“Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal, aims of humanity.”
– Leo Tolstoy
To Enter Attainment
To enter attainment means the conclusion of pursuit, the end of the chase. If attainment is the benefit, pursuit is the cost. People typically favor benefit without cost, which is unrealistic, like expecting to walk a mile without expending any energy. If the cost is worth the benefit, the benefit will fuel the cost. But, what is worth what? How much energy, drive, motivation, will, desire, is worth the attainment of….what?
In many situations, the satisfaction or benefit of attainment is short-lived. Hunger is abated, for a while. The drive to pursue, something, again arises. To pursue more of the same can feel monotonous, such as chasing more money than is needed, or shopping for food when the cupboards are full. That which is worthy of attainment is often prescribed by the culture-at-large and promoted through various forms of ‘entertainment.’ The earliest forms of entertainment were quite educational, the most prominent being ‘story telling.’ Story telling may itself be the ultimate instrument of education. From live theater to the printed word, to radio, television, motion pictures and ‘streaming videos,’ story telling conveys information, ideas, concepts and ‘narratives’ about human nature, and human possibilities.
These narratives told in whatever format attempt to present some semblance of understanding, if even through vicarious experiences. Implicit in story telling is the notion that we become what we understand, and what we understand is what we are told, or shown. Understanding is not necessarily complete or whole. Misunderstanding is as common as clouds in the sky. Misunderstanding yields confusion, agitation, perplexion and general befuddlement. Serious chronic misunderstanding can bring about delirium and significant turbulence. And, yet, there are cloudless days and understanding can give rise to clarity, lucidity, salience and tangibility. Understanding, as a means to attain clarity, is a life-long endeavor, and even then, is not whole or complete. The attainment of clarity is, perhaps, the ultimate pursuit, for it allows life-long pursuit along with life-long attainment. There is no end to understanding in the same vein as there is no end to learning. When learning is entertainment, and entertainment is to enter attainment, ever greater degrees of understanding, and clarity, is attained, if even incrementally. The pursuit of learning, understanding and clarity is to aim for an attainment beyond stagnation, misunderstanding and confusion.
What does it mean to understand? Some related words may help clarify meaning, such as ‘examine, ‘investigate,’ ‘scrutinize,’ ‘inspect,’ and ‘explore.’ From a simple language perspective, to understand is to stand under, as if an empty cup below a pouring fountain. But, just as food ingested must then be digested, so too information poured into the mind must be ‘broken down’ and assimilated as nourishment or expelled as waste. Understanding results from scrutiny in the same way nourishment is the result of breaking down and assimilating food. To scrutinize, examine, question, and ‘tear apart’ information can yield the attainment of understanding in the same way food eaten supports being alive. Throughout history, story tellers, in whatever medium was prominent at the time, shared information about fundamental human issues, such as one of the most common denominators in all narratives, conflict. To understand the nature of conflict is to attain mastery over it. In most stories, conflict is represented by two opposing characters, the protagonist and the antagonist, or, if you will, the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy,’ the archetypal ‘hero’ and ‘villian.’ From the foundation of conflict arise themes of loyalty and betrayal, trust and violation, forgiveness and vengeance, trust and suspicion, cowardice and courage, to name only a few themes. How these interpersonal, and intrapsychic, conflicts are addressed generally gives way to either tragedy or comedy. To misunderstand, confuse or in some way distort an understanding of a situation and act upon that fallacy tends towards tragedy. To see through the deception and act in accordance with clarity, tends towards comedy. These two options exist within everybody, turning situations into a tragedy or a comedy, and is represented in the logo of Theater.
A similar image is that of Janus, the Roman god with two heads. “In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces. The month of January is named for Janus.” (Wikipedia)
Entertainment is also a representation of who and what we, as a people, can become. Entertainment can ignite visions of subhuman to superhuman qualities, movement in the direction of degeneration, or regeneration. Stories which showcase the emergence of integrity over despair tend to imprint the messages of such stories in the psyche of the audience, and can spark inspiration. Likewise, stories which showcase the emergence of violence over compassion, tend to imprint those messages, and can fuel despair. An examination of the media-of-the-day will provide information about what the people are likely to become, based on what they are told and shown, about values, about what is worth attaining. Television and motion pictures are particularly potent in the conveyance of the story for both are highly visual. The word ‘television’ is a composite of ‘tele’ which means end result or goal, and vision. Television showcases behavioral targets, how to behave in given situations. Visions of abuse tends to promote abuse. Visions of affection tend to promote affection. Be wary of what visions are presented to you as behavioral targets for which to aim.
To enter attainment of understanding and clarity requires media to be scrutinized, examined and questioned. When critical thinking skills are applied to that which is represented by the media as ‘the way things are,’ understanding can overcome fallacy, and clarity can overcome confusion. One of the driving forces within every single person is the drive to pursue an understanding of that which is beyond the way things are. To enter the attainment of such ever-opening understanding through ever-opening learning is to be ever-open to mature, grow, develop, become, unfold and give outward expression to inward potentials. It all starts with a simple glimmer of value in the attainment of understanding.
“The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.”
– Baruch Spinoza