About… Doubts and Decisions for Living
Volume I: The Foundation of Human Thoughts
Every caring, intelligent parent doubts his or her parenting skills. We keep asking ourselves many questions: Have I done right by my children? Have I been a good mentor and role model for them? Have I communicated to them everything I know about life that may be useful to them in developing their value systems and for making the right decisions? And the most important question of all: Are my perceptions of life valid enough to have any value for sharing with others?
These and similar doubts occupy the mind of every conscientious parent, as we wish to prepare our children for life challenges. Some of us are humble enough to admit that we can never be sure about the meaning of life and the kind of lifestyle that might best give our kids a peaceful journey into the future. Nevertheless, we are concerned about their welfare and happiness in our failing societies. We hope to somehow deter them from repeating the same mistakes we have made. Furthermore, we subconsciously wish to relive, through our children, the stages of life that have either proven to be blissful or nightmarish for us, which must be somehow corrected now at least for (or through) our children. For example, we may advise our children about their careers or relationships, because we have succeeded or failed in our own decisions.
Anyhow, advising our kids is a risky and difficult task nowadays, as no reliable guidelines (or even definitions) are available for success in our overly complex, superficial societies. Instead, many parents overindulge their children to boost their self-image and enhance their chance of success in a materialistic environment. Accordingly, kids have become too arrogant and spoiled to grasp the intricacies of life or care about their parents’ cautions and teachings. Some parents, especially ‘mothers,’ go even to the odd extreme of adopting their kids’ shallow values and lifestyles just to show their modernity and support. They look quite silly when they behave and speak like their kids. They pretend to be happy that at least their kids do not disdain them as often. Something is definitely wrong in a society where parents imitate their children as part of parenting.
Naturally, most of us are naïve about life and conditioned by the upbringing methods of our own parents, anyway. Thus, we damage our children’s psyche as well as our relationships with them by the time they reach adolescence. The sad part of it is that they imagine we do it deliberately. Even when they do not show hostility and anxiety, they have often suppressed an enormous level of traumas and cynicism about their parents—sometimes rightfully and sometimes due to misperceptions. Nonetheless, we play a major role in forming our kids’ characters, whether we attempt to be a responsible parent or remain rather passive to let them figure out life on their own. Along with some positive attributes they may inherit from us, many irreversible psychological defects build up in children’s brains. Unfortunately, even as adults, they (like the rest of us) seldom find the opportunity to recognize their idiosyncrasies and the means of overcoming them, in particular the ones etched in their unconscious minds during childhood.
Nonetheless, after we inflict enough damages inadvertently, we finally learn that we cannot hold as much influence over our children as we had always desired or imagined. Even if we had something useful to teach them during adolescence, most often the right circumstances never arise. Children’s early loss of trust in their parents’ objectivity obstructs communication too. Youth customarily find their parents out of touch with the current world, anyhow, as they associate old age with ignorance and obsolescence. Elderly wisdom usually appears funny to them, often deservedly. In all, only a few objective, patient, and selfless parents might succeed to build a lax relationship with their children and communicate their viewpoints without getting too pushy and dogmatic.
Youth’s naive struggle for independence goads them not to listen to any advice, anyway, or they learn to listen diplomatically without understanding. Their innate urge to doubt their parents’ wisdom, like a subtle rebellion, is often a blessing though, when most parents have nothing useful to teach them or do not know how to do it. Youth’s resistance could potentially help them become free thinkers and listeners with objective mentalities. Unfortunately, however, they often only follow shallow values that society and television propagate. In the end, both parents and society cause substantial confusion and anxiety for youth with their tainted perceptions, superficial values, and phony lifestyles. Peer influence during adolescence also hinders youth’s desire to think objectively and independently.
In particular, communicating the meanings of success and happiness to youth is difficult, mainly because we doubt the validity of our own views on such contentious topics. Only a few wise and selfless parents might know the meanings of success and happiness and means of finding them. The rest of us can never know whether our interpretation of happiness and success is valid and whether we are rational and objective enough in making that judgment. If we are not too arrogant, we just continue to doubt the authenticity of our convictions as we doubt the significance of many achievements and failures in our lives.
Humans (especially youth) are too stubborn to think and learn anything useful outside their narrow personal perceptions and beliefs, nevertheless, unless some strong incentives goad them to do so through a long process of self-awareness. Fortunately, we all also crave to learn about life and the purpose of our struggles. Many of us remember our desperate search, during adolescence and early adulthood, to find someone whose wisdom and life experiences we could trust. We faced many dilemmas and still nobody seemed wise and reliable enough to discuss our doubts and decisions with.
There is an old saying that every individual should have two lives: One to experience and one to live. It has most likely occurred to many of us that we would have done many aspects of our lives differently if we were given a second chance to do so. After reaching certain age without having had the benefit of a thoughtful and informed decision process, it would be too late for many of us to change ourselves and our ways of living. However, we can reassess our values and adjust our ways of thinking based on what we have learned, and then possibly help our children in their thinking processes too. Instead of being a dogmatic parent and projecting our vague and distorted images of life upon our children, we could try to build a truer image of life for ourselves by reflecting upon our experiences and analyzing their significance objectively. This exercise usually results in some fundamental thoughts about, i) our perceptions of the symbols that make one’s life sensible or futile, ii) our interpretations of major life challenges and relationships, iii) our debilitating prejudices and hang-ups, and iv) our beliefs and convictions, and their reliability for resolving our dilemmas and making decisions. We want to test and set our convictions straight before even thinking about communicating them to our children. We want to learn some fundamental facts from our experiences and reflect upon them truthfully. We want to gauge our own understanding of life first. We like to assess and accept the sad truth about life in the 21st century before making even a small contribution toward the welfare of our children.
Children’s overall interest in reading is encouraging as they usually learn more from reading than listening. However, the type of material they read nowadays is often misleading them, too, more than helping them. Nonetheless, communicating through books is our last chance to reverse the deteriorating social mentality and to stop the influence of misguiding books, TV, video games, and social media. Unfortunately, very few books exist for helping youth with their doubts and decisions for living, and for developing their foundation of thoughts on a solid ground. We need books that can help youth understand the sad nature of the world they are inheriting, instead of raising their shallow sentimentalities and high expectations from life. Books must give them enough facts and ideas to think for themselves, instead of filling their minds with trivia, fantasy, and corny conclusions. Books must offer practical techniques and tools for establishing their personal options and choices for living. They must learn to gauge the most likely consequences of their decisions and doubts before their hasty choices turn into a rigid way of subsistence and depression. These books should reflect only our sincere lessons from life without pushing popular values to justify our own lifestyles. We need books that address major life issues in a simple language for youth, to discourage consumerism and pleasure-seeking mentality. Only then, the outcome may become a more truthful and trustworthy mirror for our children to look into as well. Alas, the existing socioeconomic forces limit the chances of pursuing this sacred mission—to think freely and open-mindedly.
The overall objective of this trilogy is to aid young adults who start their lives with many questions and doubts about life and yet must make smart decisions for their lasting happiness and welfare. At the same time, most of the discussions are equally useful for everybody to address our deep and authentic needs—to explore the meaning of life and the means of achieving contentment and freedom more naturally. Since most aspects of our lives and relationships are forcefully driven by our unconscious ‘inner child,’ the material and messages of this book are definitely helpful for all of us in some profound ways regardless of our age.
With regard to the pessimistic tone of some arguments in this trilogy, two points need clarification: First, the premise of the book is that we cannot avoid the negative impacts of socioeconomic structure on the way we think and behave. As much as we may try to stay positive and control our idiosyncrasies, ongoing social pressures instigate our defective habits and hinder our intention to find peace and goodness. It is hard to become a truthful person in a society that does not support honesty and justice. Second, for finding the inner strength to fight back the negativities of our socioeconomic systems, we must initially acknowledge them as a debilitating reality and get ready to face them head on. We must deal with negative situations and thoughts regularly as they cause the majority of our doubts and dilemmas. The point is that we cannot overcome our doubts, resolve our problems, and encounter our defects unless we at least grasp the impact of social negativities somehow—instead of ignoring or propagating them so irresponsibly and shamelessly.
For solving any serious problem, we must analyse it, which rekindles hurt feelings and bad experiences. Yet we must deal with these negative thoughts and feelings effectively, rather than trying to avoid or suppress them, or get too depressed or agitated to tackle them constructively. In fact, the more we understand the depth of social negativities as real hurdles for personal growth, the higher would be our chances to go past them by redefining our lives outside their influence. The positive-thinking gimmicks to hide or ignore our negative thoughts cannot give us the awareness we require to enhance our real ‘self’ and overcome our problems.
As humans, we have an intricate nature and a delicate soul, but we are fully dedicated to social values and ways that serve neither our nature nor our soul. We are born into certain mental conditioning environments, and are forced to live in a complex and dynamic world in which we have no real chance to affect its course. The perplexities of human nature and our world create a great deal of havoc for us all, and we are becoming increasingly disheartened with ourselves, our relationships, and socioeconomic environments. We are becoming more confused about our identity and the way we can, or should, relate to social rules and settings and other individuals. Our relationships are mostly incomplete and, in many cases, the cause of tremendous disappointments and sufferings. We feel and understand our psychological dysfunctions. And we face enormous social barriers when we struggle to facilitate our natural growth and our interactions with various facts and facets of social living. Of course, our natural growth itself is often threatened, anyway, by the mere necessity of living under such meagre conditions within contaminated environments.
Social and personal shortfalls are not new developments and findings. But these concerns are becoming more endemic due to fast technological progress and the pressures on us to adapt expeditiously. We are expected to adopt certain values and set our life objectives according to some frivolous criteria of success and individualism. Our structured lives are formulated around the interests of conglomerates and capitalism. Accordingly, we face many unsettling problems and dilemmas because of our internal conflicts and doubts. Even for finding a remedy for our problems and anxieties, we mostly look outwardly and seek refuge in the same kind of values and relationships that have created our problems in the first place. So we feel more baffled and helpless every day about our lives and identity. Many of us get devastated by the bitterness of some experiences (such as marital and family relationships), which we had counted on to bring us happiness and peace. Our relationships and careers, in particular, quite frequently prove not to be what we had expected them to be and do for us. Under these meagre circumstances, we feel defeated and become doubtful about our options and even a simple, truthful definition of life. Meanwhile, we face everyday life decisions, some of which are quite critical and major, and we do not have the right criteria and wisdom to deal with them. Thus, we make our half-hearted decisions and live with our doubts, and life goes on. We just continue with our struggles to adapt to conditions and rules that we take as the reality of life, despite all the sad clues and sufferings evident in all aspects of our existence. Is the reality of life supposed to be so gloom?
We are intelligent and curious inherently and thus question, from time to time, the validity and viability of our lifestyles, struggles, and values. In our lives, we face two conflicting realities: The reality of social living and the reality of our ‘being.’ These realities reflect the contradictory forces of external demands versus the intrinsic needs of human beings. As we are mainly preoccupied by, and attracted to, external values and incentives, we have lost touch with our inner needs and dimensions. We have sacrificed our real identity in hopes of building an artificial personality through social compliance and adaptation. Accordingly, we are confused and suffer because we do not know how to harmonize our two conflicting realities, i.e., external versus internal realities. The question is whether they can ever be reconciled. Most likely, no—which clearly highlights our dilemmas about living and the crooked structure of life we have laid out mostly in recent decades.
We have many intellectual and instinctual dimensions that work together to build our characters and direct our efforts and visions. We seek philosophical notions, psychological knowledge, interpersonal skills, spiritual guidance, and inner ‘self’ energy to identify the essence of our being and find solutions for our unresolved questions and problems. We guess (and at the same time doubt) that there is a more fundamental reality of the universe and a higher dimension of being (perhaps our soul) that is part of our existence in spite of our lack of wisdom to comprehend it readily.
This trilogy suggests that we cannot resolve our dilemmas about our lives and identity by studying only a particular dimension of our being, e.g., our psyche, and by using only one discipline, e.g., psychology, to explain it. Rather, we must draw upon all our intellectual and instinctual abilities to explore and reconcile our existence within the context of social (dis)orders and pressures. It is not even enough to learn about ourselves; we should also learn how to stand up to social and economic conditions that cause the suppression of our real needs and reinforce many of our psychological defects, including the ones that our parents have initially inflicted upon us.
We read many books to find some reasonable answers, but most of these books have become too specialized and narrow in scope. They usually tackle each dimension of humans and a related discipline or thought process to suggest solutions. Thus, even when we attempt to grasp our identity, we do not use all our knowledge and energy. We ponder some ideas sporadically without learning the full potential and limitations of humans, including our personal needs and role within society.
Our main challenge in life is to explore and explain our humanistic dimensions within the context of socioeconomic facts and expectations. Our challenge is to realize and internalize who we are and what we need to survive within the harsh realities of our perceived world. However, we also wish to justify both our existence and our efforts for social adaptation according to our own rules of true humanness for living practicality while attaining the aesthetic values of life and being. Hence, the objective of this trilogy is to address these challenges by exploring the philosophical, psychological, spiritual, practical, ethical, and other main dimensions of human beings and discuss them collectively in a simple language. The intention is to apply all these dimensions for grasping the purpose of our being, building a more fruitful and tranquil life, and somehow adapting to socioeconomic environments as well. We can learn to develop a simple life philosophy that incorporates the realities of our socioeconomic structure, but also directs us toward the possibility of finding the path to selfhood. Even when we remain inclined to live within our conventional value systems and decision-making processes, we can still draw on a valid foundation of thoughts to direct our critical decisions. There are some effective ways of establishing the foundation of our thoughts and assessing its validity and strength.
Regardless of the level of social success and age, many of us continue, intuitively, to seek our ultimate ‘self’ that has yet to be discovered. While younger, we have difficulty identifying and relating to our true self. We are merely influenced and distracted by social norms and demands, which we believe address our needs the best automatically. Thus, we simply adopt and nurture them. Sometimes we may rebel against the rules we find offensive or nuisance, but often we do not have proper values or convictions to replace social norms and teachings. When we grow older, we get too involved with our routine lives to concern ourselves with the seemingly irresolvable question of ‘self.’ We simply continue to follow the prevalent lifestyles and try to blend in because society would not allow non-conformers to succeed. Some of us have become so rigidly conditioned that cannot even entertain the idea of questioning social norms and value systems; we simply accept them as an integral aspect of the universe—a fact of life—and move on. We never find time or allow our thoughts to wander in unfamiliar territories. We are afraid, or do not know how, to question our identity and purpose of living. We simply live because we are here. We strive to feed our ego because it gives us a relative sense of superiority and superficial existence. But can this feeling of superiority provide a meaningful and peaceful existence? Can it substitute a real sense of self-fulfillment and purposefulness in life? Most of us would never find out.
We need a framework to help us focus on understanding the basics of living and being happy, while meeting the requirements of social conformity for survival too. But we also need a platform to help us rise above the dark clouds of conformity that obscure our vision of a true ‘self’—to give us a fresh perspective of who we are.
Volume I of this trilogy explores the foundation of human thoughts. We normally believe that everything we do is based on valid thoughts and deep convictions that justify our actions. We also assume that our value systems and points of reference in life are the results of our thoughtful evaluation of a reliable reality according to logical criteria. We believe human life must be justified and supported by some fundamental thoughts, either our own or other individuals’ whom we admire, respect, and accept as authorities. These essential thoughts set and validate our convictions to follow as a guiding light.
In addition to a solid foundation of thoughts, we need the right mindset to appreciate the significance of our lives, needs, and thoughts, and then turn them into fruitful actions and tangible outcomes. For this purpose, we try to explore the meaning and characteristics of our spirits that drive the engine of our existence. We try to raise our spirits to face life hardships calmly and find our identity. We also like to explore the meaning and purpose of spirituality that keeps our thoughts and spirits together, free and productive. We hope to learn about, and find, our spirit and spirituality in a personal way, away from all religious and social influences. Volume II covers these topics.
And, of course, going through various stages of life, we can envision a structure of life that everybody follows and hopes to cope with, while this rigid process highly influences the outcome of our major life decisions too. The topics covered in Volume III concentrate on the structure of life and the way we may adapt ourselves to it more effectively by strengthening the foundation of our thoughts in line with a deeper understanding of who we are and what we want—our spirit. Volume III discusses the challenges and decisions of life within the context of these essential human thoughts. The rigid path that we follow in life is in need of some scrutiny and repair. The question is whether the life structure that we are following so blindly is meaningful or logical? Every intelligent person must be able to answer this question for him/herself.
The discussions in this trilogy are mainly based on common sense and personal experience of the author. Providing a scientific proof and a research methodology for conclusions is impractical and unnecessary for the type of ‘mostly philosophical’ remarks offered in this book. Yet most of the conclusions are in line with the studies of prevalent scholars, statistics, and social facts. Fortunately, the discussions and suggestions are generic and more of a general nature than definite solutions and conclusions requiring a finite scientific proof. Even if one undertook elaborate scientific research to test the theories of this book, people who benefit from the existing socioeconomic chaos always find ways to refute them just for keeping the public in their shells. Many of us believe that too many things in our world are happening so irrationally, while another group counter-argues from a different perspective to justify them. For example, we destroy old forests for lumber and creating jobs, ruin marine life and pollute environment through industrial production, exploration of oil sands, human over-consumption and waste, etc. Most of us believe that these are all symptoms of human’s surrender to capitalism, wicked value systems for more consumption, and keeping the economies of the world alive as long as possible. We all know that this extravagance cannot go on forever. But we still keep electing the politicians who ignore these obvious facts with a smirk.
This trilogy intends to explore the main characteristics of living, which revolves around humans’ inherent ability to think, feel, and act, according to an evolving Foundation of Human Thoughts (as discussed in Volume I), with our sacred spirits developed for understanding and compassion (as discussed in Volume II) and for running a supposedly purposeful Structure of Human Life (as discussed in Volume III). In turn, all of our thoughts, actions, and feelings are affected or driven by infinite amount of doubts and decisions, which we tackle to the best of our abilities. In fact, our doubts and decisions reflect our deepest urges to think, feel, and act. They also goad us to develop some kind of logic and common sense for grasping the meaning of life and the purpose of our existence. Accordingly, the matter of learning about ourselves and choosing the right path of life highly depends on how well we understand the nature, as well as the consequences, of our negative doubts and selfish decisions.
The quotes from various experts used in this trilogy are merely for reflecting other viewpoints on related topics without prejudice. They are plausible opinions expressed liberally in public domains on such philosophical topics and have thus become relevant for general review purposes. Although the author does not agree or disagree with them, he believes they are interesting points that readers might be interested to check in those books for further detail and reflection.