In a spin-off from my post yesterday in which I profiled the genius of Gustave Le Bon and his book ‘The crowd’ I wanted to follow up with a discussion point inspired in part by the girl I’m dating. I’d also like to thank her publicly for tolerating my strange and never ceasing babel. The topic was thinking and the action as a generality. Le Bon was obviously a keen observer as well as excellent thinker. His insights into humanity are as brilliant as they are underappreciated. That last part is what has drawn me specifically to this concept.
You see I believe that to a certain degree thinking as a requisite to life can be broken down into two types, active and passive (this is probably someone else’s idea but I have zero interest in additional research on this point). The parallel to this in science could be stated as voluntary versus autonomic…programmed versus non-programmed. In passive, autonomic or programmed you have a type that doesn’t sit around waiting for other parts or deeper parts of the same region of the brain to get involved, it simply goes like a five-year old after an ice cream and a can of Red Bull©. Active, voluntary or non-programmed on the other hand involves the coordination of at the very least various types of input and processing before a certain output is arrived at.
This in lies part of the problem…a reality I feel Gustave may have missed. One of the critical components as he pointed out of the crowd (let us presume society as a whole) is the turning off of the mind to allow oneself to more aptly be seduced to the will of the crowd or majority. Where Le Bon believes this is something humans do almost with little effort it’s the why I would say I differ in opinion with. Critical thought may or may not be the default mechanism for human beings. I would like to think it is to some extent, argument could be made to what level that is exactly but I have no interest in that debate. The point I would like to address is as follows.
I believe, particularly in an advanced society, one that even the basic existence thereof requires far more of our brain bulk than ever to just operate through the basics of, there is a two-fold issue with thinking. The first is that it is energy intensive and while our evolution has allowed an ‘upgrade’ to our mental software our hardware is incredibly outdated. The second and perhaps less obvious is the double-edge nature of thinking. What I mean by that is this, say a person is in need of a new vehicle (it doesn’t matter whether it is ‘new’ or ‘used’ per se, they just need something to replace a non-working one) and they spend countless hours researching only to end up buying a total piece of shit (something this author has done on more than one occasion). Time, energy and effort completely down the tube for nothing.
What a person learns from this, which happens in so many day-to-day situations for most folks it’s impossible to count, is that even spending the time and being engaged they gain nothing. The value of thinking has diminishing returns and the cycle of this goes on and on until they (at varying speeds) begin to subconsciously turn off this labor-intensive process because it’s results are financially or even physically painful. This phenomenon occurs most often in economically developed countries where these types of choices have over-run the human experience. It leads some in the population to then ultimately question the value of active thinking at all. Once this epoch is reached it’s all but a foregone conclusion. The greater part of the brain has been put on a permanent vacation and life becomes more manageable (though certainly not less stressful). It is as they say “ignorance is bliss” and a state of nirvana has been reached because they are no longer teetering back and forth on this double-edged sword.