Page 1

Magical Thinking

1


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Κonstantinos G. Papageorgiou MSc

The Anatomy Of Wishfulness & The Fault of the Senses

Second Edition 2017

2


Magical Thinking

Book cover: Nicolas Çano - artist-cano.com Page Editing: Zoi Ioannou

www.distalmethod.com contact@distalmethod.com

3


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

To D.E. Lekkas

4


Magical Thinking

Table of Contents Who am I? ..................................................................................... 9 Why did I write this book? ....................................................... 10 Magical thinking ........................................................................ 13 The Right Man ............................................................................ 20 Hypnosis ..................................................................................... 22 Daydreaming .............................................................................. 26 A little bit of all the above......................................................... 31 Babylon........................................................................................ 34 The big disaster .......................................................................... 37 The Twilight Zone ..................................................................... 47 Biases ........................................................................................... 53 a) Previous experience ......................................................... 53 b) Buffers................................................................................ 55 c) Knowledge and opinions ................................................ 59 d) Emotional Instability ....................................................... 64 e) Identification ..................................................................... 67 f) The quest for the easy way .............................................. 68 Causal Attribution ..................................................................... 76 IQ and the same ......................................................................... 78 Science ......................................................................................... 82 Emotions & The fault of the senses ......................................... 87 Cognitive biases ........................................................................ 90 Some more Magic! ..................................................................... 95 Exercises to develop correct thinking ................................ 98 My checklist: things to avoid! ................................................ 101 A note on Habits ................................................................. 104 Checklist: Things to do ...................................................... 105 The parameters of thinking that affect success .................... 108 EPILOGUE Ι .................................................................................. 112 EPILOGUE ΙI ................................................................................ 114 5


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

It was amazing! After spending my most productive years at universities seeking the essence of knowledge in laboratories, libraries and scientific publications, I rediscovered the reality that was always before my eyes when I began studying occult science1 nearly a decade ago. W h y ? B e c a u s e … Almost all we come to know about ourselves is imaginary. Why? Because…

1In

case you found it weird, I must tell you right away that in this book there is nothing metaphysical, and the first and most important prerequisite to successfully deal with occult science is (contrary to “common” beliefs) an unbiased and clear understanding of everyday matters.

6


Magical Thinking

We think mostly about things that do not concern us. So, it finally came to me. How is it possible to know something when I don’t really care to know about myself? Moreover, we seem to be lost in search of things that are irrelevant to our essential nature and our own progress. And, how come I do not learn about me? Well, it happens mostly out of habit, then because of bad education, stereotypes, or to put it simply, due to onesidedness. Science, after all, is one-sided. Indeed, science is very important, but it is as good as any other “good” tool may be. You cannot blame a hammer for not being able to build a house! You alone, holding a hammer, along with other tools build the house! Of course the problem is pointed in your direction if you blame a hammer (or science) for being unable to do more things than those it is supposed to, or when you get bad (or no) results out of wrong usage of a tool, that is, if we accepted science as being a good tool to begin with – but let’s postpone this discussion for another time. That said, I must regretfully admit that people do not even use (“west”) science! They lead modest lives full of “ifs”, dreams and cheap egotism. Science may not have the whole truth inherent in it, but at least it offers a decent way for modern man to grasp and interpret his environment. “Emirates refuse to accept part of refugee flows because they are Muslims of a different dogma; refugees themselves now, refuse help from Red Cross waiting for Red Crescent”. 7


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

“The South African Government refuses donations and supplies of antiretroviral drugs (AIDS medication), claiming that the medicine itself causes… AIDS!” “Man was stabbed to death in Dushanbe, Tajikistan because he was dressed up as Santa Claus (considered as anti-Muslim insult).” “Entertainer stabs wife to death - ‘unfaithful’ he says. Amazed friends say he was unfaithful, not she.” “Man loses a fortune in casinos… and then he loses another fortune trying to break even.” “Woman spends all of her family’s economies to a religious organization.” “…” What is wrong with people? What is wrong with us? That’s an easy one! Thinking! Let’s have a closer look at what’s happening inside those people’s heads: Do we not have a mess here?! A confused mixture of concepts and words like 8


Magical Thinking

“Objective, subjective, imagination, feelings, will, observation, conclusion, opinion, result, etc.”, stuff that allegedly are the content of our thinking. The attribution of wrong meaning to such words and the use of them to support our fantasies may be the beginning of our troubles. Before we move on to my own point of view on this issue, good manners require that I introduce myself more properly!

Who am I? Please read the following with disregard for the academic qualifications one should have when judging a person’s heart. However, as it happens that you are the reader and I am the writer, and for whatever it is worth, here goes: I am an epistemologist, and a candidate PhD student in ethical philosophy and logic. I am an educator (working with both gifted and disabled individuals), a tennis trainer and a classic guitar soloist. I study martial arts and yoga. Most importantly, I am a devotee of D. E. Lekkas. So bearing those in mind let’s answer another one.

9


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Why did I write this book? First of all, I currently live (at least while I am writing this book) alone in an isolated mansion in the forest with a panoramic view to the Ionian sea that belongs to my Aikido teacher, Sensei Tony Sargeant, on the picturesque island of Kefalonia, Greece. The occasions during which I wrote this book are quite interesting as well. Some weeks ago I was fired from the local tennis club for being too strict and cynical; I have not been that, and so I have come to wonder why people are so aggressive when someone tells them that their kids won’t be the next Roger Federer. I had this question for some time now – actually since I was a little child. What the heck is wrong with people’s thinking? Why do they not want to see the obvious truth even in minor details? Why do they love thinking magically (absurd and comic thinking)? So, anyway, I basically wrote it for three simple reasons. a) I felt these were the perfect circumstances for me to write a book: isolation, silence, serenity and a turning point in my life that needed to be marked, b) I wanted to share some things with people dear to me and c) All this time spent here in Kefalonia, in a kind of isolation, I had some personal (minor) revelations on some things or – as you could say – some things eventually clicked in my mind (yes, much like the light-bulb in comics) so it’s a good time to write them down and consolidate them for me. 10


Magical Thinking

At the same time, I clearly see that all the national and individual disasters (political, financial, etc.) have to do with this resistance to face reality, to “think” rationally. In these years that I am a teacher (be it in sports, music or science) there is always a common and self-repeating motive, people living in a fairytale, unable – or unwilling (or both) – to apply simple practical thinking and get some good, solid results. They prefer to think magically and avoid looking at facts directly. Most people probably take no hallucinatory drugs but this is one and the same for them even if they did. We – more or less – live in a delusion. Things you should expect to learn from this book: ➢ Why people –even smart ones– do dumb things. ➢ Why individuals are not happy even though they are “successful” and/or “educated”. ➢ Really find out what the heck thinking is without having to read the latest neurophysiological advances and acquiring all the corresponding background. Things you should be familiar with after finishing this book: ➢ ➢ ➢ ➢ ➢ ➢ ➢

Practical Thinking. Magical Thinking. Emotions Hypnotism. Daydreaming. The Right Man. Identification. 11


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

➢ Buffers. ➢ How to develop skills for correct thinking. ➢ Do’s and Don’ts. You should read this book (or was a good idea buying it!) if: ➢ You like reading fun-books with some deeper meaning. ➢ You are a student wishing to fully develop your thinking capacities. ➢ You are a professional trying to use your mind more efficiently but do not have much time to spend in perplexing methods. ➢ You are a housewife trying to use the damned thing! ➢ You are a person that nobody really understands how great you are! ➢ You are depressed because … life is a bitch!

12


Magical Thinking

Magical thinking In this book you will read -among other things- about five basic concepts, Hypnosis, Magical Thinking, Right (Wo)Man and Mechanical / Habitual Self, and of course, the fault of the senses! I shall reveal in what way these notions are connected as you keep on reading. Magical thinking is basically thinking based on emotions. Mind you, emotions (and hence, intuition) are a powerful tool that may drive our acts successfully. However, this may happen only after long and special practice, something most people have no idea how to do – let alone that emotions are trainable in the first place, as there is no such thing taught in schools. I will not touch on this from now on, but what I will mean by “magical thinking” is thinking based on untrained emotions. Volunteers oftentimes visit Africa to help people by educating them to protect against diseases, therefore most frequently about AIDS. In such an instance, some medical staff visited a small village in this continent full of suffering, to show people there how to use condoms as a means of contraception. Nothing more natural than that of course, but here’s the thing: they demonstrated the use of the condom in a small tree branch as they lacked (or were too embarrassed to use) other means of demonstrating how the condom should be used “in action”. Afterwards they distributed free 13


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

condoms among the villagers. The next day the astonished doctors witnessed the most amazing scene: all trees around the village wore condoms on their branches! Apparently the locals thought that wearing condoms to the trees was a fine way to exorcise the bad spirits of disease. Magical thinking in all of its magnificence! But would you not dare to think that magical thinking remains a “privilege” of third world societies? Not at all! Take a recent example from an instance I dealt with. There was a child, one that I taught (or tried to for that matter) tennis. He was 10 or 11 years old and he began tennis some two years after the rest of the children in his group. Furthermore, he came late in the school year (not in September but in November). The difference in skill and knowledge between him and his peers was enormous. Not only did I have to explain every exercise and drill separately each time (because he was unfamiliar with the terms) but I also had to demonstrate the technique from scratch. Add his general lack of coordination skills – try imagining a two-year old hunting butterflies – and you get the picture. It goes without saying that the rest of the sizeable group suffered due to the time I was required to devote to this child. What did I do? Did I insult the child and became ironic? Of course not! That would be completely off the line and unethical. I just told his father in a private discussion that I liked his child because he tried hard (well, he did not -even so, I tried to be nice). But, 14


Magical Thinking

because he started tennis some 2 years after the other kids, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to do a couple private lessons in the meantime. As you see, I even blamed the lack of experience for the bad performance of his young offspring. I did not mention anything about him being clumsy, or anything like that pointing at the kid himself. His reaction? As I found out a week or two later, he was offended, stopped his child from tennis and accused me of insulting his young successor by implying he was not good at tennis. He threatened the tennis club that he’d sue me. It was a lovely gesture that warmed my insides but, apart from that, it was a tad far-feched! Indeed, it made me wonder how I did wrong by the kid. Turns out, I did plenty wrong by his dad. As I found out later, the father expected me to recognize his child’s potential (and skills) because he himself (the father) played some tennis! It’s all in the genes, you see! In other words, he felt that his own… genes were being undermined and took it as a personal hit. That is, ladies and gentlemen, what I call “Magical Thinking” in our small daily lives. And we all have plenty of examples of similar occasions. We are being ridiculously unreasonable in moments that, in reality, do not ask for a big deal of brain activity to respond to a simple situation – quite the contrary. In these moments we thrive using our magical thinking. The child himself apparently was en route to fully develop his “inherited” talent towards magical thinking as he always persisted he could play tennis (as his father undoubtedly reassured him) when he could not even 15


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

see the ball coming at zero miles per hour. I do not blame the child; nevertheless, I cannot help but see the problem. You don’t have to think about extremes, like the story I was watching the other night on a TV program about solved crimes. There was a 20 y.o. boy who murdered his neighbor because he thought that if he drunk her blood he’d become an immortal vampire or something. You could just say that this – apart from magical thinking – also has elements from serious psychological disorders. I might agree with you, but in either case this is an extreme. What about believing that we vote politicians who will make a difference or that they actually care? What about thinking that we may eat our butts off now since it’s Christmas (for example), but we will go on a diet after holidays and we’ll be fine? What about not fastening our seat belt when driving or having a kid sit in the front seat in its mother’s legs thinking nothing is going to happen? Talent shows, reality shows and other TV programs are full of self-proclaimed “talented” and most leniently described as mediocre wannabe singers, dancers, poets and the rest. And most of them are people who lead normal lives with their families, Sunday barbeques with neighbors and all the stuff that makes an average, everyday next door guy/girl. What is it that convinces them to hop out of their hot bathroom (where they have most probably refined the very essence of the advanced vocal techniques they use) to go on stage and opt for becoming the next national pop idol? It is really 16


Magical Thinking

embarrassing (or entertaining) to see them astonished and horrified after the judge’s critics. Many of them have grown up never hearing the truth (and I’m not sure they ever wanted to hear it either) from their parents, their teachers, their politicians. They just thought it was really possible to be the next Michael Jackson – not to say that they would probably be better if only life treated them fairly. Magical thinking in all of its magnificence again! Here in Greece, everywhere you go you will notice a series of scattered mini-temples along the sidewalks (…when sidewalks are available to begin with!). These are built in memory of the victims that lost their lives in car accidents either as drivers, riders, passengers or pedestrians. The vast majority of these deaths would be avoided if only people used their minds more in order to focus on reality, rather than daydream in a world in which they were some kind of Michael Schumacher, Valentino Rossi and Sebastian Loeb, or just sleepwalking as pedestrians without noticing the truck waving hello through it’s corn at 80mph! It could be that drivers and pedestrians neglect to develop (or believing they are not required to develop) their motor skills. Daydreaming, in all of its expressions in our daily lives, despite the impression of making our everyday routine happier, is actually devastating to the quality of our lives. That’s what happens when you see a dream about running in the beach with your lover, when in fact, you are just sleepwalking on the roof! Do not assume that daydreaming is not dangerous, because you are awake and not sleepwalking. But this 17


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

is a tough concept to grasp (because everybody’s thinking how romantic and cute it is to daydream).

We encounter magical thinking everywhere in our daily life – but particularly wherever things get a bit (or a lot) tougher. So many parents of special-needs children refuse to accept the magnitude of the problem they are facing. They are certain that their kid is just going through a phase, and they’d better focus on which university is best for the future. I am not talking about dyslectic or blind or deaf individuals here; I am referring to children with e.g. autism combined with mental retardation, children that are unable to read, write or have any sort of future-plans and are even incapable of self-helping. However, one can have tokens of magical thinking in even much milder cases: I was discussing with a teen boy the other day who is dyslectic. I was trying to explain to him that teachers who are just eager to teach him are useless; he needs 18


Magical Thinking

teachers who know how to teach dyslectic children – otherwise, special education would just be a hoax! He found all my arguments reasonable. He also admitted many things about his study-habits that I knew before he said. Yet, he also found reasonable his parents’ request to study more during summertime and stop many extra-curricular activities because his grades in school were low. In the mean-time, we have already established that merely reading books again and again is no good for him. This should have been obvious for him and his parents already from the three years he wasted trying to learn English without special help. But no, in theory we agree; in practice, magical thinking motivates us to act differently. Another interesting case has to do with OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) patients. OSA is a very serious medical condition where you stop breathing during sleep for as long as 40 seconds or even more, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness, brain damage due to hypoxia etc. People get tested for OSA usually after a bed-partner notices. What is extraordinary is that oftentimes, patients suffering from OSA, refuse that they actually have this condition. They are tested positive for OSA, their partner notices the symptoms during bed-time, the patients themselves are, well, asleep of course during sleeping, so they cannot notice, however, they refuse they have the condition! Denial, in spite of direct evidence, is another form of magical thinking.

19


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

The Right Man Hitler, Stalin, Alexander the Great and many other great (and not so great) figures of history are well known examples of men with magical thinking. They were always right, they fantasized that they worked for the common welfare; they did everything in their power to avoid anything that would contradict their rationale so that they would in no case be wrong about anything. They were as cruel to everyone who opposed them as they were affectionate and loving to their willless puppets. They were capable of greatly benefitting their loved ones – so as to prove to everyone (and especially to themselves) their generosity – or in other instances they would show endless cruelty to the very same loved ones so that they would prove again to be men of great vision and determination. That type of man is also called “the right man”. Do you recognize such men in your close environment? Let me help you. Most “right men” have never achieved what Hitler, Stalin or Alexander the Great had. While it seems that such personality traits are “useful” to some aggressive leaders belonging to more “brutal” times and ages, most right men are next door guys who have not achieved much. These guys really do feel society owes them something. But, even if they are successful, they are never happy. OK, I know you see a good side in that, but it is a very different thing to be a visionary than to be a person feeling empty! 20


Magical Thinking

The Right Man is a man (or equally a woman) that is always right about everything. He (or she) thinks that they are something special and usually being a more dominant personality, they try and find a less dominant one to … dominate and, more importantly, to feed their ego with. Equally true is that less dominant people actually get involved in such relationships (as the Eurythmics’ song goes, “everybody’s looking for something / some of them want to use you / some of them want to get used by you; / some of them want to abuse you / some of them want to be abused) and as a result magical things happen! Adventurous divorces, violence, jealousy, depressed children and many more wonderful things. Even murders committed from magically transformed cute girls who, oppressed by their dominant husbands, turned (even for just a single critical moment) into vicious and violent sadists. These are just examples of things and situations that we have brought upon ourselves because we cannot correctly use the most advanced machine in the known world: Our brains. You see, it doesn’t come with instructions. So before I suggest some “how to” advice, let’s see what is going so wrong in there.

21


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Hypnosis Note that this is the most important and bizarre part of the book. When you read the following lines, a subconscious suggestion will have been implanted into your mind so that you may see the color blue in the white wall in front of you. The secret lies in the resonant last consonant of the word blue as written bellow: bluesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss If you whisper it silently, it will couple the meaning of the word “blue” with the sense of the blue color in your optical cortex through resonance of the cortical nerves thanks to your pre-existing and established mental representations. The frequency that you produce with your teeth is equal to a series of small shocks that is similar to the creation of delusion of the blue color after you hit your head in a hard way. It is very interesting to see what you can do to your senses so easily! bluesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss Did it work for you? Some people may say yes, and some people may say no. Let’s just hope you really aren’t among the ones who said “yes” as an answer! Of course it will never work; it is just a bluff I made up. But on the other hand, I did achieve something. For a second there, I got you, I had you hypnotized! How? Not by using some kind of witchcraft. It is quite simple; 22


Magical Thinking

I just made you to absorb yourself into a fantasy. For a moment I took your mind away exactly the way an illusionist, a martial arts master, a thief or a marketeer does. I made you think one of the following two: Either “Interesting! let me see, can this work?” or “Come on! Is he really serious? I regret ever having to spend time on this book…” The only difference is that all I did was show you my point (and for fun) whereas a skilled robber, a fighter or a marketeer would create this moment of instant hypnotism to use you (rob you, hit you or sell you something!). Hypnosis comes from the Greek word Hypnos = sleep. Everyone has seen the classical scene in a movie when the hypnotist swings like a pendulum some silver pendant in front of somebody and gets his subject under total control. Is that hypnosis? You bet! But the interesting thing is to see what else is hypnosis as well. First things first, let’s see what happens during hypnosis. Hypnosis is a kind of autistic behavior expressed by any individual at any particular moment when there seems that communication with the environment is cut off from within and the focus is redirected inwards; logical mind is also by-passed. You just become zombie-like for a while. You are susceptible to suggestion – even though there still exists some self-control, and oftentimes you are required to actively give your consent in order for deep hypnosis to be achieved. The big news flash here is that a) you don’t necessarily need another one to hypnotize you – you do it to yourself just as nicely as a great 23


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

psychic would do it and b) you are susceptible to selfsuggestion as well. What do all these mean? Let’s see some examples. Did you ever go somewhere (your bedroom) to take something and when you got there you forgot what was it? Did you ever try to find where your car keys or your phone were, while you were actually holding them? Yeah? Well, you have managed (as we all do at several occasions) to let go, surrender to the environment and get hypnotized. The pupil gazing outside the window of the classroom and daydreaming is in a form of hypnosis, almost sound asleep in some way, or if you’ d prefer, a part of his brain is actually asleep, and when the teacher yells “Wake up Jimmy!” she is actually quite precise in what she asks. You could generally say that absent-mindedness is the souldisease of modern man. And here is the bad news: we are in this autistic – hypnotic condition some 99% of the day. Sorry folks, that’s how it is. Just observe yourself. Did you ever hear a creepy noise at night and try to understand what it was (in other words you tried to connect to the environment more fully)? After a shock (such as some bad news, or an accident) did you ever get a more vivid feeling of your surroundings? Those would be for the most of you the only moments you were out of this hypnotic condition. For the rest of the time you are just a machine, a creature of habit that leaves every task to this complicated organism (your body) to perform mechanically. You do not usually act. Your body just re24


Magical Thinking

acts to various stimuli be it your job’s tasks, house cleaning or a simple conversation. So, as the years pass by, you get all the more used to this way of “living” and your mechanical self becomes bigger and bigger till the point it becomes so enormous and complicated that starts to dysfunction. It is then that you may show the best moments of your magical thinking. It is then that you no longer exist, a mere machine – and a dumb one – has replaced you, me, all of us (but not the enlightened ones). It is exactly such a state of functioning that enables people to burn others in fire for witchcraft, rape and kill a neighbor as punishment for her religious beliefs or spend their own children’s college money on a poker table because they just “felt lucky”. And why is all that? Because people use their mind in the wrong way. Well, let’s look again more closely to what happens in there.

25


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Daydreaming You are out of the dreaming state for about 1% of your time (that’s about an hour or so every week). What is it that you do the remaining 99% of your time? You daydream, silly! As I was writing this page I saw some dust in the corner of the room. Truth be told it was an unusually big quantity of dust, I mean not like the Sahara desert, but then again I try to maintain my Sensei’s house as clean as possible. Despite my deep concentration in writing my book, in a matter of five to ten seconds, I made the following thoughts: 1. Holy cow, lots of dust here! 2. I did clean up earlier this week, did I miss this part? 3. If I did not miss it, why did dust gather there? Is it a kind of supernatural corner? 4. When am I supposed to clean again? 5. Am I going to remember it till then? 6. What if it stays here and Sensei sees it when he returns? 7. I try so hard to keep the house clean, is it not enough? What will he think? 8. Ok, I am daydreaming. Please self, focus on your work! 9. Maybe I should put this in my book! All these thoughts are not particularly useful for me to think. They are just a waste of time and a proof that I 26


Magical Thinking

still have a lot of work in front of me if I am to truly control my mind. You get caught in an infinite spiral of useless thoughts; and not just useless but harmful as well. You see, when you hypnotize yourself, you begin a series of selfsuggestions. And what do you suggest to yourself? Thoughts that have to do with how much you should care about others, in what way you may improve your skills or how blessed your life is? Nope? Didn’t think so either! All you think about is fantasies of who you would rather be or have sex with, what you would do “IF” something happened, how others treat you wrongly; you try to justify your acts to yourself, you judge/label people and you excuse yourself – always admitting some mistakes just to feel better about how fair you truly are. In the end you develop another self, a fake one that has grown so big that has put aside your true self. It is a non-self-existing ego that you have created and it now does everything for you without you. You (the real you) just stand aside, like a junkie waiting for your dose of happiness from the devil you and only you have created. And when things go wrong you resemble a captain who has amnesia and sits in his cabin inside his ship in a stormy day wondering who the heck governs the ship! This – as I said earlier – is a never-ending-and-alwaysgrowing-bigger spiral. Your fake and greedy self is always hungry – it wants to become even bigger to 27


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

support itself and to maintain the capacity to give you some pleasure. So it keeps on imagining great things for you, it wants to watch soap operas, gossip news to feed on (self-) pity, to feed on negative emotions. It will always act in a way more comfortable to the so-called “truth” it has constructed even if this employs some (or a lot of) magical thinking. But why do all that? The question is rather simple to answer. Because it is easy! People are children, inclined to try to find the easy way around – the shortcut. When there is none (which is usually the case), they invent one – and stick to it! Try the following exercise on yourself to see what I mean: a) Imagine that you won the lottery and you may at last have the girl (or boy) of your dreams and go together on vacations. Fantasize that you spend the nights together and at daytime you do whatever you like: sports, rides with expensive cars, VIP tickets for concerts/ athletic events, and so on – you get the idea b) Connect with the environment around you. Think vividly of your physical location (I am in my bedroom sitting on my desk, today is Monday and the time is 19:33 etc.) and notice in detail the objects around you. Feel your body, your hands, your feet, your spinal cord, your face, your breathing. When an irrelevant thought enters your mind, let it go and start over. What was more difficult? B? Obviously. And in what 28


Magical Thinking

condition do you spend most of your day? In a condition that approximates the reality of B or in one that is full of “Ifs” and “wannabes” like A? There is no question about it: people want the easy way and will go to extremes to convince themselves that the teacher who has a magic system for children to easily learn karate and take a black belt in two years at the age of 13, the politician that promises prosperity and good will, or the doctor who has (again) discovered the magic no-pain diet to become slim as a model in a matter of weeks while you eat more than the salesmanchef on the TV commercial who sells the new kitchen tool to make perfect recipes as you never did before, while of course later on you will use the revolutionary gadget that will make you look like Swarzenegger with only 2 minutes of exercise per day, all of these people are not only right, oftentimes they are the idols. If something is simple and easy it should work, and well, if it doesn’t, there’s really no problem, we’ll just imagine that it works! Quite the same, right? Another popular form of daydreaming has to do with problem-solving and how easily we get hypnotized by advertisements. What do I mean? If you ask people how they are doing in their lives, nine out of ten will complain about the problems they face, and even if they don’t complain, most of them will think of their predicaments. But if you could discuss a little bit more with someone about their problems, it would be amazing that in the end, they would almost never answer two basic questions: “What is exactly the problem?” and “what is the solution to the problem?”. I 29


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

bet that if you insisted on getting the answers to your simple questions, they would simply be irritated and feel more aggressive towards you and maybe miserable, pitying themselves. I mean people will tell you stuff such as “I don’t have money, health, enough sex” but these are not problems, but rather results. Problems are things like “I did not use the proper mathematical tools to estimate correctly the Return Of Investment (ROI) for my choices” (why didn’t you?), “My arteries are clogged with cholesterol which damages my heart” (why did they come to be like this?), “I am intimidated when dealing with people – possible spouses – because I feel I have to prove my worth” (why react like that? Why feel you have to prove this?). You may have noticed that when you know exactly the problem, the answers are quite obvious. Thus, the solutions are respectively: “Use the correct tools before you chose an investment OR study about them (invest your time before your money!)”, “Exercise by following a physician’s advice, eat properly” and “Understand that you have nothing to prove to anyone or consult a psychologist” But people instead of practical thinking, which requires them to work towards accepting and fixing their bad habits, prefer to just daydream their way out of their perceived misery, feel bad without really thinking in proper perspective, feed their egos with nonsense and wait for a magical solution. This solution probably redirects the responsibility for their own problems to somebody else and supposedly makes things better for 30


Magical Thinking

them without their involvement. Now you might see in what way advertisers fully exploit this trait. When you have a problem that you have not precisely defined, any solution that “feels” good should/could be the solution for your vaguely defined situation. They just constantly offer you magical solutions which you are willing to pay for, even if they are irrelevant to your condition, hoping to feel better while making the problems disappear. Please think! The new Porsche you can’t afford, a new 3D TV set, expensive clothing, pills, or buying expensive presents to your lover will not solve your problems. Capiche?

A little bit of all the above “Your uncle “T” (let’s call him this way) might have been all that, but he was a MAN! He was returning from Athens to his village by bus when some other male sitting next to him tried to touch him inappropriately. Your uncle responded immediately and decisively. He punched that man in the face. Nobody ever doubted his manhood!” 31


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

But what exactly did my late father mean back then, when I was in elementary school, when he referred to “might have been all that” about uncle T? Let me answer you this one: Uncle T was an alcoholic, illiterate and divorced (he abandoned his family), a man who spent all of his (and some of my grandmother’s) money to prostitutes. He had no interest whatsoever, other than cheap wine and women. He had no ambitions, not even a clear mind and sober mind to be able to have any in the first place. But here’s the thing, the big excitement: he was not gay! Talk about success! Here we have a whole bunch of problems. When I hear people say such things, I am reminded of mushrooms in that what you hear is like a cute, little mushroom your eyes may behold while you remain oblivious of the enormous and complex network underneath it (by the way the biggest living organism on earth is actually a mushroom! Now, didn’t expect that, did ya?). Let’s examine this further. What elements can you distinguish in my father’s little educational story? ➢ Magical thinking: we compare irrelevant things (sexual orientation and success in life) and feel happy about it. ➢ Hypnotism: self-suggestion that being gay is worse than… well everything. ➢ Stereotypes: sexual orientation is very important and other people must be very concerned about yours as well. ➢ Racism: fear the unknown and fight it because whatever we don’t know or understand must be 32


Magical Thinking

wrong, such as a different sexual orientation, or logic. ➢ Wrong role models: this story was told to me when I was 11-12 y.o. and for a child it only leads to adoption of rotten standards. ➢ Right Man: one who says such a story to a child to instill behaviors in it, only tries in reality to justify himself to his own eyes by attempting to create a little clone of his views. ➢ Labeling: let’s put some (emotionally loaded) labels to anyone and judge them according to these. Straight: Gooood!! Gay: Baaaaad... Human intellectuality at its best. So, you see, everyday attitudes of people reveal a distorted inner world which sometimes seems (to the eyes of the beholder) to be beyond repair. All this rotten system of beliefs leads to mental and even physical decay of the carrier. I really have come to feel pity for people who for no apparent reason create -out of thin air- such a heavy burden (their beliefs) and carry it around in a process that leads to even more problems, misery and pain.

33


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Aftermath… Unfortunately and sadly, uncle T died some years ago hit by a truck as he was returning home on foot. As always he was fully drunk. The truck driver was drunk as well. Oh well, at least they were both straight. Sad life, sad end… No comment…or, you may view the whole book as a comment!

Babylon Is Babylon an ancient city in Mesopotamia (near Iraq of today)? Yeap, you got that right and many Bible readers among you are already familiar with the story: Babylonians in their vanity tried to reach the skies with a tall building (“The Tower of Babylon”), so God punished them and everybody started to speak in a difference language (“Confusion of Tongue”). The whole endeavor sunk in the ensuing chaos. There are several underlying meanings. The most important for my study is the confusion of tongue. You see, in this biblical theme it is God’s intervention that causes the confusion to happen as if people could communicate well with each other prior to that. God’s interference was quite needless: people do a fine job by themselves in not being able to communicate with each other, even when speaking the same language – let alone a different one! This inability of people to clearly 34


Magical Thinking

understand each other – exactly as if they spoke different languages – is a valuable teaching from the Bible. Why are then people unable to understand each other? Well, they don’t listen to each other in the first place, that’s for sure. How many times people talk to you while you think other things, you try to guess what they mean or do everything other than sincerely and fully pay attention to their words? Beings in the state of daydreaming trying to communicate are the general trend. Everybody, being bound to a different imagined reality, try to find common grounds. The achievement here is really to find even one thing in common! But then again, even when this happens, it is more of a coincidence because people usually dream about the same old fame–money–sex triad than because they have acquired a true understanding of their fellow-being’s needs. What are words? Mere sounds? Of course! The meaning of words (semantics) is not inherent to their sound but only what we attribute to them. How then is it possible to acknowledge words with a meaning different to our state of mind? Call it prejudice, call it narrow-mindedness, the end result is the same: people just use common sounds with no common meaning attached to them. Everybody understands what he/she wants. And that’s, by my opinion, another important lesson from the story of Babel’s Tower (apart from greed). 35


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

36


Magical Thinking

The big disaster After complaints were made by neighbors about an intense odor, the police found the decaying body of a young man lying in a bedroom of the house inhabited by a four-member family (mother, grandmother, daughter and son). As it turned out, the young man was the son who had passed away some weeks ago from an illness but his family (his mother and his grandmother) did not deliver him to be properly buried but tried to make him “wake up” following directions from some sort of a spiritual “guru”. They continued trying to wake him up with all kinds of herbs and medicines even as his body was in progressing decay and smelled terribly. It was just the average next-doortype family, without any history of psychiatric illnesses or other conditions sufficient to explain the incident. The obvious question again here is “What were they thinking?”. When we use thinking for our pleasure – that is, to create a comforting but fake reality for us – we are in grave danger to be compelled, out of unavoidable circumstances, to face the truth and this could only mean a very unpleasant (or sometimes overwhelmingly depressing) experience. I am not only talking about mistakenly thinking that charging your credit card would solve your emotional problems only to find out the unpleasant truth that it just made things worse. People have high expectations – for no good reason – about things that are totally out of their control. They 37


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

make a reality (through self-suggestion) that very often includes a happy family, grandchildren, ideal relationships and so on. Well, things do not comply with your daydreaming. But because it would be quite a shock to admit the truth, it is always easier to keep dreaming. The previous example is one of a million (more or less tragic) stories that we see every day where protagonists are people refusing to face the truth despite the emergence of some hard evidence against the dreams we wished to believe in. So what happens when these people do face the truth? It is when the big catastrophe happens. Thus, people get crushed when their son turns out to be gay, both of their much expected newborn children are diagnosed with the Down’s syndrome, or they may withdraw from life when their beloved daughter dies in a car accident. Am I suggesting that you should always think of the worst? To live a miserable life that you become a sitting duck waiting for the next big catastrophe? To try and take every precautionary measure in order to be shielded from everything? I must reply with a resounding no. I believe you should do exactly the contrary – respect life and try to enjoy it without having the worst possible scenario as your guide. Not even a bad one! If you respect life, that, is enough. Then you will not race with your car in a public road, not because you are afraid that you will crash, kill a bus full of innocent people and get burned alive (sorry, but that is the worst-case scenario I could think of!) but you 38


Magical Thinking

will drive carefully because you respect the gift of life and want to show this respect in all of your acts. You know that driving fast is dangerous. That is enough. The respect for life is all you need. Ugly thoughts and daydreaming about the worst is all you do not need. Then, you develop an approach to life based on positive acceptance. You are free because you do not expect things to happen in a way you just dreamt of. You then may accept that no matter how tough something is, it is a part of life. You do not get crushed because of some sudden death of a loved one or the disloyalty of your spouse. Furthermore, you do not feel more depressed by thinking “what if things were different!”. Things are not the way they are not! Things are exactly as they present themselves to you now. Accept them! The real problem is not that you should think the worst but that you always think of the best (“best” as you define it). Let me make this as clear as possible: while a positive attitude is very desirable, there is a limit to it defined by what is realistic. In the previous examples, people get emotionally crushed not because they have not prepared themselves for the possibility of infants suffering from syndroms or daughters killed in car crashes. That would be absurd for me to claim. People get crushed because they expect the best, they think (even subconsciously) that their children will be of a special, select kind and go through their lives with what is perceived as the best possible way. They really enjoy dreaming about such matters and when someday 39


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

things turn otherwise (in a different way than their dreams dictate), they are simply crushed. They start blaming God and everybody else they can think of, when it is their misuse of thinking skills that brought them to this state. Live in the Now and live consciously. The Now does not provide you with false dreams and great expectations. It does not promise wealth, success and other such fantasies. The Now is happy on its own, it is silent and it requires the real you to take advantage of the bliss it provides. Whether you like it or not, it is the only real state you will ever experience. Feel joy, sorrow or grief for things happening now. Do not force yourself to carry burdens (your fake expectations) for they are like time-bombs waiting to explode in some “now” which exists in the future. Live now to the fullest and when something happens in another “now” you will be able to live it in its right proportions, not bigger – or even lesser in some instances. But as you carry fantasies and fake expectations, when things do not go the way you thought, not only do you have to deal with the situation at hand, but, regretfully, with the expectations you have created as well. These unrealistic expectations now come like monsters to attack you when you need all your strength to cope with the real situation. Daydreaming, self-hypnosis, magical thinking… all are parts of the same problem, all are different sides of the same reality. This nasty reality only comes forth because we use something in the wrong way: our 40


Magical Thinking

thinking. If you stayed with me so far, this should have become clear by now. But there is more to it so read on!

The big truth “a” (and the big lie “b”).

If you guessed that there is not going to be such a thing as a big truth after what you have read until now you’re in a good path. Nevertheless, there is a strong point (kind of a big truth for this book) that you should know about thinking. And equally so, a big lie they (your peers, the society, the establishment, call them what you like) want you to believe. Without further ado, here they are: Truth “a”: Thinking is important BUT it serves (it should anyway) a different function than the one you are accustomed of using it for (daydreaming), and that is to be the link among a set of representations (which came out of observation) so as to form a concept. With thinking, by being fully aware of your environment you make the necessary connections and form a concept. In 41


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

your everyday life, however, you just take some not necessarily representative pieces of the environment (and usually the ones that best serve your wishes) and you just use your imagination to fill-in the rest to your taste. We’ll get back to that again soon. Lie “b”: They want you to believe that the way your inflated fake self-daydreams (they call it “common sense”) is right and good for you. They want you asleep; and they affirm you are doing OK with a friendly pat on the back. Common sense is actually the common way hypnotized people have any sense; and that could be only through some kind of dreamconsciousness. Let me spell it out for you: your common sense is common nonsense! There you go! Let’s go to truth “a” for a moment. This is a truth I found here (or rather confirmed it after thorough consideration) in the island of Kefalonia and is rather clear to me – and to everybody that will sincerely reflect on the matter based only on facts. The contents of sensation, of perception, of contemplation, of feelings, of acts of will, of the pictures of dreams and fantasy, of representations, of concepts and ideas, of all illusions and hallucinations are given to us through observation. We get to know the world only through our observations. And from observations we make representations (mental analogues of the objects of our observation), from which, in turn, by means of thinking we form concepts, much like the one of elastic collision, the orbit of the moon or even happiness. We don’t take 42


Magical Thinking

these concepts ready made from outside ourselves (from the environment) but we built them from within, engaging in thinking activity only after we have perceived some already filtered input through our eyes, ears etc. and having turned it into representations. To be completely accurate I may say that, from the environment, what does reach our isolated brain is merely chemical signals – signaling neurotransmitters. Nothing more – but many elements less than we’d think! As creatures of habit we tend to ignore that. By acting mechanically in everyday life we forget that it is us who through thinking make up our reality. Let’s illustrate this with three simple examples. You observe (see) a) two billiard balls collide, b) a keg of beer falling off the table and c) a child putting his hand in the fire. The outcomes of the above incidents are: d) when two billiard balls collide, they bounce and change direction e) obviously, you ask for another one f) when a child puts his hand in the fire, it gets burned So what is it that the environment provides you? If you want to be realistic, you cannot say that the environment supplies you with the concept of, say, elastic collision. You only get to see some separate and unconnected images from balls moving, balls colliding, balls changing direction. If you were distracted while 43


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

watching two billiard balls during a collision course and thus missed the collision itself, when you looked back and saw the two balls moving in different directions away from each other, you would know they had elastically collided a moment before. How would you infer that? Could you know such a thing if you had never seen before an elastic collision occurring before your eyes? The important thing to notice is that after you form these quite distinct representations in your mind (one direction, collision, change of direction), it is thinking that produces the corresponding concepts, i.e. the system of ideas where we establish the connection between different representations. This may seem to be odd; do not forget that in the Middle Ages for instance, people had the representation of grime and the representation of cholera, but could not connect them to establish the concept of “infection”. Instead they accused for witchcraft those who were thought to have brought the disease as a result of selling their souls to the devil and then, they burned them alive! Not to mention how many black cats were put to trial and sentenced to death… Let’s go back to the three examples. So, do you know what will happen after either a, b, or c occurs before your eyes? Yes you do in a way and no you don’t in another way. You cannot predict any of the (let’s say obvious) results if you have no previous experience of it, or –in other words – if you don’t have the 44


Magical Thinking

corresponding concept. What concept? The concept of: 1. elastic collision, 2. gravity (we tend not to understand what was the big deal when Newton actually discovered the law of gravity exactly because we take that concept for granted and cannot realize how different things were before this concept was conceived) and 3. burns caused by heat. In fact, it is obvious that the little child is soon going to make a painful discovery and form a very solid and lasting connection of heat and burns – the concept of heat burns! Actually so solid and lasting that when he grows up and sees a similar situation with another child getting burned he (or she) will wonder why would that other child be so dumb and do something so obviously mistaken like that (to put one’s hand in a fire), completely forgetting his own similar way of discovering the world. The mind’s job is, through thinking, to connect representations to form concepts. It may be just as simple as finding out what will happen next after two billiard balls collide, or as complex as forming the theory of relativity. It may also serve as inspiration when a writer for instance thinks how he – in terms of words and layout – should write his book. There should be a mechanical self as well to serve you (but not become you): when Mozart wrote a concerto, we do not really expect him to have thought along the lines of “oh which symbols should I use exactly to write the 45


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

score of my second piano concerto?”. We expect him to just mechanically have used all the notes and the symbols he needed to, like a tennis player who will never think “wow that’s a tough one coming from the right. How should I open my racquet’s face to hit the ball and how should I place my feet? What about the grip and the follow-through?”. The tennis players (as well as the martial arts masters etc.) are expected to act mechanically – in this respect at least. But they have consciously and through continuous effort and feedback developed the mechanical skills that help them achieve specific and tangible results. It is one thing to be mechanical and another to consciously select which mechanical skill to use at any given instance. Our mechanical self can be (and is supposed to be) a useful tool. But we should control the occasions, not the other way around. The other way around is called luck and it is what everyone has in his life at specific points in the form of chances. Poor thinking is the reason people don’t take advantage of chances, but only daydream afterwards about the lost opportunities of the past, losing new ones along the way as they are too caught up thinking about the past.

46


Magical Thinking

The Twilight Zone I guess I should make things clearer with some examples. When exactly is it that thinking is beneficial and when does it start to become an obstacle? If you try to solve a mathematical problem, that’s cool. Or you could say that exactly because it looks boring it should be beneficial (well, it actually gets quite interesting when you do it though). But let’s say I live in the now. That’s my goal after all, right? I do not daydream (easier said than done) and I am here, focused in the present, self-aware and all. Nevertheless, tomorrow I am going to watch a movie and meet my dream-girl, and I reflect upon it as I should plan my schedule. Here is the sequence of thoughts I make: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Tomorrow I will go to the cinema. It’s probably going to be Star Wars but who cares, Kate will be there! Tim, Maria, and Kate will join. I should be there at 8.00. Movie starts at 9.00 so we’ll have time to eat dinner with the others. I will drive there. Or should I not? There’s a lot of traffic so I may as well take a bus. Or take the train… I don’t want to be late and I don’t want to start from home early ’cause I need to do some stuff first. 47


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

8.

9. 1. 10. 11. 12. 13.

14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21.

I want to have a short and smooth ride there to be ready for Kate. If I go and be tense I may say something stupid and Kate does not dig this stuff Last time Kate cancelled at the last moment. Did she do that because of me? ’Cause I remember Kate giving me that look when I asked why she didn’t come. What if she cancels again? Nooo, she will be there ’cause it’s one of her favorite movies as well. But what if she won’t sit next to me? Would that be on purpose or by accident? Ok, just hold it, you are a great guy and Kate wouldn’t have a reason not to like you! Besides Kate is the type of woman that likes stable and loyal blokes like me. Does she know I like her? Yeah stupid, female instinct! What if she is hiding a more sexy self and just wants an aggressive male to grab her and kiss her? Oh, maybe I should just be more straightforward. Yeap, I can do this. She will see that I am up for it. Kissing her and going for a drink to her home later in the night… Nope, better be my home, to control the environment. If only she knew me better, how nice a person I am! But what if she wants a relationship? Not sure about that…

48


Magical Thinking

22. I don’t like commitments. I guess I should go to the gym as well. Does cinnamon makes me lose weight? 23. At least I like cinnamon, anyway I’ll take some cinnamon flavored gum. And cut sweets. 24. Ok, I’ll eat some cake now then and from tomorrow I wont. Actually I will only eat one sweet/week and I’ll start today. 25. My abs are not bad. Or are they? Nope, they’re ok, and I’m cool and women love cool guys, not some body-builder macho fools. 26. Erm, right, what am I supposed to do now? This small example illustrates most of the points made till now in this book about useless thinking. It is a common line of thought that everyone has experienced in one way or another. We can see that we can divide it into three parts. One that thinking is used correctly (green zone), one that is not (red zone) and a grey zone combining both kinds of thinking. In everyday life, quality of thoughts may vary in even more complex ways – but you get the picture. So, from 1 till 5, everything’s OK. It may be called daydreaming (in that you are actually mentally absent when you think about the future) but we could call it just practical thinking and planning. I think it is quite clear that it is definitely beneficial to organize our lives in this sense. Then, from 5 to 9 or 10 it’s the grey zone. There still are elements of reality in those lines, but too many “Ifs” as well. 49


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

From 10-11 onwards we enter the twilight zone! Imagination, fantasies, categorizing and judging people, building a fictional self-image, confused thoughts and feelings… you name it! All this is so easily done but so damaging as well. They are the suggestions we make to our hypnotized mind. The end result is a confused individual stuck with magical thinking and another fake self-added to the real one (like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only that Jekyll will take the blame at the end of the day for Hyde’s doings). What should you do? First thing first; let’s try to eliminate the twilight zones. You know when you are not thinking right but instead you are just daydreaming. Stop it! Enough is enough and you can’t afford another second in the superficial world your ego feels so much the need to immerse in. And when I talk about ego, I am not preaching about modesty and good religious people. I am only referring to a thing that false thinking has created. Later on, I will offer you some simple exercises to strengthen your true self and live in a more real, solid now. There is nothing supernatural about it – quite the contrary. Let me tell you something about living in the dream state of the ego. What if someone gave you this option: supposedly, technology has advanced so much that there exists a machine to which you can connect your brain for the rest of your life so that you are totally immersed in your own perfect world – while of course you’d be just lying in a bed. In this example, there would be no way to distinguish between actual reality 50


Magical Thinking

and machine-made (virtual) reality. Everything in this machine-made reality would be just perfect for you, the way you expected everything to be: wealth, beautiful women and/or men, Learjets; whatever and forever. So let’s say you had the option to use such a machine and live a perfect life (a fake one yet absolutely real to your senses) till you rested in peace. What would you choose? Most of you would rather live on their modest lives as they really are, and not in the perfect but fake one. Many of you don’t even know exactly why you would prefer not to use the machine. It’s just an inner need coming from the true self. Reflect upon it. If you are like me, you would want to live the real thing (and not live in a box) at all costs. Even if that meant to do it the other way around: in the famous movie “The Matrix”, Neo (Keanu Reeves) had to decide if he wanted to throw away his decent life when he was told that in reality, what he thought of as “real” was just an illusion created by a machine he was connected to. He was offered a choice between a red pill to discover reality or a blue one to continue with his oblivious life; he took the red one, which led him to wake up and get disconnected from the machine. Most people already live in a matrix (a fake world)! Not in one that evil aliens, conspiring governments or crazy and intelligent computers created, but one that they have built for themselves stone by stone, year after year. All that because the one thing that distinguishes 51


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

us from other animals, “Λόγος” (logos – the Greek word meaning God, speech, logic and thinking), is the one thing that we have misused so much. If you sincerely contemplate upon these notions, you may find some truths for yourself. In this context, enough is said already.

52


Magical Thinking

Biases Biases in simple terms are the scum in your thinking filters. Biases are about prejudices, delusions, opinions that are thought to be real knowledge and everything else that gets in the way to produce some magic in your thinking. It is important to identify and understand the obstacles in front of you, before you attempt to modify your way of conceptualizing reality. Here is a list of the most common biases. Read critically!

a) Previous experience Experience is one big trap. To begin with, what exactly is experience? Is a tennis coach who has taught wrong technique for twenty years more experienced than one who’s been teaching the right one for just a year? Is a doctor who has mistreated 100 out of a total of 1000 patients more experienced than one who is younger but has mistreated none out of his total 100 patients? So, apparently, when talking about experience we refer only to positive experience. We want to go to a doctor with big positive experience, not just big experience (that could be negative). Another thing with experience is that it cannot show us the future. This is the main fallacy people believe about experience, that it is good for predictive purposes. If we judge something that happens to us today according to the experience of yesterday, we expose ourselves to a multitude of errors. Of course this does not mean that 53


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

experience gained in life should be renounced. It should always be kept in mind as clearly as possible. But every new experience must be wholly judged according to what is inherent in it, and not obscured by the past and therefore, be transformed into surveillance – a whole other discussion there. Anyway, we must be prepared every moment, clinging to the thought that every moment can bring us some new revelation. If we judge the new by the standard of the old, we are liable to error. Experience should serve the purpose of perceiving the new and not of judging it by the standard of the old. Let’s see an example. The way our solar system is now has evolved over billions of years from the KantLaplace Nebula which somehow condensed into the planets that are forming our known solar system. So we now can form a link between a giant molecular nebula and the creation of stars and planets. When we observe the universe now and see such a nebula, we expect that some astral bodies will form from it. But we only expect that to happen because we have two representations (nebulas and planets) and how these link with each other to form the corresponding concept of the birth of stars and planets. But it should not be inferred that one can extrapolate from this concept of the Kant-Laplace nebula the corresponding concept of the solar system with all its characteristics, from experience alone, if one has never seen a solar system before. That (forming such a concept a priori, before any corresponding experience) may result only from our surveillance, that is, our theoretical imagination. 54


Magical Thinking

In other words, this means: if we are given the concept of the imperfect and the concept of the perfect, we can recognize the connection; but never should one say that the concept derived from the experience what existed earlier suffices to develop the concept of whatever followed. That is the limit of experience. Experience may be a tool for further self-development but not something to make us believe we are more skilled in judging people, situations or even scientific facts.

Never experienced a flying cow? What does this prove?

b) Buffers One moment we love somebody and the next moment we wish them dead. One moment we decide / promise to do something for sure; the next moment we forget and change our minds. Only we do not see it. We have special mechanisms in us which prevent us from 55


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

noticing such contradictions. These mechanisms are called buffers and work pretty much the same way the buffers of the trains work: they absorb shocks. These special mental arrangements prevent us from seeing the disturbing truths about ourselves and about other things. People with really strong buffers are like the blind; they never see. If they saw how contradictory they were, they would be unable to cope with it and even become unable to move, because they wouldn’t trust themselves anymore. When we have to face hard facts, it hurts. Our mistakes, the mediocrity that engulfs us, the contradictions we constantly produce and everything else are well hidden from our sight. That’s why we develop buffers, systems of beliefs and ways of thinking that don’t allow us to face the sometimes harsh “reality” directly and be shocked. Our thinking is biased from such beliefs in the most definite way. And what’s more, the main characteristic of these buffers is that they prove to be extremely enduring. It’s easier to change our belief about the spherical shape of earth (and believe it’s flat) rather than believe that we are not so fair as we thought we were till now. The reason of course, is that it is easier to face (and accept) a nice delusion than a painful truth. Where do these buffers come from? Imagination. Of course – as you understand – when I imagine that I am an airplane, I do not automatically believe that and try to find evidence to support it. I always remember I am not an airplane! But more often than not, we tend to 56


Magical Thinking

forget that something comes from our imagination. I may imagine that I am a driver like M. Schumacher. I know I am not. I’m just joking when I suggest that we (Schumacher and myself) have identical driving skills. But at some point I forget and start believing that I am a better driver than I truly am – even for some crucial seconds. Grave mistake! Every person will sooner or later imagine things that have to do with his hobbies or his occupation. A chef will not imagine that he is a world famous architect. But it will cross a chef’s mind, sooner or later, to imagine himself as a successful and world-known master-chef. An athlete, a music student, a faithful wife, all will, at some point, imagine an ideal situation. At some point, a part of this imaginary selfimage will become a part of their reality. Please understand that the brain has no means to discriminate between “reality” and “imagination”; the very existence of these two separate terms is questionable. And at what point are we going to identify with our fantasies? Exactly when we start forgetting that it is just our imagination. How do these “buffers” look like? They are beliefs like “I am fair – I am nice with good people and bad with bad people”, “I was a good teacher – children loved me”, “I am an experienced [= good] driver – been driving for 30 years!”, “I always stand up for my friends”, “I am a good Christian”, “I live in the way of God”, “I have a very good forehand”, “My aikido is great because I had a world famous teacher”, and other ideas like that. The deeper function is that when buffers and facts come in contrast with each other, the former 57


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

always prevail. And the more you grow older, in order to maintain a consistent worldview, your mechanic self builds all the more complex systems of ideas and beliefs. So when it comes to thinking, magic happens! Not only are you always excused to be dishonest, disloyal, rude, short-sighted and selfish, but you really believe that you are the exact opposite! Buffers “help” you go a step further from just saying to yourself : “I am excused to say a lie this one time”, to saying: “I really speak the truth here, why don’t you get it you bloody morons?” This is the reason you see people (older people are your usual – but not the sole – suspects) to be so stubborn and inflexible. This is the reason why when somebody drives his car into yours, he will almost always blame you. He is not a bad person, do not believe that. He is just convinced “I am a good driver” and this has become a buffer that will not even allow that person to admit the obvious: he made a mistake while driving! One member of my tennis club was at the same time a candidate alderman. As a tennis club member, he supported the view that more tennis courts should be built. As a candidate he argued that there should not be any more tennis courts. He was unable to see the contradiction; just for the record, he was elected. Magic! The destroyer of buffers is sincerity. But being able to be sincere is a science. And to make things worse, it may hurt dreadfully to be sincere to ourselves about just us and our actions. People generally will avoid suffering and go the easy way – like children. People 58


Magical Thinking

are children. They stop being children when they decide to suffer and accept that is the only way; to suffer a bit now and then, rather than develop enormous buffers and either suffer a lot more at some critical point in future, or just make other suffer due to our arrogance and short-sightedness. Armoring is a relative term referring to the defenses we have established already since our early childhood in order to deal with frustration and cancellation. These defenses render us immune to several stressful (…for us) influences – at the cost of ignoring important bits of information along the way.

c) Knowledge and opinions I was in my early 20’s, that is, almost a decade ago. I was organizing a tennis tournament. But that is irrelevant. As I was sitting on a bench watching a tennis match, there was an old man next to me talking to his grand-child who was watching the same match as well. He offered his grandchild a lemonade saying proudly and confidently: “drink this lemonade! A friend of mine owns the company producing the lemonades. These lemonades are made with pure fresh lemons!”. I noticed the said lemonade. His friend was a man living exactly next to the tennis court. Indeed, he owned the company. I knew him personally. He was a boring, old-style businessman. As a matter of fact, I did my internship in his company, as a food scientist, producing the said lemonades – what a coincidence. As 59


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

is the case with most industrialized lemonades, they were made mixing many white powders and no…lemons. I asked the old man how did he know that these lemonades were made with lemons. He replied abruptly and impolitely that of course he knew as the owner of the company was his friend. It seems to me quite improbable that his friend, my former employer, did tell him that he used real lemons, if only because as in all industrialized products, the ingredients are written on the bottle – besides the old man didn’t claim that he was told such a thing. It was merely an opinion. Nevertheless, he seemed so confident and aggressive, he could kill me simply for asking! Everybody has opinions about everything. Ask ten people if there is a secret CIA base in the dark side of the Moon and you’d get ten different answers. “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one”, “Dirty Harry” once said in a movie. But the worst is that people never realize, that what they think as solid and proven knowledge is usually mere opinion. And people cannot and will not distinguish between knowledge and opinion because they either have their opinions as buffers, or because knowledge and opinions are so well interwoven with each other that they cannot separate them! Common people say “I know this and this and that”. Wise people agree with the Greek philosopher Socrates that “I know that I know nothing” which is not an aphorism; it is a reality. What did people “know” in the past? 60


Magical Thinking

➢ Earth is the one and only center of the universe. ➢ People must not eat with forks; it’s a blasphemy, God gave us fingers ➢ You should not bathe nor change underwear. ➢ There are witches (among us) that gather in distant houses, transform into cats and dance with the devil. ➢ Black people are not humans, but inferior beings ➢ We may test someone’s guilt via the water test. We throw him (or her) in the water (the sea or a deep enough river will do nicely); if water accepts him (i.e. if he drowns) he is innocent, otherwise, if he floats (i.e. if he can swim), it is because the water won’t accept him, so, he is guilty, and should be killed! ➢ Year 1000 AD was the expected end of the world. Already from 998 AD, many major European cities paralyzed! We may as well feel superior to the people that lived in the past who seemed so naïve for actually believing such ridiculous (not to mention dangerous) nonsense, but just consider how blindfolded these people were and what kind of decisions they made based on such beliefs. They did not live so long ago, therefore we can’t consider ourselves more evolved as a species, based on the timespan. They had the same capacity for logical thinking as we do, but they were unable to distinguish sick opinions from shimmering knowledge. What about us? What we need to consider now is our position in relation to them – people of the past that were so easily 61


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

fooled to believe such illusions in relation to our current status. They were not necessarily poor and uneducated folks, but oftentimes they were highly educated and affluent. People that despite their apparently (to us) erroneous thinking, wanted – exactly the way we do – to be right, precise and fair. So, why would we differ from them? What is it that we do in a different manner – apart from the obvious fact that we live in a different time? How many of us can honestly claim that if we happened to grow up misguided in those dark years and were taught all those fallacies, we would not fanatically adopt them as true and accurate? None of us I would say. And more importantly, why should anybody believe that we really differ from them in any way? Most of the things we believe to be true knowledge is mere opinions as well. People in a thousand years or even less may look at our arrogance and feel the same for us as we do for the man of the dark ages. What do you know for certain? Do you know that matter is made of atoms and that atoms are made of protons neutrons and electrons, which, in turn, are made of quarks? That heart is the pump for the circulating blood and cholesterol is bad for your health? Earth goes around the sun? Do you know all these for certain? Have you done any experiments to see for yourself? And if yes, how many such experiments? And if you have made several such experiments, how do you know for sure that the theory on which you based these experiments (theory always precedes measurements) is 100% correct? 62


Magical Thinking

I don’t mean that if you were to make measurements with special astronomical instruments about the orbit of the moon that you would find something different than what is written in your science school book. Not at all. But I do say that if you wanted every “truth” you were taught double-checked for yourselves, some interesting findings would most definitely pop up. You would not prove Newton wrong (or would you?), but it would certainly occur to you how much less rigid what we call “rigid” and “established” knowledge actually is. Moreover, apart from generally accepted / established scientific theories, how many more things do you think you know, even if you never cared to prove them for yourself – but will never think of them as opinions? Things like labels you attach to other people, political views, religious views and more. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son? That question is too absurd (not to mention comical) to be publicly addressed; yet it is one of the major reasons why the Orthodox and the Catholic Christian Churches divided – not to mention that people actually murdered each other to defend such positions. Who of those that choose a side and defend one of the two aforementioned dogmas with passion really do know the answer? Knowing the answer to that question would be to have (in some way) an experience of the Father, an experience of the Son, an experience of the Holy Spirit and an insight of Who proceeds the Holy 63


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Spirit. I do not claim that there is no answer; but I do claim that all these folks that adopt either opinion and have really no idea as to why, would really do the world a favour if they dealt with more everyday things, like their progress in this world or help the society deal with the problems concerning poverty, education and natural resources.

d) Emotional Instability Let us now direct our focus to another interesting matter. You may think that by shedding waterfalls of tears every time you see a soap opera or by reacting hysterically to learning some bad news you are a deeply sentimental person with huge emotional content. Sorry to break this to you but you are emotionally immature and incapable of reasoning. You might consider consulting an expert. 64


Magical Thinking

You expect a good swimmer not to get drowned in a swimming pool but survive (for some time at least) even in the wild waves of the ocean. Naturally, you expect him to overcome his fear of death and his awe of the dark waves struggling to swallow him. You might expect him to use his skills and swim to safety. It is exactly because he is very skilled that you expect him to survive in a difficult situation. Accordingly, a poor swimmer would not stand a chance. In exactly the same fashion, it is not people with rich emotional content (and good coping skills) that act hysterically and lose their temper easily, but rather the ones with very shallow emotional inner world. Emotional stability, controlled responses, and the ability to keep away from emotional extremes are the characteristics of people with a very rich and broad emotional world. It is exactly because their emotions are so developed and matured, that their limits cannot be easily reached. Thus they “survive” in sentimental conditions where others fail and become emotional wrecks. We usually call such people as “cold-hearted”. For sure there are indifferent people who deserve to be called thus. However, one should be cautious not to confuse indifference with rich emotional content. Uncontrolled emotions are the recreational drug for the ego. The feelings of self-pity, unfair treatment, jealousy and sadness are only the driving force that leads your thinking to escape to an imaginary world where you are Mr. Right. What actually happens is that every negative feeling is amplified, which in turn leads to 65


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

more negative thinking and so on. It is again a selfsustaining vicious cycle. Thoughts and consequent actions are thus not controlled by balanced thinking. Emotions, negative emotions, control you. Every part of you. And it is so easy! You just allow yourself some negative thoughts and the party begins without any further assistance from you. Negative thinking triggers negative emotions, which amplify negative thinking in a vicious circle. You just sit back and enjoy a show full of strong negative emotions made only for you! You feel despair, anger, and then there comes catharsis for your sins and all the blame falls on society. It’s perfect but unreal. The only end product will be decisions and actions controlled by magical thinking. These actions will bring more grief in your life and you’ll never escape this predicament because it is self-sustaining… Again, the solution is to think with self-awareness about facts and deal with the present. Daydreaming about the past and future will not help. Stay focused in what you have to do now, right now. That is definitely the most important thing in the world because it is happening, it is there. If I have to make a presentation in a corporate meeting tomorrow, there is nothing beneficial in worrying about fantasies that belong to a moment that does not exist at all. That moment may or may not come to existence tomorrow. That’s true. Equally, or with bigger or smaller probability you may at a near future moment die, get arrested, get sick, lose your job, win the lottery or whatever. So do not create emotions that reflect mere probabilities. Act now, focus 66


Magical Thinking

in the now. All right, what Mary said to the boss about you yesterday was harmful for you. Or your boyfriend may leave you tomorrow. Yet emotional responses to a moment that does not exist are irrational! There is no yesterday or tomorrow in now so don’t ruin your life (which exists in the now) by living, feeling and thinking in an imaginary world that is linked to your fantasy about non-existing moments and “Ifs”.

e) Identification If you use a tool to do something, say, a hammer to hit a nail, you’d never think that you actually are the hammer. The hammer is the tool and you are using it, so it would be absurd to say that the hammer has become you. In other words, you’d never identify with the hammer.

Even if people realize this to be true, most people nevertheless are identifying all the time with another tool, a mental one – that is, thinking. We already discussed how we end up using thinking the wrong way, creating an illusion that we like to be part of. Let’s see how we identify with thoughts reducing our human selves down to the level of a simple tool. When using the hammer, you do not identify with it while using it (or do you?). But usually, when you think about something, you do identify with it; you become something else, a mere reflection of a fantasy. Think about your football team for instance or your boss, or your lover. Think about interacting with them – by thinking how good your team is and how unfair the 67


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

referee was, how you asked for a leave from your boss or that time that your boyfriend (or girlfriend) lied. Notice how strongly you feel about the situation; how lively everything becomes. You start brainstorming with thoughts of every kind and there you are! You have identified with your thoughts! For some moments your conscience is transported to another dimension when in reality you just sit on your sofa completely unaware of what exists in front of you. And if in front of you there is a small ant climbing on the wall, this ant is infinitely more important (because it is real) than your (boy-) girlfriend’s tears or your teams’ defeat because they just are not real. They exist only in your head in the form of a memory. Your head: a place that reality does not exist right now. How can you avoid identifying with your thoughts? Simply treat thinking with the right way: it is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. Whenever you see that it becomes (or more correctly you make it be) something more than a tool, simply adjust your perspective. That should be enough. And then just try to watch the ant on your desk with more interest!

f) The quest for the easy way The invention of shortcuts sometimes appears to me to be a part of human nature. You see people eager to do and believe almost everything, only to avoid the likelihood to work hard to achieve something. As I said, people are children. In reality they usually lose 68


Magical Thinking

more in terms of wasted time, effort and trouble than they gain anything of worth. I remember myself and other students when we spent so much time to prepare a good way to cheat for some exams that in the end, we might as well have done the real thing – study – with less effort and stress. Quests for shortcuts, together with the wish to prove ourselves to be special, are the number one reason for criminal activity of every kind, be it murder, theft, raping or kidnapping. It is needless to say that this quest for the holy grail of easiness is what creates tons and tons of magical thinking. People trying to create a shortcut to “success” are ready to embrace the most spectacular madness one could think of. Every day we listen on the news to normal people acting with so much brutality and ruthlessness, accompanied with sheer stupidity on the road to achieving their goals, that we can only exclaim “what were they thinking!”. What really exists in their head is just some magical thinking, the same kind you have, but taken to a higher level! Let me offer some explanations on what I’m referring to when I talk about criminals and magical thinking by giving examples of them and discussing their true meaning:

69


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Corresponding (implicit) Magical Thinking My right on their life is stronger than their own Kill somebody for a right to their life. Besides, girlfriend I can’t be blamed for taking what’s mine. My need for easy sex is greater than her need for Rape a girl integrity; it’s her fault anyway. Society [which, now, is Murder some people in personified] is against me; revenge for losing a job I may as well go against it and make it pay. She belonged to me AND she deserved it Hit my wife AND she brought it upon herself. I act for the better future Order to kill civilians in of mankind that HAS to war; “collateral damage”. make some sacrifices to greatly benefit humanity. Act

But do not think you are off the hook yet, because here are some examples of Magical Thinking you might be guilty for:

70


Magical Thinking

Corresponding (tacit) Magical Thinking It’s ok, I will do it better tomorrow and anyway I will get better with time on my own pace. It’s ok if I do it in this situation – anyway I know it’s a lie so it’s fine. I added fresh onions to the hamburger; it’s healthy all right! I am not greedy and lazy; I only want what I deserve now, and I will pay back in time.

Act

I do not study enough

I lie

I eat junk food

I take a loan to go on vacation

Ι “lost control” of the car. [i.e., I don’t know how to control oversteering, neither do I even imagine Bad luck. It could happen that anyone can do such to everybody. a thing, nor have I even heard of the word. I am not Schumacher!] Unfortunately, (or – perhaps even better – fortunately), there are no shortcuts. You are responsible for your acts and cannot transfer your responsibility to others (this is only wishful thinking and a fantasy) and you should think and act according to real facts and not 71


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

some illusions you created to suit you better. If you want to improve yourself, study endlessly and correctly, if you lie you are a dishonest person, if you want to eat healthy don’t eat fast food, if you don’t have adequate driving skills, the fact that many others don’t have them as well is neither a good excuse nor a matter of “luck” – stop driving or go to a driving school. That simple. Especially as far as driving is concerned, a matter that is of special significance for me, things are quite simple. 99% of you don’t have the skills. It is not a matter of me underestimating anyone, just a lack of special training. Driving around for grocery-shopping, or going on a trip won’t magically transform your skills. If you have never corrected oversteering or understeering, if you have never lost control on ice etc. and if you have never trained to react, there is no way to have acquired the necessary know-how. Try to understand that and go to a school, rent a go-kart and hire a pilot to show you some stuff; driving is not just a way to commute, take the bus instead. A car is a dangerous tool. If you don’t want to improve your driving skills – oh yes, they are trainable – and if you don’t want to try your limits in a controlled environment, and insist that you are not a race driver so why bother, then don’t drive at all. You wouldn’t give knifes to a company of 5 year-olds to play, would you? Your skills are not better in driving, and driving is not safer than handling tactical knifes – to the contrary, while you might accidentally cut yourself or someone else with a knife, you could very easily commit mass murders with a car. By the way, if 72


Magical Thinking

you think that 5 year olds can’t be as good as you, just watch some videos in youtube of five and six year-old race-drivers or martial artists. You’ ll be surprised where practice takes you! On one hand, please do not think that Michael Schumacher, Bill Gates or Michael Jackson just got luckier in their lives than you to develop talents that are common with yours. On the other hand, attributing the lack of basic skills required for safely driving to lack of talent, is magical thinking squared: you do not need talent to have basic driving skills, and you do not know what talent actually is. Just focus on what is there, in front of you. Then train. Endlessly.

Get over with steering. O-V-E-R-Steering!

But wait. I have some more things to say about driving. Driving is special. Why? It is the most extreme activity a relatively simple folk will ever do. Don’t be fooled from the fact it has become so common an activity. At no other time of our daily routine is anyone of us going to handle such a powerful, dangerous and demanding (in terms of skills) machine. Yet we treat it with such a 73


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

lack of respect, such an arrogance, such irrelevance. We ignore how to take an ideal turn, how to protect others, where the limits are, what should we do after these limits, how much we pollute, how noisy we are, how boring. We demand that the other drives do as we say. But what do we mean with what we say? We just mean that they should act the way we understand this concept. For example, when we demand of others to “be careful”, we expect them to do things the way we are accustomed to or understand them, without actually knowing what is better and why. It is then easy to accuse them for taking courses of action different to our own, ourselves being the authority in every case. We drive at 30% of our car’s limits without even imagining where the limits are… if we meet anyone going at 70% we consider him just crazy, only because we lack any sense about driving. If you ask people, they will say they are able to drive at 100% of their car’s limits. An experienced World Rally Champion pilot would tell you he may stretch it up to 98-99% in his good days. If you ask people to drive at say 80% of their cars’ limits, they will go from 60% to 90% without having any real sense about their skills or their cars’ limits. Still, because we lack this kind of sensibility, we do things that on one instance are way inside the safety zones, and the very next moment we do something extremely silly or dangerous, without even knowing we did it. Daydreaming: A quite common state in every-day life where we make our own reality and we become content with it through self-suggestion. 74


Magical Thinking

I always wonder. What does it mean for someone to be considered an “accomplished” individual, while being incapable of driving well? Why did you (explicitly or implicitly) set limits on your performance? How do you have a self-image of such an accomplished person – an image you want others to share – while you lack so much in an area that offers a fine opportunity to express yourself through refined motor skills? Nobody notices how good or bad you drive. So what? When did that stop self-aware people from improving themselves? The consequences. It was a topic of great local interest. Returning her daughter from a party, a mother crashed on a wall and everybody died – her daughter and two other girls. Was she tired? Did they have a fight? Everybody wondered. On the other hand, I couldn’t believe my ears: What the heck? – I wondered. So, she was such an accomplished driver so that the possibility that her skills were just too poor is out of the question – right? But of course “it could have happened to anyone – even to you! Bad timing!”. Well, wait. Bad timing is when a lady tries to hit a ball in tennis and she hits too early. She takes some lessons and her timing improves. Why expect things to be different about 75


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

driving skills? Fix the damn timing thing in time! Could it not happen to me? Even Federer’s timing is bad sometimes, why not mine. But you get my point, don’t you?

Causal Attribution Just watch some soccer fans argue the day after a big match. Why did their team lose? The referee was unfair, a top player did not perform well, the coach made the wrong choices, the other team was lucky, players were fatigued… and due to many more reasons of varying complexity. What’s important is that everybody attributes a cause to an effect. Causal attribution is exactly that, the procedure of attributing causes to effects or results. I’m sure you have met lots of people who are experts on everything they happened to have read on an article once – or even better, you may remember yourself doing that. We all did. But what gives us the right to do that? Actually, nothing. The more someone knows, the less he is willing to express opinions and name causes. Indeed, it is better not to know something than know a part of it. And what do we really know? And most importantly, how? Let us examine the example of the inductive turkey. Now don’t get me wrong. This turkey was a true scientist, one that many researches would have been envious of. Oh, how patient, how committed she was! Here’s the story: 76


Magical Thinking

This turkey was determined to make up a valid theory – a scientific law if you prefer – about the feeding habits of her owners. She was fed at exactly 7 am every morning. But mind you, she would not draw conclusions that easily! She patiently collected data from every possible situation. She was careful to include observatory data from every possible occasion: days that it was raining, days that it was snowing, days that it was cold, hot, cloudy, sunny… In each and every occasion she was fed at exactly 7 o’clock in the morning. After all that scientific activity of correlating facts, she was finally ready to form a law: “The feeding process is taking place at 7 o’clock”. Alas! This was about to change the very next morning. It was Christmas Eve you see… We are always tempted (not unlikely our careful turkey) to feel like we know things for sure. We fail to see how limited our perspective is in most cases. So we consistently have explanations for everything, like genuine authorities. Nevertheless, we’d better understand the one thing we truly are consistently capable of: Magic! Next time, just remember: there are no “objective” causes, just connections between representations.

77


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

So, again, who’s to blame for everything? Witches? Right!

IQ and the same IQ, the Intelligence Quotient. There is no point to copy/paste the definition of IQ from Wikipedia because it will distract you from my main point which is not to give you psychology 101 lessons – let alone how easy it is for you to just Google it. It suffices say that IQ is an index that connects some functions of your thinking to some statistics, which in the end just tell 78


Magical Thinking

you if you are the same, better or worse than your peers. The important thing to see here is that it only measures a part of the whole process of thinking. Thinking itself is just a tool among many you have, so it actually gives you only a vague idea of how well a part of a part of you works. Capiche? Apart from IQ, another type of intelligence has been invented, the emotional one (EQ), which is thought to be of superior importance for the actual quality of your life and your success. Actually, a bunch of “intelligences” have been invented such as – for example – the one that is connected with spatial awareness and motor skills (let us assume that Bruce Lee, Roger Federer and Michael Schumacher, all had lots of that), another one that has to do with memory, still another one that is related to the ability of being orderly (like, for example, a craftsman who has all his tools, his work and his habits in order) and many more distinct ones (musical, poetical and so on). Additionally, more are being invented/discovered every now and then. Then again, what is the real value in our efforts to name every ability and skill humans have as some sort of intelligence? There seems to be an inner need (although a fake one at closer look) to put labels on everything, not only on skills but on other people as well. We then have the opportunity to judge, to blame, to 79


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

categorize. You may say that it is only critical and scientific thinking to understand the world, and this act to familiarize things by naming them serves our progress. This is exactly the mistake: it is a true question with a wrong answer. We need to be in balance as beings. We need to apply balance to our will, thinking, feelings and have all their features balanced as well. Sticking with such a short-sightedness only to thinking, especially by giving emotionally charged “suitable” labels to things, is a one-sided approach. There are other channels apart from thinking and equally or more important through which we may acquire knowledge. Why are we so obsessed with thinking? The answer is that when we categorize and judge things, it is easier to say: “My value is distinct and great”. End result? Magical thinking! Correct thinking is a skill that takes many years to develop under a strict training regime. Because we thought of something, it does not mean it is the right thing. It may as well be daydreaming or fantasies. Neocortex in human brains, the apparatus that gives us the capacity for analytic thought, is a very complex tool needing much more training than the just plain folk (i.e. us) affords, if it is to be used correctly. Therefore, train (keep reading to see how) and become a bit more modest, uncritical and humble. The only reason I added this little reference to IQ is that it gives you a better perspective of what thinking actually is in relation to the whole of human existence. I see too many people who identify with an IQ score; in 80


Magical Thinking

reality they only identify with a fantasy about who they’d like to be – or who they’ d like the person in front of the to be. The missing link: what is more important? Thinking, emotions (feeling), imagination or something else? I assure you that not only is everything of grave importance in your life but in the case that something is missing (be it thinking, feeling or other) you will suffer a life of distorted reality.

Thinking – Not always enough?

81


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Science What can be said in favor of, or against science? My main focus as an epistemologist is the discrimination between science, from scientia (Latin), and episteme, from επιστήμη (Greek). I will not confuse you with that in this work – I have published extensively on the matter elsewhere. For our purposes here, science and episteme are considered to be identical – while they actually are two contradicting concepts. However, what I intend to do here, is to set the pre-theoretical framework for such a discrimination to become more digestible. Whatever science is, it has some prerequisites. Such a fundamental prerequisite is to have definitions. In science, we don’t just go after our hunches using concepts differently each and every time. No sir. We have definitions. We agree with each other what each concept means, and we stick to that agreement. We may change it later, but again, whenever we agree to use a specific definition, we are fully bound to use it only this way. No exceptions. This is not a dogmatic approach. It is standard practice in mainstream science to stick to the definitions. We may change them freely, but every time we change them, afterwards, we must follow them consistently. Now, several problems emerge even at this preliminary stage, without even examining any definition. What is 82


Magical Thinking

the definition of the definition? And as soon as we set that right, what is the definition of science? We absolutely need the definition of science, as well as the definition of witchcraft, in order to be able to know what may be qualified as magic and what as science; in other words, what belongs to which one category. Meanwhile, we must be certain that what we consider as the definition of science is indeed a properly structured definition by… definition! All the aforementioned must feel intuitively correct. They are. But ask yourselves now. Are you absolutely sure that everyone talking about science, even “big” scientists, even Nobel laureates, have really answered the previous two questions? I am not asking if you feel certain they have. I am not asking you if you think they should have. I am asking you if you know for fact that they have answered the aforementioned questions. Let us not answer this important question. Instead, I shall ask a final question. Would it be reasonable to guess or to predict, that if contemporary scientists have not sufficiently answered the former questions, current science has been derailed – at least in part? You see, we are in the position to accurately predict what would have happened were things this way. What is needed is an extremely anti-magical mind-set, combined with basic knowledge of mathematical logic. Logic, in its formal form, is the best antidote to magical thinking. Its most fundamental assumptions are the ones that are most often violated. For example, its 83


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

second most fundamental assumption is the following: đ??´ → đ??ľ. Α causes B. This also means that one may not identify a cause from its effect. Causes are a priori set, without any further precondition. Alas, how usual it is to judge things based on the outcome! We see technology and we say science is the cause; we see acceleration and attribute it to force; we see bubbles in particle accelerators and we take it as a proof that subatomic particles exist. It is as if logic and applied science have taken separate routes. A good logician has good analytic skills and is able to foretell every possible outcome. The derailment of ÎľĎ€ÎšĎƒĎ„ÎŽÎźÎˇ in its current form, science, is not something extraordinary, but rather it should have been anticipated on the grounds of answering the simple question of what would go wrong if logical principles were violated. Just don’t be prejudiced or biased in favour of the system, and everything will become obvious. Science is not “goodâ€? or “badâ€? based on its final products. That is irrelevant. Science should only be evaluated in principle and never based on its outcome. The latter (to evaluate based on outcomes) is witchcraft. In this sense, science is, indeed, magical thinking. Didn’t see that one coming, right? A basic problem for every attempt to attribute causes to outcomes is that there are indications for every possible scenario. There are plenty of indications for each and every conviction. Is it your wish to support that the earth is flat? That there are aliens watching you? Or, maybe that there is a certain conspiracy going on? On 84


Magical Thinking

the other hand, you might want to prove there are Higgs Bosons, curved space or talent. Now, all the aforementioned could really exist – it is not my intention to deal with their ontological status. What I want you to understand is that there are indications to support all and every possible idea, scenario or hypothesis. Historically, it is only too common to baptize indications as proofs. Logic, stemming from Aristotelean Organon, is exactly an effort to bypass this fault and extract valid conclusions. Now, how confident are you that logic is used consistently in modern science? I am sure that you are more confident than knowledgeable of its actual utilization! Finally, let’s focus on still one more thing. Modern man, as much as ancient man, is prone to succumbing to the fault of the senses. Despite that, and regardless of all the modern discoveries in neuroscience supporting how much and in what ways our perception is distorted in every level of processing, we still rely heavily on our senses. Moreover, we don’t even train our senses to become more acute – let alone conceive the nature of such a training. Mind you, modern man has found a way around this problem. Let’s use machines! – scientists exclaimed. Let’s make machines that will see, hear, measure or detect things accurately; in fact, that have capacities beyond imagination! Problem solved, right? Well, machines have only made matters worse. Why? For the same reason people or cultures that do sharpen their senses haven’t been able to achieve much more either. 85


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Indians, aborigines or other natives, may be able to discriminate traces on the ground and other details that are invisible to the rest of us, or hear what is happening in great distances just by placing their ear against the ground; however, they haven’t been able to get over their superstitions. The reason is that senses, sensing and sensors are all blind. They see, smell or detect what their guiding program tells them to. The guiding program is as good as its software – theory. Imagine that: you are left alone in the jungle and you want to survive. What good would any sense / sensor do you if you don’t know what to search for? Or equally, if you used your senses / sensors to find the wrong stuff, what difference could it make how accurately you’d trace them? In fact, the more precise you’d be, the more confirmation-biased you’d get! Anyway, be it because some of us realize the limitations of our perception, be it because some of us are just inclined to do so, sometimes we do try to resort to theoretical models. Alas! We have no reliable theoretical system to use, save some ersatz, pseudotheoretical tools. The dead-end is double. This problem is inherent in science, which is supposedly the provider of such tools. For more details in this matter, please refer to “Επιστήμη vs. scientia” (Παπαγεωργίου & Λέκκας 2014).

86


Magical Thinking

Emotions & The fault of the senses Both in science and in our life there is a common denominator: the fault of the senses. In classic Greece, episteme was invented to bypass it. Nowadays, scientists use expensive and complicated machines to deal with it – quite unsuccessfully. For the most part2, this is due to the fact that the main problem remains: we distort information from the very moment it reaches our sense organs – long before we even process it in our brains. We are able to completely distort it based on our beliefs, our intentions, our expectations, our ideas, and of course, our emotions. We even do it collectively. It is said that “perception is reality”. This is something one may easily confirm by observing others. It is as if everybody lives inside their own bubble, their own world, and everything entering from the “outer” world gets distorted. Such observations, at least in part, have fueled conversations about nihilism, the philosophical idea that we are all alone and everything external is made up. We are so absorbed in our egoistic bubbles, it could be argued that whether nihilists are right or wrong, it is one and the same! Why are we so detached from reality? Another reason is that machines do not decide what and how to measure; we ourselves specify what is to be measured, and whenever the theory behind the measurement is bad, no matter how accurate measurements are, it makes no difference. 2

87


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

To begin with, there is this neurophysiological barrier: a set of filters that distort reality. Let us concentrate on one of the most powerful distorters: emotions! They are powerful modulators of reality. Let’s try now, step by step, to take things from the beginning. Classical utilitarianism, introduced back in the 18th century by Jeremy Bentham, maintained that there are actually only two motivating forces for all humans: avoiding pain and finding pleasure. To serve these two masters, humans could easily make up excuses to view everything pleasurable as good and everything laborious or painful as bad (this trend has a name: the naturalistic fallacy). Long before Bentham, Ulysses kept postponing his otherwise urgent return to Penelope staying for a year with the witch Circe, who provided him with pleasures of every kind. Adjusting reality to our emotional status, is, therefore, an ancient craft. An interesting question would be what exactly are emotions. Since they are so important, we should be aware of their nature. For some, this question may seem trivial. However, one should reflect on the fact that whatever process survived natural selection, it should have a very significant role in our evolution – it should have given us a survival advantage. How do emotions help us in this respect, that is, evolutionary? There are many relevant theories. One theory, that is particularly popular and widely accepted, is that emotions help us survive by modulating our responses. Fear: avoid that! Pleasure: do that again! Disgust: don’t 88


Magical Thinking

eat that! …and so on and so forth. Decision-making and planning in humans is a complex, multi-faceted procedure which needs emotions to guide it. There is no such thing as “emotions and logic”. This classic distinction is largely invalid. We separate emotions from reason, however, it appears that they are part of the same process. It is then not surprising that lack of emotions (alexythimia) or confused emotions may even endager our own existence. Protected in our artificial environments, the most potent predator we should fear is ourselves: the way we eat, the way we drive, the way we choose our priorities… all these are critical for both our survival and our well-being – not to mention the survival and well-being of people we affect. Whatever is so important for our survival has a strong instinctive side. Instincts are pre-installed responses that ensure our survival in a primitive environment. Instincts do not discriminate between “real” lifethreatening threats, such as tigers, and situations we perceive as life-threatening while living in a modern city, such as a more qualified colleague. Instincts take over instantly and modulate both emotions and reason. For our sub-conscious self, everything is primitive and everything is real. There are no symbolisms, no denials, no discriminations. If I fear I can’t make it, it is as if I can’t make it. If I feel threatened, it is the same whether I confront an angry bear or a bad thought about my job security. We cannot expect ourselves to behave rational at all in cases where our basic instincts are triggered. That is why in my book about therapy and priorities I define therapy as an increase in our consciousness 89


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

level. We just can’t expect our unconscious self to take over and still be able to acquire an accurate representation of the world. It will be a distorted one.

Cognitive biases “Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have.” After Nazis came to power, “the whole country was as if under a kind of a spell,” she remembers. Who is she? Brunhilde Pomsel, 105 y.o. now (in 2006) was the secretary of Hitler’s fearsome propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. What does she say in this rare interview of hers – one of her first and last ones at this advanced age? She is implicitly referring to a very common cognitive bias: the “hindsight bias”, or the “Iknew-it-all-along” effect. People tend to think that they would have acted differently in a situation when the outcome is known. But they most probably wouldn’t have. Brunhilde is so right! This is a tiny bit more formal part of this book. You see, magical thinking is, broadly speaking, a category of cognitive biases. This means it belongs to the greater family of cognitive biases (such as the hindsight bias we have just seen). Cognitive biases, in turn, are related to logical fallacies, which is another family of errors… See, because of evolutionary constraints – or even characteristics or traits that were useful for our species 90


Magical Thinking

to survive but not anymore – we have developed a series of no-longer-optimal automatic responses, called cognitive biases. Let us go back ten, twenty or even forty thousand years ago. What would be more safe than to rely on what the majority is doing in an era when predators actually threatened your life? What would be more foolproof than to trust the authority of the elder? What would be more natural than to overvalue your hard-earned possessions? All these natural behaviours, nowadays, have a corresponding name, linking them to some cognitive fallacy: the first one is called the bandwagon effect (or herd behaviour), the second one is called appeal to authority, and the third one is called the endowment effect. There are tenths, almost hundreds of such fallacies. One should better go google them. Many of them are related, one way or another with magical thinking. Let us focus on some of them, just to get an idea:

Anchoring or focalism

Belief bias

The tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor", on one trait or piece of information when making decisions (usually the first piece of information acquired on that subject) An effect where someone's evaluation of the logical strength of an argument is biased by the believability of the conclusion 91


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Blind spot bias

Choicesupportive bias Confirmation bias Conservatism (belief revision)

Dunning-Kruger effect

Framing effect

Illusion of control False consensus effect Halo effect

The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself The tendency to remember one's choices as better than they actually were The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions The tendency to revise one's belief insufficiently when presented with new evidence The tendency for unskilled individuals to overestimate their own ability and the tendency for experts to underestimate their own ability Drawing different conclusions from the same information, depending on how that information is presented The tendency to overestimate one's degree of influence over other external events The tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them The tendency for a person's positive or negative traits to "spill over" 92


Magical Thinking

NaĂŻve realism

Self-serving bias

False memory

Positivity effect

from one personality area to another in others' perceptions of them The belief that we see reality as it really is – objectively and without bias; that the facts are plain for all to see; that rational people will agree with us; and that those who don't are either uninformed, lazy, irrational, or biased. The tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than failures. A form of misattribution where imagination is mistaken for a memory. That older adults favour positive over negative information in their memories.

Source: Wikipedia

One may further categorize biases as decision-making biases, behavioural biases, social biases, memory biases etc. Of course, such categorizations depend on the conventions made each time, and some of these categories overlap. Magical thinking may be said to both represent several biases belonging to such categories, or even be a kind of explanation for them – as for example is the theory of cognitive dissonance. According to that theory, many such biases originate from the need of the individual to decrease the 93


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

psychological stress stemming from holding two or more contradictory views. Magical thinking may then be said to be cognitive dissonance’s opposite: an effort to hold views that increase our egoistic pleasure. As far as logical fallacies are concerned, they are the products of the development of logic. They are more formal, since they refer to assumptions which directly violate logical laws. Take, for example, modus ponens: Let A and B be two propositions, the second one being the result of the first one – A, therefore, B. Hence, whenever A happens, B is bound to follow. AB A B For example: “If it rains, there are clouds. It rains. Therefore, there are clouds”. However, the opposite is not necessarily true: “If it rains, there are clouds. There are clouds. Therefore, it rains”. This is called “begging the question”, and it is one of the most famous logical fallacies. When not related to, e.g., perceptual or mnemonic errors, cognitive biases may be reduced, one way or another, to such logical fallacies. The very idea that cognitive biases are wrong, is because at some point, they violate some law of logic. For example, induction, in logic, is not a safe way to generalize observations, and many cognitive biases stem from the very fact that such an over-generalization took place. I would like here to introduce a basic philosophical fallacy, a kind of cognitive bias. It is the opposite of the 94


Magical Thinking

naturalistic fallacy. In the naturalistic fallacy we find ourselves believing that ethical attributes stem from physical attributes: e.g. what is pleasant is good, what is unpleasant is bad. In other words, from what is (fact), one draws conclusions about what ought to be (judgment value), which is not the case. It’s wrong. Homosexuals do not reproduce (fact), therefore, homosexuality is bad (judgment value). I feel pain when someone hits me, therefore hitting is bad (it may be bad, but for other reasons – the surgeon, too, he makes me feel pain, but I won’ t call him a bad person because of that!). What if something ought/need not be? Does it mean that there isn’t? Is it safe to conclude that because no one should/need be in a deserted building, it is OK to demolish it without investigating first whether someone actually is inside it – e.g. children or homeless men? Or, can we say that because we don’t need the existence of God to explain human biology, God doesn’t exist? Let us call this fallacy the materialist’s axe3.

Some more Magic! Until now, you should have a fuller understanding of what thinking is and more importantly, what it is not. It wouldn’t matter if I just did some neurophysiological analysis out of some complex theoretical model of how

3

As my friend Alexandros Pagidas proposed (http://alexandros.is/)

95


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

the brain actually works when you engage into thinking activity. In that case I would just hand over to you not reality, but some more concepts to questionably make you understand thinking better. For me it’s far more important to make you understand some basics and not create (another) illusion in you that you know something just because you are familiar with a more complex description of how it (may) work. In any case, I will provide some more examples on magical thinking that chances are you will see yourselves reflected in them. Let’s have some fun, shall we? ➢ “ONLY GOD KNOWS” (…what I’m going through etc.) Sure, your situation is so critical and important that God, like another person in the sky, must know about it and deal with it separately. Of course apart from God, who else knows your problem? YOU! Isn’t that so cool? You share a secret with God and aren’t you God’s favorite then! I envy you! Almost wish I had your problem! ➢ “LIFE WAS UNFAIR TO ME” (feel free to substitute “life” with “society”) Here again, personalized “life” appears to have had a thorough consideration about you and consciously decided that you will have less than others. Even if Miss Life just made a mistake because she didn’t spend much time considering your important case (as she ought to), still your life’s difficulties are not your fault. 96


Magical Thinking

➢ “SCIENTISTS SAY THAT…” How cool is it that you know the major advances of science! But wait a second… how do you actually know? Are “Scientists” a group of people that live in a cloud and like a choir just say things for you to know? Have you read a paper then in a scientific journal? What was this Journal’s “Impact Factor”? When was it published? Have you read also similar – contradicting articles on the subject? How many citations has the paper had? Have there been meta-analyses on this subject? Are the authors of the article by any means biased (e.g. are they funded by companies with conflicting interests)? Is your background sufficient to properly appreciate the information you have? Please notice that I don’t even bother to examine the case of TV, Newspapers or Magazines as sources of scientific information.

There they are! The scientists that say that… 97


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Exercises to develop correct thinking I will give you two very simple but important exercises to perform in order to exterminate magical thinking and open yourself to a greater awareness. The biggest difficulty of these exercises is your denial. It is a fact that the realization that you have been wrong about one, two (or even worse a lot more) things, is actually a shock. It is a situation that your fake ego wants to bypass, to avoid. On the other hand, you should recognize that realization of truths about yourself will never come on its own accord (truths are mere concepts that cannot have the will to present themselves!) and therefore, you should bring them forth by conscious effort. The first exercise requires you to sit and consciously think of what you actually know. Your task is to separate knowledge from mere opinion. It will not happen instantly and it will not happen in one session. As you move on to important things, try to write them down on a piece of paper. Be sure to give reasons to explain why you consider yourself to have knowledge of something. Try to be specific and analyze these reasons through the prism of sufficiency. For example, it is not sufficient to say “I know mathematics because I have a Bachelor degree as well as an MSc in mathematics”. These are not inner values you have but papers or attributes of yours made by other people equally susceptible to mistakes. Or, you cannot say “I know Jim because he is my husband”. Experience (or in other words the accumulation of concepts) is not 98


Magical Thinking

enough either for someone to build knowledge on it alone. So, what is considered as enough? Apart from saying that you should be able to discriminate the substantial from the incidental, I cannot really convey more on the matter. What I can do is give you this second exercise by which hopefully at some moment you will be able to deeply comprehend the inner structure of reality. Then you will be able to say “I now know that to be true” in a way that you can know that you are holding an object when you are actually holding it. I really don’t want to repeat the same about “anyone not really knowing anything”. As humans we hold the capacity to arrive in some ways to the position to claim that we have acquired knowledge. But that should be as a part of a personal enlightenment after conscious effort. The second exercise is really simple but you will soon discover how difficult it may be to actually think about reality. In this exercise you should start thinking about a current situation (one like “I work in ABC company” or “I love my dog” or “I have a knee problem” or “I am reading this book right now” and so on.) Your goal is to think backwards in as great detail as you can, trying to mentally reach the very beginning of a current situation. In case you wonder, this is not just daydreaming; it is about bringing forth a greater consciousness about things that happen in your life. You add a conscious element to every situation that makes up what you call your everyday life. This way, you strengthen your real self. Let’s see how such a line of 99


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

thought would look like, which actually is real and describes my situation exactly this moment I write this:

➢ I feel full of energy right now. ➢ One hour ago I practiced Aikido. ➢ We practiced the use of weapons and I felt very coordinated and powerful. ➢ I did weapons with Miltos in the house I live in Kefalonia. ➢ The house belongs to Tony Sensei, my Aikido teacher. ➢ I met Miltos through my teacher, Tony Sensei here in this very house. I really enjoyed Tony’ s teaching style from the first moment I practiced with him. ➢ I met Tony Sensei through my first Aikido instructor, in Athens. I did not enjoy Aikido back then. ➢ I Started Aikido in the Dojo back in Athens out of curiosity; I was already member in a Ju Jutsu class in the same school (dojo). ➢ I first went to the Dojo in Athens with Vaggelis, whose son is my godchild. ➢ I met Vaggelis at the Parnassos mountain ski resort. He taught me skiing and later I joined him as a ski instructor. ➢ Vaggelis and I have a common background as we both went to the same summer camp. From here on, I may split my thought and follow one line of thought on how I first went to that camp and so on, or follow another line of thought about how I started skiing, and so on and so forth. 100


Magical Thinking

In this way my connection with reality strengthens and my ability to perceive the deeper meaning of events more clearly arises. I come to think clearer and more truthfully about the outer reality, while building a more solid reality within me.

My checklist: things to avoid! You should definitely avoid some habits and some people if you need to develop a clear and undisturbed thinking. In later stages these very encounters will be the ultimate tests for your achievements in your thinking ability. But as we must protect a young tree until a stage of its development, the same way we should avoid these carriers of delusion, fraud, lies and of course, magical thinking! ➢ Politicians I don’t feel like I have many things to explain here. Their occupation is useless and the necessity of their profession’s existence is made up and is maintained through a disastrous economic system. Their job is to convolute logic, hypnotize and manipulate you. Avoid them. But even if you can’t avoid them do not join them! ➢ Military Personnel Usually victims of sterile propaganda themselves, they have nothing else to offer you than a fake identity of belonging to some distinct and special group of people, 101


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

nationality etc. It should be no surprise that their ego is oftentimes inflated. What is “Reasonable” for them is everything they do. First shoot, and then ask questions? Reasonable! Destroy a village to give innocent civilians a lesson? Reasonable! Make war? Reasonable! Mind you, I do find army necessary – and not merely a necessary evil. Even in Christian Teachings, Jesus did heal the ear of Malchus, a Roman Soldier, after Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed it off. See? Even Peter had a sword himself! Jesus got mad only once in his life. Whether you believe in Him or not, just try to see the symbolism: it was not a prostitute, not a thief and not those who crucified him. He only got mad at moneychangers (bankers). I only mention this to keep in mind that we might wish to avoid carriers of magical thinking, but we need not condemn them – to the contrary, be patient and loving. ➢ People with strong religious views I confess; I am guilty of having been there myself. What you have to know is that when someone is able to feel hostile because you do not accept / understand a “truth” about spiritual realms that the very same person “knows”, they in fact have not even the vaguest idea of what the heck they are talking about (even though they actually believe that they know). You should just eliminate them from your perceptual horizon, then and there. No hatred here either, just protect yourself. ➢ Soap operas / lifestyle magazines / cheap novels 102


Magical Thinking

All these are the junk food of thinking. And as real junk food may cause obesity and cancer, this stuff produces a fat ego always ready to judge, criticize, want more or become jealous, which spreads to other parts of your life like cancer. In the end it becomes you. ➢ TV news Journalists intentionally tell you what they (or their sponsors) want you to know and hide what they don’t as they see fit to tell you. Just like that. You won’t find anything good for your thinking here either. ➢ Greek civil servants The only reason to come in touch with this species – unless you are Greek – is because you may want to study how normal people have managed to distort logic so much in an “effort” to avoid doing anything. Or because you might want to test yourself to the limits! But then again I may be biased because I am Greek and the situation is the same with civil servants in all third world countries. However, Greece is not a third world country. Confusing, isn’t’ it? Anyway, just follow my advice! Note: I am referring to those civil servants who despite working just a few hours every day, they don’t take advantage of their free time to do anything constructive – see what Nassim Nicholas Taleb has to say about the matter in Antifrigile.

103


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

A note on Habits After each aikido lesson in the University of Athens, back in the lockrooms, as we changed our clothes, one could hear the same discussions again and again: soccer, sex, gay-jokes etc. The same goes for training I other teams I was a member of, discussions between colleagues during breaks and in many other occasions. People entertain themselves listening to junk music (while believing it is junk, or while believing it is fine), reading junk magazines, watching junk movies etc. etc. Sometimes, I do ask them: why do you get involved in such activities? The answer usually is: “Ah, it’s just for fun”. Just for fun then. All the rest of their free time, they discuss about philosophy, listen to music or read Dostoevsky. Right? Of course not. So, you see, what we do defines who we are. We may wish to convince ourselves that we are very popular guys who are capable of having original moments of fun, but this is not the case. Our subconscious does not know the difference between reality and imagination, fun and serious stuff. If we do something 80 % of our time, we internalize it and acquire the same level of inner quality by 80 %. If we do it for 5 %, the same applies. I think we don’t afford not even this 5 %. No fun then? Have fun! Do as you like, but do know, that if this is the kind of fun that expresses yourself, this means something for you as well. Some people are quite satisfied to have fun by intoxicating themselves to the 104


Magical Thinking

point of passing out. Others need gay-jokes. Others just wish to listen to a new interpretation of Bach’s Chaconne. Or to meditate. It is a matter of priorities4. What do you choose for yourself?

Checklist: Things to do Here’s some stuff you should start doing if you want to open for yourself a world of greater possibilities and self-fulfillment. ➢ Do the exercises in this book

4

See my other book on priorities.

105


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Not once, but repeat them till you really feel some results. What kind of results? You’ll know when they are there as you know when you wake up after being asleep. Afterwards you will find even more exercises on your own.

➢ Buy some books about science or philosophy Try to expose yourself to good influences. First thing you should do, would be to put some quality stuff in your head. Important: if you realize that you don’t quite fit in the same frequency some philosopher is in, you would be right. Try someone else! Each philosopher “grasps” a different side of reality. Start with what suits you best. Classic Greek philosophy works best. Continental philosophy works… no, sorry, it doesn’t really work!

➢ Compete! But only using a right attitude. I’ve seen people playing tennis and losing always blaming everyone and everything but themselves. Sports are cruel in that they destroy all fantasies you may have: you cannot win with daydreaming. But when you lose please try to be objective about the reasons you were defeated. Only that will be beneficial.

➢ Find a good teacher and practice some art, such as Aikido, Yoga, Painting or Music. Real art requires much more (infinitely more!) practical thinking and reasoning than people tend to believe. Besides, it is a good influence that will bring other qualities to your life. 106


Magical Thinking

➢ Be a scientist No, you don’t have to be employed by NASA to become one. Scientific thinking is not a luxury for researchers but a necessity for everyone. Don’t accept things passively but always try to find the inner truth in things, not by fantasy but by practical examination of facts.

➢ Meet people After some time and after you have felt that it’s time for the next step, start meeting people of every possible background and culture. Christians, Buddhists, Jews, rich and famous, poor and (allegedly) insignificant, crooks, craftsmen, musicians, transsexuals. Never judge anyone. Don’t stick with anyone for too long either. This experience will strengthen your sense of reality and limit your ego.

➢ Do what this list says! You read it. It won’t work merely by looking at it. Just do it! Scientific thinking. Thinking based on facts and unbiased judgment. There are scientists in there (in the labs) as well as out there (in every day occupations) as well as there are people that are non-scientists in there as well as out there. In other words, scientific thinking came about before science, not the other way round.

107


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

The parameters of thinking that affect success We see successful people with a great vision and we mistakenly assume that men with great vision will be successful. You want to meet visionaries? Go to your neighbor or to your friend (and especially to his/her children) and ask about their visions. You will hear plenty of fantasies. Are they going to be successful? Even if there is practical value in the ability to set realistic goals, taking into consideration many factors (including experience) so as to form what may be called a “plan”, what people usually mean with the word “vision” is better described with the word “daydreaming” or “fantasy”. Because to build your future in a series of dreams full of “Ifs” (many of which have become already a reality in your head) is no good to anyone. Thinking is the procedure by which we correlate the ideal counterparts of perceptions, that is, representations, to form concepts. Complex concepts. A dog may be capable out of instinct alone to connect the sound of your voice with food or something else. It can be as complicated as instinct may allow it to be. But wanting to correlate economic data to best invest money in the stock market is a bit more complex. Just consider how much more advanced our thinking must be. We do have this ability; the catch here is that due to our super-developed mental capacities, we are liable to 108


Magical Thinking

a condition that a dog or a duck may never be: that of daydreaming. A shark will never dream about glories of the past or future success. We do – and we do it all the time. We actually do more of that than the real and practical thinking we are capable of. Daydreaming is inferior even to animal instinct. Picture yourself in a forest having an uncomfortably close encounter with a wild bear looking for dinner. Do you think that dreaming of your escape will actually save you? Think again (but this time do it in a practical way)! There is an important point to be made here. I suppose nobody will disagree that thinking is a powerful tool for success. Many might realize that it is the only available means we have in order to succeed. But what is success? Is it a good family? Is it maybe riches and fun? Is it creation and contribution to society? Or is it religious, i.e., some form of enlightening experience? I can’t tell you! What I can tell you – and what is important for you to see – is that the concept of success actually changes as you better use your thinking skills. This is quite reasonable too. Daydreaming and selfhypnotism will make you believe that you wish for different things than what you may want if you use practical thinking. By living in the present you see the world as it is, not as a fairy tale. The realization of this truth has some important implications. The first one is that by knowing that you change world-view as you become a real thinker, there appear to be even fewer reasons to daydream. Why spend time in something useless? People oftentimes believe that the materialization of their current dreams in a future time 109


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

will be the panacea to all their currently perceived problems. As we have seen, however, dreaming tends to ignore reality and thus if dreams finally materialize, we may find that they weren’t what we had actually needed or what we should have hoped for. It would be as if we finally found the proverbial end of the rainbow only to discover that the pot of gold was buried at the other end, so to speak. With the realization that correlating thinking to facts makes changing your worldview inevitable, you can get rid of future dreams and worries on the way towards a rational goal, being aware of the present at the same time. To put it in another way, imagine that you go to college. You know (it is obvious) that when you finish it –in some years – many things will have changed in the meantime: you will have more knowledge in your field of study, you will have seen new things, you will know more about life, have new experiences and meet new people. Possibilities that are unknown to you right now will be there when you graduate. You have no idea about all these now; you only know that things will change for you in all these areas. So it will make no sense to dream about that future because, as you already know, when it comes, so many things will be different (even yourself) for which you have no idea, that every dream is just as vague as your idea of an angel’s anatomy. Let alone that you may influence things by predetermining them (that means you would become biased) – things that should not be predetermined. There simply is no reason to dream about that. What is more beneficial instead? To focus in 110


Magical Thinking

the present, i.e., your courses!, which takes us to the second point‌ Therefore, a second implication is that when you cease worrying about what is not, you have more energy and time to deal with what is, and that is the “right nowâ€?! You enjoy yourself and do everything better. Oh, and by the way, the future becomes brighter for you as well. Because what is the future? When a future moment comes, there are only the enduring remains of past moments. And if you have worked seriously at these moments, your work will be just fine!

111


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

EPILOGUE Ι I am really content to have been able to have had the focus to finish this work. There is an old Chinese proverb, where it says that in order to progress spiritually there is a number of prerequisites to be fulfilled. One of these is to live in an era of no wars in a prosperous land that the local lord is righteous and peaceful. Nowadays, with Greece at the verge of chaos (or past it…) there almost seem to be no right circumstances for someone to deal with anything but his survival. It is of no use of course to grumble about the situation, the politicians and any global conspiracy (which by my humble opinion may just be reduced to sheer greed). Things are the way they are and – as I said – I am just satisfied that I could finish this work. I really wish that this reading is a positive influence. This was the intention, and this is what I take it to be. For me, it was also a way of giving something back from the great lessons life has taught me to this moment, with the intention to remind you first and foremost remember them myself every time I browse through the pages you have just read. This epilogue was written almost a year past the last chapter I wrote back in Kefalonia. It has almost been a year since I last read it. I may say that I am quite happy I was motivated enough to finish it as I find it now 112


Magical Thinking

worthy enough for me. It may be just a small book but I feel that it is the way it was meant to be: an easy to go through and share reading that represents my view on something that was the source of endless concern for me: Thinking. As a child I was naïve enough to believe that things are somehow the way they “should” be. Scientists doing unbiased research on topics that help society, politicians trying to bring prosperity, teachers knowing what they are doing and caring for students etc. I even believed that great wars with conspiring leaders that formed the modern societies ended in the distant past. Now I have no doubt that in some hundreds of years after, people will recognize our era as some kind of medieval one that was followed by some kind of renaissance (hopefully it will follow the next decades). In any case I have decided – like Descartes did (without of course comparing myself to him, I am just following his example) – to doubt everything and re-discover things by myself. It is impossible – of course – but by merely trying to achieve it I believe I progress. Hopefully, there will be a time that people will not have to un-learn so many bad stereotypes and doubtful information. Wish you all the best. Athens, 30 September 2011

113


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

EPILOGUE II It is Christmas 2015 – almost 2016 in a matter of days. Starwars VII was released today in Greece, and I actually watched a few hours ago with friends from the working group of D. E. Lekkas, a group which I happen to coordinate. Since 2010 that I wrote this small book, a lot have changed. I am a candidate PhD student in Ethics and Logic and I have been working in special-needs education for the last two years (in an era that unemployment rates have sky-rocketed). Most importantly, I have met D.E. Lekkas, the most important thinker I have ever encountered – to whom I have dedicated my career. So, it was rather interesting for me to read again this work after five years and after I have changed my epistemology so much. Or did I? The question now was whether the approach expressed here still expresses me (so I would publish a second edition) or not (so I would withdraw it from my page even as an e-book). I was very satisfied to see that my frame of mind back then, long before I met Dr Lekkas, is in tune with my current beliefs. My approach to science has changed, and I now consider science and episteme to be two different and incompatible species, but this should not be a problem for the most part – as long as you have in mind that when I say “science”, I basically mean “episteme”. 114


Magical Thinking

Along with my training as a therapist, an educator and a theatrical animator, and together with a book on a therapy method I have developed and – of course – my main work on expertise attainment, a 500 page scientific publication, I have built a sound base for my work as a life-coach. In 2010 none of these existed – or were even dreamt of. It is nice to see, now, that my approach to life has paid off and that my work is permeated by a consistency and a common direction. Let’s say it feels more “right” now to ask you to trust me. Best of luck in the difficult times we live in, when the monsters of hatred, (religious) fanatism and destruction have been awakened. Best of luck to us all, in Europe, in Middle East, in Africa and everywhere else.

Konstantinos G. Papageorgiou Athens, 24/12/2015

115


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Konstantinos G. Papageorgiou was born in Athens, with a descent from Central and Northern Greece. He is an Epistemologist (BA Philosophy & History of Science), and a candidate PhD student. He also holds a BS in Food Science and has completed his Master of Science studies in the Medical School of Athens. He received his Guitar Degree under E. Boudounis, while he attended classes from M. Sourvinos (guitar) D. Lekkas (Theory), & Sp. Gezerlis (Russian School Technique). Currently, he works as a teacher in special-needs education, as well as in post-secondary level education. His other occupations include producing broadcasts for Radio & TV (metadeftero and aition-TV respectevely), as well as the creation of Distal Method & Episteme Project (distalmethod.com, epistemeproject.com respectively). Did I tell you he’s a tennis trainer too? Yeap, he is. Finally, he is the coordinator of Lekkas’s working group a Martial artist (Aikido, Wing Tzun) and an athlete.

Other books by the same author: • Distal Method (Greek & English), a book about expertise attainment • Tennis – The Distal Method, (Greek), an application of the Distal Method on tennis training • Therapy as Priority – Priority as Therapy (Greek), a psychological study. 116


Magical Thinking

More info in‌

www.distalmethod.com

117


Konstantinos Papageorgiou

Magical Thinking – the book – is a homage to cognitive biases. It is directly connected to the author’s personal experiences, modified through his writing style in order to become as educative as possible for his students. Cognitive biases are not just interesting and amusing stories; they reflect the very deviation of our culture, our educational systems and our way of seeing, and thus forming, not only “our” world, but the world of the generations to come.

ISBN: 978-960-93-9232-7

118

Magical Thinking: The Anatomy of Wishfulness & the Fault of the Senses  

Download 4free/donate at my blog: http://www.creationray.com. Summary: Magical Thinking – the book – is a homage to cognitive biases. It is...

Magical Thinking: The Anatomy of Wishfulness & the Fault of the Senses  

Download 4free/donate at my blog: http://www.creationray.com. Summary: Magical Thinking – the book – is a homage to cognitive biases. It is...

Advertisement