It’s a simple but important truth that abstract concepts such as universal principles, human nature, and philosophical insights are constants. From Plato to Will Durant … from Epictetus to the Dalai Lama … from Montaigne to Eric Hoffer … the rules of life never change. In a world of chaos and madness, it’s nice to know there are certitudes that not even the ACLU can eradicate.
All this came to mind when I was reading The Human Machine, a book written nearly a hundred years ago by Arnold Bennett. By the “Human Machine,” Bennett was referring to that part of a person that consists of brain and muscle.
The brain intellectualizes, conceptualizes, and gives orders to the muscles. It has the power to override instincts. But the brain and the ego are not the same thing. Bennett believed that “your brain is the servant of the ego.”
In an ongoing effort to strip mankind of any remaining vestiges of a connection to a Conscious Universal Power Source, researchers have long been trying to show that abstracts such as the ego and the soul are nothing more than physical aspects of the brain. Their objective is to move the ego and soul out from under the umbrella of metaphysics and fit them neatly into the Human Machine.
It was of great interest to me that a hundred years ago Arnold Bennett was addressing many of the same issues I have been writing about over the past four decades. It’s not all that surprising, however, given the fact that the foundational principles of life never change.
Bennett wisely cautioned readers to base their actions on this universe rather than some ideal universe they might conjure up in their minds. As I put it in one of my earlier books, the degree of complications in a person’s life corresponds to the degree to which he dwells on the way he thinks the world ought to be rather than the way it actually is.
In other words, reality is what it is, and it’s up to us to discover it. Our perception of reality may or may not have any connection to reality itself. This strikes at the very heart of liberalism, an ideology based purely on fantasy rather than fact.
But liberalism aside, all of us are guilt of overriding fact with fiction from time to time. For example, we sometimes go to great lengths to convince ourselves that we are victims. In truth, however, in the vast majority of cases our bad outcomes can be traced to our own actions — or lack of action.
Those who never get this become unconscious participants in the Blame Game, blaming events, conditions, or other individuals for their bad results. It’s a dangerous game to play because it can become an excuse for failure.
What I’m talking about here is a psychological delusion known as transference — the act of looking to others, or to “uncontrollable” circumstances, for the source of one’s problems. When you insist that something is not your fault, what you are unwittingly saying is that you cannot change your situation because you have no control over it.
The most common targets of transference are the droves of dreadful people who continually cross our paths — the liars, the self-righteous, the rude, the petty, and, worst of all, the hypocrites. After all, aren’t they at fault for any friction that interferes with the way our Human Machine performs?
The answer is no. As much as we may wish to believe that those people are the cause of our problems, they are not. They merely provide us with an excuse for the bad results of our own faulty judgment.
Even when you suffer as a result of someone else’s dishonesty, you do yourself no favor by blaming your bad consequences on his actions. There’s a difference between engaging in transference (blame) and trying to analyze the reason you incurred the problem.
There is always a reason for a bad consequence, but a reason is far different from an excuse. An excuse is nothing but a clever way to escape accountability. The fact that someone was dishonest with you could be a legitimate reason why you were harmed, but it is not a valid excuse for abusing your own Machine.
What I mean by this is that if you allow someone else’s nefarious actions to affect your thinking — if you focus on retribution against the owner of a defective Human Machine — you create an enormous amount of friction in your Human Machine. Why? Because you are the master of your thoughts, and it is your thoughts that either abuse your Machine or keep it operating smoothly.
The reason you are the master of your thoughts is because they are formulated in your mind, and no one can enter your mind and wreak havoc on it without your permission. Which means that no human being can force you to be stressed, angry, or convinced you’re a victim. These things bring about a debilitating mind-set, because they separate you from your common sense and dignity, which in turn makes it possible for mental anarchy to reign supreme in your brain.
Even when we’re not angry at someone else, we often cause friction in our Human Machines by making the mistake of trying to control others. Bennett gave excellent advice regarding this mistake when he pointed out that we are not in charge of the universe; we are only in charge of ourselves. Again, attempting to control the lives of others is another hallmark of liberalism and the cause of so much of the frustration and anger we see in those on the Radical Left.
Remember this reality the next time you think about meddling in someone else’s Human Machine. Learn to leave things alone that are none of your business. As Arnold Bennett put it, the art of peaceful living lies in “keeping the peace, the whole peace, and nothing but the peace with those in your life.”
A good motto to live by is: When there is friction in your Human Machine, the fault always lies within. When all is said and done, the only thing you can really control is your own mind — which in itself is no small task. But if you work hard at becoming adept at this task, you will be amazed by how smoothly your Human Machine functions.