of what happened before this time, for only a minuscule portion of the few that tell of these stories know of the origin story.

The tale of the sun and the moon is one of beautiful tragedy, ridden with love and sacrifice. Two entities bound to be apart unless on those rare occasions when the stars align.

A heck of a long time ago, before everything that is was, what we have come to know as the sun and the moon were a part of one entity with nothing to divide them, existing in total harmony with each other, unable to tell themselves apart, for sisters they were. It is unclear to us as to how much time had passed, for in this great past, there was no definition of time or space, for all was void. And then came the event that began the expansion of the greater entity we have come to regard as the universe, the big bang. 

During this phenomenal event, whilst the universe grew larger but before the advent of life, the entity that encapsulated the sisters was torn apart, and from the debris of this carnage arose the consciousness of the entity we have come to regard as the sun. Some may find the  concept of a sun that possesses its own consciousness as absurd and so before we go on, it is important to address that it is naive to think of our existence as the only one worthy of experiencing itself, for what is consciousness other than the ability to experience one’s existence as opposed to just existing.

Every level of existence has embedded in it, its own form of consciousness

Awoken to this consciousness, the sun was immediately aware that it was missing a huge part of its existence. Over a thousand centuries were spent searching for the lost sister but with no success, until one day when a meteor struck an entity we have come to regard as earth.

To the delight of the sun, encased within the earth was the sister whom she had spent centuries searching, and from the impact of the blow to earth, the entity we regard as the moon was freed into its independent existence. Both sisters, after being separated for an eternity were elated to finally be together.

Overcome by an intense joy and a deep appreciation for the baby (earth) that brought them together, the sisters decided help it grow and preserve life. But this would be at a great sacrifice.

To watch over their baby and help it foster life, the sisters would have to be apart for hundred  or in some cases thousands of years until the phenomenon which we call an eclipse occurred, sending one sister in front of the other, just so they could be together for that little moment.

Spending thousands of centuries altering the atmosphere and topography via heating and cooling, the baby was able to grow life and has ever since been able to preserve that life, and thus the concept of night and day was formed.

The sun and the moon, sisters of light.

Man’s Escape From Garden of Eden (To Freedom)

The more freedom a man gains, depending on his ability or inability to handle it, the more alone and helpless he feels.

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The garden of Eden story before now was not one of my favorite stories, I didn’t care from it (who likes a sad ending?). But I’ve been led to look at it under a different set of lights. Now, for this post to make any sense to you, I would implore you to open your mind and leave your belief at this line for it is said that belief is so often the death of reason.

The story as every christian has been told, starts off with God creating the world and everything we see in it, then he creates man in the form of Adam & Eve to watch over and care for a garden and all of the creatures in it, they even had the privilege of naming the animals. There was only one caveat to this dreamlike existence though,

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die

All is well and good in the Garden of Eden as God has created it but then he goes ahead and tells man to not eat of a forbidden tree, the one that will give Man the knowledge of Good and Evil. The penalty for eating of that tree seemed a bit too severe, but as those who have read through the story already know, Man did not physically die when he undoubtedly couldn’t keep to God’s command.

The different light I was referring to at the beginning of this post was that of freedom. If you take the story in a different context, a context that is more easily relatable to our existence,  you will maybe find something interesting, as I did.

In the story, Man (Adam and Eve) is living in perfect harmony with nature, there’s no need to work, no need to worry, everything is in great prosody, their minds are at ease with all that they see, they need not question anything. The only rule God imposes on them is this “do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil“. Why this didn’t jump out at me before, or why I did not question it is a thought battle for a quieter time between my conscious and subconscious. But moving on, it is clear to see that like all the other animals in the Garden, Man was at one with nature, but unlike all the other animals, only he had the freedom (opportunity, capacity, ability) to choose between advancing, or staying the same.
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
As most of you already know, Man did as Man had to do given his evolutionary heritage. He ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and in that moment, human nature was born, our freedom from nature itself. Instantly, the effects were visible (in the story that is).
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
While that act is seen as the first of a myriad of sins man will come to commit from the standpoint of the church, from the standpoint of man however, this is the beginning of freedom. In that moment, man broke free from nature, in that moment, man saw himself as a separate entity; he saw himself as the self.
The price man had to pay for his freedom was the sudden realization that he was alone, as the story concludes, man was banished from the garden of eden and basically told by God to fend for himself.
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever “– 23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
To better understand the point I am driving at, this sentence from Eric Fromm’s book Escape From Freedom –from where I picked up this train of thought- puts it neatly
In the myth, the sin in its formal aspect is the eating of the tree of knowledge. The act of disobedience as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason.
I’d like to read your thoughts.