Thursday, August 11, 2016

Like-Minded People

"Groups don’t think, act, or have motivations, only individuals
do. Each individual is different from every other. How can we fit
in one world? There isn’t much in common when you extend the
relationship beyond the one of mutual self-interest, so someone
will have to sacrifice. Any relationship should last only as long as
it is beneficial for each party. Intimacy needs to be cultivated and
~ How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World — Harry Browne
Like-minded people are the basis of groups, but finding and maintaining like-mindedness over a period of time is an illusion, bolstered by the urge to fulfill certain needs. Don't think so? Look at the divorce rates. What starts out as a testament to like-mindedness ends up in a lawyer's office because like-minded people are needy people, and needs diverge over time. How do I know this? I was conditioned to be needy; we all are. Our cultural markers direct us to identify with the needs of others, and, by extension, subsume their needs as our own — as if what others have is somehow more desirable than what we have.

To see this mechanism in action, look at popular culture. For example, the highly-regarded HBO television series, "The Newsroom."
"In 'The Newsroom,' Emmy-winning executive producer, Aaron Sorkin, uses the operation of a fictional cable news network as the heart of the story, with Jeff Daniels portraying the network's lead anchor and leading an ensemble cast. Episodes are written around actual recent news events, reported by a staff that takes its collective responsibilities seriously, but corporate and commercial obstacles — plus entangled personal relationships — fly in the face of their public mission."
While the show venerates the news gathering process, it revels in the vicarious interplay of the characters' compatible and incompatible needs, leaving the viewer with a field guide to neediness. In fact, "the entangled personal relationships" segments occupy more screen time than the news gathering segments do, and are so entangled it's amazing that these hard-charging producers and reporters get any work at all done.

It's not that those segments are less interesting or less well constructed. It's that any personal neediness a viewer might have is amplified by a parade of familiar tropes in each of the character's relationships. At one point, there's a play within a play in which one of the neediest characters encounters a "Sex And The City" tour bus that's hosting a guided tour of locations featured in that show. Need on top of need on top of need.

Cast clapping after another scoop in HBO's "The Newsroom"
HBO's "The Newsroom"
In this sequence, that character, Maggie, who lives with co-worker Don, who she doesn't love, is given notice after a YouTube video in which she confesses her love for co-worker Jim, who she does love, goes live and is viewed by Don who tells her their relationship is over. Maggie locates the woman who posted the video and beseeches her to remove it. At the same time, Lisa, Maggie's roommate, dates Jim, much to his chagrin because he loves Maggie.

Maggie discovers that Lisa has also seen the video and now wants to end their friendship. As the downtrodden Maggie ponders her next move, a double-decker tour bus, with Sex and the City plastered all over it, appears on the roadway alongside her. Frustrated by Jim's reluctance to commit to a relationship with her and anguished at his persistence in remaining quasi-faithful to Lisa, Maggie rails against the injustice of her plight to the tour bus passengers on the open-air, double-decker bus, only to have Jim emerge from among the amazed passengers, aghast at the melodramatic nature of her indelicacies. Jim, it turns out, is on the bus because a colleague had suggested he get in touch with his feminine side.

So...for starters, Maggie needs: Jim's love, Lisa's friendship, and Don's respect. She also wants to move up the ladder professionally, is frustrated that she's been unable to pull off her Don-to-Jim switcheroo in classic Sex and the City fashion.

How does this affect the viewer? Without being aware of it, the viewer is sucked into a cesspool of neediness. Why can't I have job like that? Be chasing a guy while another guy is chasing me? Vent my frustrations on the street from time to time? I deserve better; I NEED better!

Groups are unproductive because everyone goes full-speed ahead; everyone wants to impress, to prioritize their particular laundry list of needs.

In life, needs compete. And the more ardent the competition, the less likely the individual is to slow down and take stock. Who has time to be mindful of his or her neediness when 15,000 new Hillary emails are made public? Who has the time or the inclination to be mindful?

Mindfulness is being aware that you are You in the present moment, in spite of what else may be happening around you. It's not something that comes naturally; you have to learn and practice it. You have to acquire the ability to slow down, much as you do when you meditate.

Mindfulness is an extension of meditation, a practice you can call upon to recreate the meditative state at the first sign of provocation, turmoil, or stress...if only you can remember to do it. That's the hard part: remembering yourself! Nevertheless, once you're adept at remembering yourself in the present moment, you can extend your practice of mindfulness to include being mindful of superfluous needs that may be controlling your thoughts and actions. You can bring them to the fore, turn them around, examine them in all their aspects, and then dismiss them forever.

Being mindful is being present in the Now, and still getting your work done! Your actions are, in a sense, purified. You become unattached to the outcome, more aware of how you are doing at a given instant and less attached to the goals of your actions.

Woody Allen is a past master at using his characters to portray neediness, right up there with Anton Chekhov. In Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) his leading character's needs lead him into the murkier regions of the soul including murder-for-hire and the need to rationalize it.

In The Seagull, Chekhov's Boris taunts the beautiful young aspiring writer/actress, Nina, in this passage, using the seagull as a metaphor for the girl:

Boris: This is a beautiful place to live. [He catches sight of the dead sea-gull] What is that?
Nina: A gull. Constantine shot it.
Boris: What a lovely bird! Really, I can't bear to go away. Can't you persuade Irina to stay? [He writes something in his note-book.]
Nina: What are you writing?
Boris: Nothing much, only an idea that occurred to me. [He puts the book back in his pocket] An idea for a short story. A young girl grows up on the shores of a lake, as you have. She loves the lake as the gulls do, and is as happy and free as they. But a man sees her who chances to come that way, and he destroys her out of idleness, as this gull here has been destroyed.
And so, over the course of the play, he does exactly that — destroys her with Iago-like "motiveless malignancy."

Both Allen and Chekhov introduce us to the fact that because art comes to the artist intact — as a result of their talent — artists tend to become heedless of the strivings of others. Witness Boris's wanton destruction of Nina and Irina's belittling of her son's writing. Thanks to an innate talent, the artist's needs of self-expression are taken care of, so they must manufacture new needs, exemplified in The Seagull by the artistic characters unconscious destruction of the weaker characters.

What does this have to do with kundalini? Kundalini not only leads to mindfulness, it overhauls human nature, allowing you to become less attached to real or perceived needs. Moreover, it puts "like-mindedness" in perspective, that the urge-to-merge is largely an illusion, that you don't have to run alongside a tour bus blurting out your despair. That being yourself with yourself in the moment is satisfaction enough.

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