When you teach a kid that 1 + 1 = 2 and they look confused, what do you do? You find objects and demonstrate this concept. “One pencil and another pencil makes two pencils.” “If you add one more apple to your basket, you will have two apples.” And so on and so on. Until this simple math formula becomes second nature to them. No longer does the child take a moment to answer “2” nor do they question or contemplate this fact. Repetition, especially in the form of visual cues, becomes an effective way to ingrain an idea in another human being.
After all, they say that the same tactics are used by the likes of the North Korean government and groups such as ISIS. You and I might call it brainwashing.
But I want to argue that the most successful case of brainwashing has been done to each and everyone of us. Not by our governments nor any sort of dangerous groups. But in fact by our parents. And their parents. And their parents. And the society at large.
It’s the ultimate formula. One which they weren’t conscious they were teaching to us. And one which we never realized we learned. The formula for life. And this is how it goes:
school + university + job + marriage + kids + retirement = life.
In fact, I would say it’s not really a formula. It’s more like a constant. Like the constant for gravity which dictates all the laws of nature. Similarly, all of humanity seems to be governed by this life constant. There is hardly any questioning it. And manipulating or substituting it completely out of the question.
Because if you start doing that, you doubt yourself. Every molecule in you fights and loses and fights some more. Because you can’t seem to shake off the agitation and dissatisfaction. Because everyone you know tells you otherwise. Those same human beings that brought you in this world tell you otherwise. Those who you thought were different turn out to be the same.
But most of all which boggles my mind is how others can find happiness in chugging along with everybody else. There is no doubt in their mind that this is what life is and so they fill up their to do list with check marks dictated by others. Every waking moment they work towards the next item on this list. And the next. And the next. Until one day they can’t wake anymore.
So what’s one to do when they’ve got half the check marks in their own buckets? When the only thing they know is how to be in this formula; how to live in this constant? When this is the only way they are taught to live? How do you substitute? How do you manipulate?