What does people think while eating tacos? The obvious answer is “what type of taco I’m going to order next.” Taco eating is not exactly the best time to think of enlightenment, but here’s my mind wandering around at the taqueria, trying to understand the world and why people react the way they react, so that I understand why I react they way I react.
I know that people who completely disagree with me are rarely evil. It’s just a difference of how the world is viewed and while there are many things that establish difference in world views (universe views?), an important one is in what stage of the path to enlightenment each person is.
Analyzing what people think they know and how they came to know what they know, and how they react differently to events and news depending on what they think they know, I found out that there were several well-defined groups. This is how I discovered and understand the five stages to enlightenment (which are actually six).
Ok, I didn’t actually discovered them. I made them up, but still, it’s an interesting way to look at the way we function. Anyway, these are the stages.
This is the stage where you believe what you’re told without question. You believe in Santa Claus and behave on the last days of December so that you get the presents you want. You believe in your political party and always vote and defend their policies and politicians, probably belonging to the locked vote. You believe in dogmatic religions, never questioning your priest/imam/rabbi/etc or the teachings of the holy writings of your religion. You believe in a certain socio-economical system, thinking that if you play by the rules, you’ll make it big. You believe that relationships work in a certain way, and so you assume a pattern of obligations and rights for each person and you play your part, thinking that it will result in a fulfilling relationship.
This is the first stage we all go through, and if you live in a society that’s relatively closed, it can be a pleasant place to be.
I wish I could give a definite answer to why some people question a lot what they were taught, why some do it a little, and why some never do it, but I can’t. My guess it that it has to do with learning and contact with other cultures, although I suspect that there’s a genetic aspect of it as well. Both learning and coming with contact with other cultures let you see a different way of being, and when that experience happens a lot, you start to realize that your way of being is not the only one, and maybe not even the best one.
This is the stage where you ask the most important question of your life “what do I know and how do I know I know it?”
Everybody gets disappointments in life. But I’m talking about those kind of disappointments that hurt not only because of the specific incident, but because they topple down things that you strongly believe in and cherish in an irreversible and undeniable way. It’s not when someone tells you that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It’s the time when you realize that there is just no way that Santa Claus can exist. It’s when you realize that all the other “Santa Claus” things in your life don’t exist or are a lie. It’s when your girlfriend or wife cheats on you or is with you just to get some benefit. It’s when your father gets fired after giving the company 30 years of his life. It’s when you see that the politician and party you support are not that different from their opponents. This is the hardest stage of them all and when not handled well, it can have serious negative consequences.
So, everything you were told, that you believed in was a lie, a scam, a trap. But now you know better, and you laugh at the gullible, the sheep, the blind, the faithful. You’re above that, you’re above them. You see no point in pursing anything other than your own benefit. After all, why shouldn’t you? Aren’t the smart people doing the same? And when you do, you feel smug, you feel smart, you feel like they can’t fool you. You’re the one that discovered the secret and nobody can’t touch you.
However, it’s just a reflection of bitterness. I was in that stage once (and I still fall back on it sometimes) and realize I was just a pathetic human being. And you see it all the time in people who feel righteous and proud of not being fooled. While many people never go beyond the first stage, almost everyone who does, gets stuck in this one. It’s the one that allows them to be right and judgmental, just like they were when they were in the first stage.
I wish I had a better name for this stage, but since it’s not a school paper and it’s my article and I can call it whatever I want it, I’ll stick with it.
This is when you slowly realize that just because you know how the system is a sham, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. You also start to realize, somehow, that being a cynical bitter being is not very satisfying, that there’s so much more in life than just sitting back and laughing at idiots. Mostly, you realize how sad and pathetic you’re being, but that you can be so much more.
And thus, you realize how the great masters contributed to the world. You see how they acquired wisdom and used it for the benefit of millions of others, not of themselves. And you want to emulate them and live a more satisfying and productive life.
Ok, first of all, I realize that enlightenment is perhaps not the best word to use for this stage. A friend of mine suggested self-realization, but I thought having stage five being called “realization” and stage 5 being called “self-realization” wasn’t very nice-sounding. Plus, by using the world “enlightenment” I get to make it seem like I’m enlightened.
In any case, this is the stage where you take what you know, with realistic views about how the world and humans really work, and use it to make the world better, and in the way, you make yourself a better person. And you do it both because it’s so much more satisfying and because of a genuine desire to improve the life of others. If done well, you will leave a mark in the people around you and maybe even in your society or the world. Something that’s way more positive and fulfilling than spending your days drinking beer and writing ramblings on a blog.
That’s it. Those are Flippy’s five stages to enlightenment (which are actually six). I appreciate any comments or feedback you may have.