Human Science

After the independence of India and its partition from Pakistan in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru led the country through its transition to democracy and a new modernity. He was a man deeply committed to his country, with a strong mind and a driving idealism. There has been no greater leader of that emerging Asian nation since.

And yet he was tripped up by one view that he seemed so sure of. He proclaimed that China was the very embodiment of his own high idealism. Unfortunately, he would be disillusioned not long after when in 1962 China invaded and run roughshod over his own beloved country. It was a blind spot of belief for sure.

In the 1920s and 30’s Western idealists railed at the corruption of capitalism, and signs of emerging nationalism and fascism both in their own countries and aboard. They were highly perceptive in their analysis, sounding warnings that the people of the world would fail to heed. Many of these same writers, thinkers, and advocates saw the Soviet Union under Stalin as a real alternative, a potential Paradise on Earth, in opposition to the corruption and greed of a money-driven West. It took Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ to fire the first salvos against this view. Since then it has been discovered that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of nearly 30 million people of his fellow citizens. He had that many shot and killed in a reign of terror unknown in the history of the world.

In America, it has been faddish amongst the conservative elite to proclaim that unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism was the salve of the masses. That wealth and profits of the rich would trickle down to the masses below. That theory proved to be a disaster, as we saw from the recent financial crisis that threatened to ruin the economies of the world.

Like nations, peoples, leaders, philosophies, we too as individuals also have blind spots that we are ignorant of and oblivious to. We dearly hold onto one or more critical opinions or beliefs that are in direct contradiction to the truth -- affecting not only our own selves, but the people around us.

Perhaps those closest to us see that blind spot. Or maybe it is someone at a distance who perceives it, yet cannot express it in deference to our feelings. Then who amongst us are willing to confront such “certainties,” challenging their truth worthiness? I am not sure if there is one in a thousand. If there such a person, then that brave soul is intellectually honest and sincere. For after all, who has the gumption to lay out one’s attitudes and values, and deconstruct them to determine their accuracy and truth-value? E.g., who would make the effort to go to that goldmine and fount of information -- the Internet -- and discover the relative or absolute merit of one’s most cherished beliefs? Whether we are a scientist, a leader, an advocate, or a parent, we are likely blind to something significant in our lives. And yet we are also capable of determining its veracity by gathering evidence from the world around us.

There is another approach to overcoming such ruinous blind spots. We can subscribe to an inner, psychological approach I call “taking another man’s point of view.” I.e. the next time you have a conversation or otherwise communicate with someone, make the effort to embrace the other person’s point of view, no matter how far-fetched. See a glimmering of truth in it, while releasing your attachment to your own entrenched position. Doing so indicates an open mind that seeks knowledge and truth in life; that is open to a wider domain of possibilities. In that way, it is a spiritual-like approach to one’s existence.

One interesting result of taking this approach is that it attracts sudden good fortune. For example, let’s say we have been invited to a party by a friend or spouse, but are not inclined to go. Though others have recommended it in the past, we feel certain that it will be a waste of time. However, when we shift from our entrenched opinion and embrace their suggestion, then when you arrive at the reception, several startling conditions present themselves. Not only do you find yourself enjoying yourself, but a long lost friend appears on the scene, energizing you to no end. Best of all, you meet someone who offers you a great opportunity in a field closely related to your own. When you embrace another’s point of view, life opens up and you are catapulted forward.

There is one other way to ascertain a blind spot. In the course of your day, watch for any significant negative conditions that appears in your life. It is a sure sign of something amiss in your being, for everything that appears on the outside is a reflection of your inner condition. For example, if an important project is suddenly cancelled, find the corresponding negative attitude or belief. It is a blind spot that has been there for a while, affecting present and past conditions.

Deconstructing our beliefs, taking the other person’s point of view, and relating negative outcomes to inner perceptions, are three powerful methods to reveal and overcome our blind spots, which in turn will help us avoid a lot of pain and suffering in life. Will you then be brave and ask a confident, relative, or friend if there is something key that you are blind to? Or will you try to deconstruct several key beliefs to see their truth-value? Or will you fully embrace another's perspective today? Or will you take the time to consider how negative outcomes are direct reflections of wanting attitudes, opinions, and beliefs? If you make that effort, your entire life will be turned around, for nothing has a greater effect than identifying a blind spot and turning it into the light of truth.

--Roy Posner 15:10, 25 July 2009 (UTC)