** This article is originally published in OpEd News Network with 72 hours exclusive **
It’s been almost 10 days now since EgyptAir’s flight MS804 came down into the Mediterranean sea. However, Egypt public interpretations have been 30 days old (i.e. more mature than the elapsed time in which experts are working on deciphering the incident). In fact, public interpretations have been flying over social networks before even a single wreckage was ever found.
Aviation experts says there are three main reasons behind airplanes fall: 1) Meteorological, 2) Technical, and 3) Terrorism – and they ruled out the Meteorological. This left us with only Technical and Terrorism. Well, this is aviation experts worldwide. What happened next is interesting.
Egyptian public interpretations, and sometimes remarkably confident conclusions, have started to formulate around these two categories depending on the previous mental background of each one. If the person is from the group who sees Egypt on the rise and that there is conspiracy to bring it behind, the person will be more inclined to Terrorism as the reason; saying that there was a bomb aboard and so on. The group would mostly be older generations Egyptians. If the person is from the group who sees that EVERY thing about Egypt is shit, then, the person will be more inclined to the Technical cause and will go further by adding that it’s induced by some careless on the pilot’s part or the company’s part. This group is mostly the younger generations Egyptians. And since statistically Egypt’s 78% of population is young age, it follows therefore that the majority of the Egyptian public is now blaming the company or the pilots for causing the crash.
Remarkably, members of each group have been talking confidently like experts. And this is a known mental illusion proven by Neuroscience: the brain constructs the perfect story from impressions formulated from appearances; then, gets that story endorsed by your analytical parts of the brain (thorough but lazy) based on what’s called Associative Memory – which makes available to you anything from the past memory that supports the impression at hand. When this procedure happens, what we call “Prejudice” appears. You become prejudiced about specific group or specific country or specific company.
To the prejudiced Egyptians of Group 2, I direct these questions and facts:
Haven’t the Egyptians suffered a lot from prejudiced opinions? Would you like to be denied your rights anywhere in the world because you are an Egyptian? Certainly you wouldn’t want that and for sure you are abhorring the suffer of prejudice against Egyptians or Muslims or Doctors. Then, why you are denying now the company’s right or the pilots’ rights by being prejudiced about the situation?
For instance, a hashtag in Twitter was created in Arabic, meaning #I_Will_Not_Fly_EgyptAir. Based on what? The leaked information you have from the sight, or from your ability to see the destiny, or based on the story your mind has told you in alignments with your own negative background on everything in Egypt…
If you are from those who are insulting EgyptAir (management or pilots), have an honest pause with yourself and ask yourself just this: based on what you have formulated your attack? And if your stand is based on information provided by others, ask yourself based on what they have formulated their attack? If you do this honestly, you will 100% find that your stand against the company is implausible and unfair. You will also find that those you grouped with are just imposing their own mental stories on you. They have no ground too.
The below are some pointers that should aid you in correcting your unfair stand; if you honestly care about not being unfair to someone so that no one becomes unfair to you someday:
A- Almost every airliner had incidents in its track record. For example, just last year Germanwings pilot who crashed his plane into the mountains for suicide. No one like you has commenced an attack calling for boycotting the airliner.
B- Be critical about it. No formal authority with hands-on the situation has said any conclusion. You should wait and only by the availability of the information you can start critically validating things and formulate your own conclusion. Even if a country like France came out and said Egyptians were fools, you shouldn’t take this at face value. Instead, you examine there premises on which they built their conclusion critically then see if it makes sense or not. Same with individuals. For example, some employees in the company or in the airport has said “Maintenance is shit and the plane is shit.” Question their stand. Are they experts? What the hell they know about planes and maintenance operations to make such statements? And if they do, where is this shit everywhere?
C- People makes blunt statements like experts because of two things: 1) it makes them feel good about themselves or 2) they are serving specific agenda. You should be careful and classify. A ground hostess in the airport or an office employee in EgyptAir who tweets that EgyptAir maintenance is shit is an example of group 1. She feels great about herself because this blunt conclusion gives her the illusionary satisfaction that she’s an important person in the company. Oh yeah, she’s there and knows everything. A specific country or a specific group may want to undermine your country people trust in their own national company. Don’t fall prey to these two types. As I speak here about the Egyptian public opinions; then, most of what you encountered so far is the first type: people feeding their own psychological problems by being smart ass. They are simply not because simply there are no proved information or data on which their forceful conclusions are based. Want to try? Ask any of them to present them; and you will find non-sense.
D- Remember any situation in your life when someone has judged you at face value without caring about facts or your defense. For example, one time when your direct supervisor has told the manager that your work is no good and the manager brought you for a performance meeting where you had to defend yourself to find him demanding improvements from you and blaming you. Or when your membership to a group has brought you pain or even jail without giving you the opportunity of a trial. Or when you found difficulty obtaining a visa to travel somewhere because you are an Egyptian. Remember these situations that happened to you when you were attacked or denied rights because of someone or some country or some group has made an upfront general conclusion against you like the “Will_Never_Fly_EgyptAir” you are supporting now.
E- Consider the big picture, 1) how many years EgyptAir has been operating in Egypt? 2) How many flights EgyptAir commences daily? 3) How many crash incidents in its track record?
F- Are are you judging things through black lens because you see everything in Egypt as shit? Admittedly, Egypt as a developing country having big share in chaos could not be the best place to live; however, your “valid” opinion about the country must be kept only for your conclusion about living in the country; however, never let it pollute your ability to judge things fairly. This would be a stigma chasing you throughout your life anywhere you would go. One might be hating everything about a country because it’s all shit, but when it comes to judging things, ONLY valid, correct, and fair mentality should be applied. This is your own wellbeing; do not pollute it because you live in a country you consider shitty.
G- If you are convinced or claim that your stand or analysis of the crash is based on logical reasoning, be careful, it’s your own Self fooling you.
There are only two forms of logical arguments: Induction and Deduction. Deductive reasoning starts with a general statement; then, follows with specifics, which all must be true in order for the conclusion to be true. An example of a deductive reasoning is: All men is mortal. Jack is man. Therefore, Jack is mortal. So, Mr. Logician, if your stand is based on this type of logical reasoning; then, your argument would be like this: All EgyptAir flights are doomed by carelessness-maintenance-stupidity-mistakes. Flight MS804 is EgyptAir. Therefore, Flight MS804 is doomed by carelessness-maintenance-stupidity-mistakes. In such case, your first premise is logically wrong; because not all EgyptAir flights got doomed (consider the first point). Inductive reasoning, on the other hand, starts with specifics that all must be true such that it ends up in a general statement that is logically true. Under such reasoning approach, your argument against the situation would be like this: Flight MS804 is flown by EgyptAir. The flight got doomed. Therefore, All EgyptAir flights are doomed. Again, a logically wrong argument.
I hope you can use the above pointers (and possibly add to them) in correcting your stand and remove prejudice. And always remember that anyone can judge you (and act upon your life) with the same quickness and with partial information as you are doing here. Same as you don’t want that to be done to you, take the correct route before judging situations and others.
Have you ever wondered how humans are able to live peacefully though all the potential dangers and bad outcomes that could happen to us? What dangers and what bad outcomes? Well, we don’t know – there are just plenty of them from illnesses to relationship failure to death. All are unknown; either by case or by timing.
Hope is a characteristic paired with the unknown. It’s the unknown with its potential outcomes of good or bad that make us hope for the good to happen rather than the bad. If life’s incidents are pre-known to us, there wouldn’t be any need for hope. As such, one of Hope workings is the must of projecting into the future. You cannot hope for something for the moment; you have to throw it off one or two points in the sphere of future; then, sling to it with your hope. The other part of the process is that as you project it into the future, you envision that the good part is the one that keeps happening, indefinitely. This is basically what we mean by “I Hope”. To summarize, Hope is something about the future, not the past nor the present, and it’s about the good thing always happening as the outcome. I boldfaced ‘indefinitely’ above because it’s very interesting feature of hope: there is no end for your imagination of the good always happening. Hope is an indefinite sensation. Want a proof? Easy. Without this indefinite feature of hope, no human being would be able to live with the fact of Death.
Hope is the Sensational Defeat for Death.
It is hope that makes you expecting to live for tomorrow; you cannot be possibly dying tomorrow, not after a month, not after a year….. It keeps going indefinitely. Everybody has an internal hope to live for tomorrow, every day!
With the unknown lying at a distance, you cannot help imaging that the bad is the option to happen that you “hope” for the good to happen; then, you live up for that day. That’s how you keep going.
But hope is nothing negative. It decorates our life and gives us something to live for. It only becomes negative when hope is paired with inactivity. This is when the student doesn’t study for the exam and hopes that he still passes it. This is when hope becomes a painkiller for our inactivity and a conscience silencer for our ill-doings. And here is opens a very interesting thing about human beings: Honest action with total faith vanishes hope.
Faithful action for itself dispels hope.
When you love for itself. When you write for itself. When you work for itself. When you live your life with all what’s in it faithfully for itself, you cease to need hope because there won’t be any unknown you care for. In itself emphasizes the now; the unknown that lies at a distance is not longer important. There is no future state for which you are doing what you are doing now. Thus, you don’t need hope anymore.
Living faithfully and honestly for whatever in your life for itself is the mother of all healthy living, void of fear or expectations. It’s not living in the now as much as believing in whatever you are doing now. Stop hoping for your life. Just live that life, for now and for itself.
How much from your life is on the Autopilot?
A disruptive question that I usually ask to shake the peaceful equilibrium deep inside. This is because, in fact, your life, well, could be run on the autopilot most of the time.
Let me first attempt to put a definition first. A life run on auto-pilot is a life lived reactively. Except for the deliberate thinking activities you may be doing in your job, you live your life always responding to life’s situations; without deliberate thought. Typical examples of auto-pilot affairs are like culture, norms, social beliefs…etc. While having some of your actions/thoughts automated is something good for living efficiently, the other side of the same coin is drastic – actions and decisions taken reactively are prone to mistakes and regrets.
Auto-pilot living is not a fiction nor what I am warning you of above is something metaphorical. It’s now something we could tract and prove scientifically. Neuroscience has made a feat in increasing our understanding of our mental lives. Consider the below figure and answer the following question:
Which line is longer?
You most certainly answered that the top one is longer than the bottom one. If you got a ruler and measured both lines, you would find that both lines are of exact same length. Worse, even after you have measured it with the ruler and confirmed that they are of equal length, your feeling will keep telling you that the top one is really longer.
We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness. ~ Daniel Kahneman
This is an example for auto-pilot living. You live judging things and observing them without invoking much thought; without using the parts in your brain responsible for in-depth analysis of things. You snap judge things reactively and through appearances. This is my true friend, this is my true love, this is my true job; you auto-pilot these choices and your feeling of their truth is just as real as you felt the top line in the above figure is really longer. Welcome to the world of Illusions, that only shows us how flawed our ability to engage our true faculty of mind into reasoning about things. The above figure is called Muller Illusion; and it (among many other illusions) demonstrates the conflict between two divisions in your brain, psychologists call System 1 and System 2; with System 1 being responsible for making impressions, feelings, and automated responses while System 2 being responsible for in-depth analysis and reasoning. In the basic sense, System 1 handles running your basic daily operations; however, System 2 takes over when deliberate mental effort is engaged like when you are solving mathematical problem or taking an exam or analyzing a situation in-depth.
This is no offense for System 1. Without it, after all, our lives would be like hell; and without it, failure is inevitable. The harmony of interplay with the in-depth System 2 is also a mark of success. However, the problem lies when affairs of your life are not handled by the right system; that is, when the switch doesn’t happen and you live always with System 1 that lacks in-depth analysis of things when you need one. At that time, you would see falseness in reality and swear of it – like you would swear that the top line is longer; and like you would swear that this is your best friend or true person to you.
Knowing you have two competing systems in your mental life and their purposes is a leap in understanding more about how you mentally take in things. It takes just a deliberate will to do the switch and you engage System2 as it should in conducting your life affairs. And it’s not about wrong decisions. If you weigh up things with your System2 and decide that this wrong decision is what you want; then, be it. The most important thing is that you are mentally engaged as the matter calls for and that you are true to yourself accordingly.
How much do you live on auto-pilot? That’s my question to you that when you ask yourself you will be no longer on auto-pilot.
We live in a period (and society) in which being able to do multiple things is a skill appreciated. If you tried to search Google the topic multitasking, you will find different bloggers and online content generators competing in proposing different techniques. In workspace, if you are not a multitasker, you are called inefficient or an employee of limited capabilities.
However, Neuroscience got another word – well, something scientific: the human brain is NOT designed to multitask. Simply put, your brain simply cannot multi-task. If it isn’t, then, you would say, so how I am able to multitask all that time? Well, you deluded that you are multitasking. What happens neurologically is that you brain is simply switching between tasks; however, it fools you that you are multitasking because the human brain is highly quick in doing these switches. Very well, some would say, if my brain does not support multitasking yet is able to effectively switching between different tasks; then, fair enough I am still multitasking who cares how this is being handled neurologically inside the brain. Well, no. The operation of switching between tasks comes with high cost. It’s in fact a highly resource consuming activity to juggle between multiple tasks. The human brain uses Glucose as its primary nutrition and such exhaustive switching of tasks causes your brain to burn Glucose at rapid rate. This leaves you feeling exhausted and deplete your overall energy. Furthermore, on the mental level, the human brain works via networking neurons in different patters. For example, performing a specific task would cause a specific set of neurons to fire together in a neural network. What happens when you juggle between tasks is that this neural circuity is never established to its stable form. It remains suseptible to interference over the course of time. That’s why jugglers and people who attempts to learn multiple things concurrently or over short timeframes are never masters of anything from what they learn. Thus what you think is multitasking is not only depleting your bodily and mental energy quickly, but it also hinders your mental development in what you do.
Having talk about the mental dimension and neurological dimension, the delusion of multitasking also kills another dimension, the existential and psychological. You have to see focusing and doing one thing sufficiently at a time as a bliss and joy you are missing. When you let yourself get absorbed in a task you do, this acts as an effective way of healing life’s stresses (remember, your brain can’t do two things at a time – so focusing in one task means you won’t think of other problems). It also rewards you by feeding the human natural inclination to understand and gain knowledge. You feel that you are in more control over your task when you are fully focused in it without having to attend to others at the same time. This mental control feeds your inner mental satisfaction.
Next time, try it yourself. And remember the science: your brain can never multitask. Live in everything you do; for you breath in what you do only when you are fully engaged in it with all your senses.
You are not your acquaintances. You are not your body. You are not your clothes. You are not your job… You are not even your thoughts!
You are time. You are like the Hourglass; as one grain of sand passes through, it’s part of it went away. Each grain of sand is like a day in your life, an hour. As the time passes, it’s part of you that is passed. It’s weird after that to see people trying to accomplish something independent of that awareness; independent of the dimension of time. The best they do is to add the dimension of time as a target date or a deadline; however, this is still not adding time in the equation. Aiming for a target or creating a timelined plan about yourself or your life is not like considering how you spend your hour of time. Timelined plans can make you see what you do with the days or months or years, but not the fleeting hours of your own Today. The result could be accomplished life per plan, but a life that always missed the Today, the present. That is to add: You are not your achievements. You are the time you have taken to do these achievements.
What you do in life yes is what defines you; your actions and achievements. However, underlying these is your time. How many persons we know of high achievements who still missed their time. If you will spend 80% of your lifetime on achievements, be sure that the other 20% are aligned with your achievements. And that your time, you, is well spent. Live in Today and care for how you are spent… For that you are nothing but hours.
The incentive of recreation is loss not gain; failure rather than success. You recreate yourself to adapt to a situation or a condition, characterized by loss or shortage. Recreation is a chance given to you to rise from your loss; not necessarily by removing the loss, but mostly by adapting yourself to it thus compensating for it. This is something important to realize because some people think that you create yourself based on gain so they keep waiting for the best times in their lives to come so that they recreate themselves. This (based on gains) is not recreation, but arrogance. For example, when buying a Mercedes or relocating to an expensive neighbourhood to stop knowing your old neighbourhood friends and start bonding with new one.
Recreation is something different. You first realize the shortage or the negative part. Then, for each shortage or negative set an objective or a goal – that is, define what would be the opposite side of that negative part. I said the opposite side because not every negative in our lives would necessarily have a possible positive accessible to us. However, every negative would have an opposite side, which is your adaptation to it. Take for example the blind. There is no positive, but there is an opposite side, which could be nurturing other senses to compensate for loss of sight. Whatever your shortage or negatives, there is always an opposite side. It’s you how defines that opposite side.
Once you have realized the shortage or the negative and you defined an opposite side for each, start defining and taking daily steps to achieve that opposite side – this is the Mean. You need to know what is the suitable vehicle that would take you from the starting point to the destination potion. The mean could be a change of a habit or a change of attitude or a change of perception. Some destinations are reached by attitude change, some by exercise…etc. Choosing the wrong mean could mislead you. Based on your full understanding of what is your problem and what’s the desired end you want, the suitable mean would be clear to you.
These three elements you must reflect on and write down: The negatives in your life, what is the opposite side you which to achieve for each, and what’s the suitable mean that would carry you to there. Once you have them written down, act. Act and review on them daily before you sleep. Recreate yourself!
What is fear?
In its basic sense, fear is not wanting or being afraid of an undesirable outcome to happen. Thus reasons of fear is that you visualize an undesirable outcome or event and then fear its occurrence.
This is the role fear plays in preserving living creature. Without this mechanism, many undesirable events/outcomes wouldn’t have been avoided. However, the condition becomes handicapping for those obsessing about irrational fears.
Most people attempt to resolve this by operating on their fear itself. The use techniques like: distract your attention, try to overcome your fear…etc. However, such techniques are not sustainable. They might send obsessive fear off, but soon it returns again in attacks. It’s not a permanent solution.
Understand: it’s ALWAYS difficult to operate on your Self. When confronted with any situation in life, if there is a path to get thing done other than through the Self inside; then, opt for it immediately (sadly, this is not the norm).
Instead, operate on the object of fear.
- When you are attacked by a specific fear, consciously identify the undesirable outcome/event triggering your fear (based on my essential definition of fear I defined above). Make sure here that you go through the rabbit hole in pinpointing the real undesirable outcome/event behind your fear.
- Once you know the undesirable outcome/event causing you the fear, you have two options:
- Alter your perception of the outcome/event itself.
How many times you rebelled against something only to find out later that it wasn’t that bad at all? How many times you feared something to find that it was in fact interesting to happen? Sometimes our own perceptions make the outcome/event an undesirable one yet when we ground things in reality or attach them to context, our perception of them changes 180 degrees.
If possible, look at the outcome/event and see what’s about it that can make you perceive it as fear-free.
2. Narrow your definition of what’s fearful.
Fear is sometimes an impulse. If you are not attentive in such time, it will take you over without you giving yourself a chance to think rationally about it. In such cases, when you suddenly say “wait a minute, what am I afraid of”, you may find nothing deserves the fear.
The best way to trap such type of fear (i.e. when it comes as an impulse), is to ask What If?
For example, you are giving a presentation at work and after you were done, you were struck by the fear that you presented badly. In such case, it can turn out to the worst by haunting you down a spiral of negative thoughts. Now, “what if I presented badly”; my colleagues would say that I am not good at public speaking. So What?
Are you going to be fired. No. Are you going to miss the promotion. No (unless your job is not about presenting, which is another thing). Are you going to be hated or ignored by your colleagues. No.
Probably even, your audience won’t remember anything about your bad presentation 3 days after it.
Whenever possible, work on eliminating some of your fears by putting them out of consideration completely. The What If analysis is a viable technique to trivialize your fear, taking it out of the equation.
3. Defuse the influence of the outcome/event by counteracting.
Some things are intrinsically fearful, with no simple angles to exploit for a perception change. For example, fear of death. This is something we cannot alter our perception of it, for obvious reasons.
If you fear something, it means it has direct influence on you. What if you can remove this influence? You are right: you won’t fear it. Let’s take death for example. What would be its influences on you: leaving your beloved, being not ready to meet your God (if you are a believer), feeling pain in the process… This is just a non-exhaustive list to show the method; each one can add his reasons. Thus, in this technique start by enlisting the influences of that thing you fear.
Then, as you tackle each influence, attempt to defuse it by counteracting with an action or mental thought. Following the same example list:
Leaving beloved ones –> In the other world, things are not the same. Your perception changes. You are totally detached for life and is now governed by different rules.
Being not ready to meet your God –> That’s the easiest. Be always ready (if it means to you keeping your prayers…etc.)
Feeling pain in the process –> Well, if it’s going to be really the process of death, understand that it’s soon going to end and things will go away soon. It’s not a pain you’re going to live with.
Doing this exercise, each individual influence is defused once you acted on it.
Whenever faced with a something fearful which its influences are not solvable (like Death), alright, leave its influences as they are. Just defuse their control over you.
It’s brutal; the fact of hearing one’s death sentence. However, it’s still contradictory to logic. We all know that we’re sentenced to death. This then begs the question: why do we yearn, cry, and rebel over the knowledge of having a terminal illness and going to die while we know that we are going to die?
Death is the only unshakable must destination we are all heading to yet it’s the most kept hidden, by design. Societies and activities keep death several steps away that we almost forget about it. The sudden knowledge of one’s impending death due to a terminal illness is thus disruptive to this motion. Now, he sees death starring him in the eye; without a layer of isolation presented in the daily busyness and the society. Therefore, the yearn over the piece of knowledge is not due to the newness of the knowledge or that it wasn’t known beforehand. It’s due to not thinking about death; meaning one wasn’t thinking about it at all before that, or it just passes in front of him with the news of someone else’s death or maybe remembering it from time to time yet without the intensity of the one who’s waiting for his death per a terminal illness. This takes us to the answer of the question.
Death antidote is hope. And hope is an excellent ingredient for procrastination. Everyone has a hope for tomorrow, for next year, for next decade. Everyone procrastinates his own death to the long future. We have abundance of time. That way we can live happily and comfortably with the inevitable fact. That way we can live even with our wrongness. Terminal illness and explicit knowledge just cut the hope and define a deadline. Now the soothers are gone that’s why one cannot withstand the fact without the painkiller.
For a rational person then, it doesn’t matter terminal illness or anything else. These are all routes to the same destination. And I have an argument that Terminal Illness or one’s knowledge of its impending death, while brutal yet has one extreme benefit – even at the thinking level rather than actuality: You have a chance to finish well. Who would hate to have the time to amend relationships, to comfort beloved, to organize things, to apologize for those offended, or to finish up a pending task of importance? Given the fact that one would die anyway, then, you would prefer to know about it beforehand, right? At least so that you prepare your leave; better than to be gone all of a sudden without a goodbye and with your affairs cluttered. This is an extreme benefit from this.
But how to prepare yourself emotionally so that you don’t extreme shock one day if you ever was put in this situation (or from obsessing about it, if you are OCDed or Hypochondriac) AND also benefit if you didn’t ever encounter this and died on your own? Here is how:
- Who needs hope if one would live in Today? If there is no tomorrow, there is no need for hope. Hope is futuristic; it cannot be there in the Present. Live and enjoy your today and you won’t feel worried about not catching tomorrow.
- The notion of Time Abundance is society made. Everything is set into motion. No one is talking about death. Act out of urgency. You have a limited time compared to what you would want to do in a typical life. Time is not abundant and soon your time will be gone. Thus, make sure you live a rich life.
- Your role as a human is to work and do life; not guarantee your lifetime survival. Keep busy with your life in the right way.
- Every way is a way to the same end. It doesn’t matter how each one would die. It’s that everyone is dying regardless he was sick or sleeping. The sick is actually having the benefit over the sleeping: he can prepare and say goodbye. The sleeping one is just gone at the current state. When all ways lead to the same destination; then. the way of your knowledge would be the best one.
Get busy with what you should do and how you should live your life. This will make your life productive and will protect your sanity if you ever came to know about your own death.
Woe for those who embarked on any work or treatment without connection to other human being(s). He surely missed a lot.
Creating and forging deep connections with other human beings, even when we don’t know them, should be the pursuit of life. Through work of arts, through science… through love. An artist ought to create his art to create connections with humans rather than solely expressing himself, or seeking glory, or fame. A scientist works day and night over a pressing humanity problem; to connect with those human beings somewhere who shall be affected by his discovery. A writer and thinker creates thought that can reach those who doesn’t know and affect their lives and emotions.
And a love that is created inside us; enough of it being just a connection. A connection through which human feels worthwhile. What the success of the entire life would be without a connection of love. The connection that lasts even when you no longer exists.
For those looking for meanings for their work; meanings for their relationships. A connection of love is what it is. A connection to other human being(s) is the ultimate seek. It’s the warmth of life.