Beloved, I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers.
THE apostle John's greeting to his companion Gaius, recorded in scripture — The Third Epistle of John verse 2 — is a fitting way to extend to family members, friends and those we meet in the way, best wishes for 2013. But in corrupt Jamaica where people rise on the basis of their cunning and not necessarily the power of their ideas or principles, there is a challenge to one benefiting from a greeting that infers a connection between piety and prosperity. It's the same challenge that arises with the words of the National Pledge: "So that Jamaica may under God increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race." To suggest that prosperity is in any way connected to or conditional on right living, how we think or how we use our assets, poses a problem for the nation and the individual.
Many New Year's resolutions would have missed this essential connection between personal responsibility and a desire for success. People have come to rely on mental short cuts, heuristics as it is termed by psychologists, to advance their agenda. We tend to "use our brain" on people, by that I mean annancyism, more than we use our mind — thinking deeply about actions and their consequences — and so fall deeper into the pit from which we are trying to escape.
There are two pieces of wisdom that make the all-important connection between personal responsibility on the one hand, and success and happiness on the other. The first is a verse from the Bible: KJV Romans 12: 2. And be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of the mind that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (for your life). The other is a quotable quote from a man generally agreed to have been a genius — Einstein: The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. One can find within these simple but profound statements, the prescription for prosperity in 2013. It starts with the mind; how we see the future, the purity of our motives, and the strength of our conviction.
The late Stephen Covey who authored a book on Principle — Centered Leadership, said: The future we want is created twice, when we conceive it with our minds and when we live it in the real world. It's with the mind that we imagine the future before it becomes reality; with which we experience desires, set our thoughts on a goal and think of ideas to achieve it. The mind is the seat of all spiritual and carnal conflict; ultimately the conflict between good and evil, between right and wrong.
It may be premature, even foolish, to reduce the brain to an organ that merely carries out a mechanical function in response to signals from an immaterial but very real mind. But clearly, Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is overrated. Sixteenth century French philosopher René Descartes used the following explanation to juxtapose the immaterial mind and the material brain. While the brain may be the house within which the mind lives, they are two separate things. I think, therefore I am.
The field of neuroscience provides a better understanding of how our thinking relates to our being. One of the most respected contributors to the field is academic neurologist at the Yale School of Medicine, Dr Steven Novella. This is how he explains it.
"Humans possess logic, but we are not inherently logical creatures. In addition to being logical, we are highly emotional creatures. Logical and critical thinking are, therefore, learned skills. The inherent tendency is for our thoughts to follow a pathway of least resistance, which is not always the optimal pathway. Our brains are belief machines. The default (natural) mode of human psychology is to arrive at beliefs for largely emotional reasons, then to employ our reason more to justify those beliefs than to modify or to arrive at those beliefs in the first place. We can compensate for the flaws in our brain's functioning, by using metacognition, or thinking about thinking itself; a process that involves questioning everything that you think, the process of your thinking, and everything that you think you know. By adopting a positive set of methods and approach toward examining reality, one can avoid delusions and other emotional maladies such as fear, greed and selfishness, which lead to foolish decisions and destructive actions".
Jamaica has the well-earned reputation of being a fool's paradise. We are a country where a bungling idiot, educated or otherwise, will end up occupying the highly coveted corner office, getting the biggest contract, driving the most expensive vehicle and wearing the most obscene jewellery. Like a bull in a china shop, these mascots wreak havoc leaving in their wake diminished resources, frustrated followers, failed relationships and destroyed families. When I was a child, mama used to repeat this saying: "He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child, teach him. He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man, seek him. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool, shun him." Alas, fools are in ascendency in many areas of national life.
While many New Year's resolutions would be about possessing the proverbial GOLD MINE or some other material thing, I would like to suggest that it is far better to focus on having a G-O-A-L mind. G-O-A-L means guidelines to overcome attitude limitations. It's our attitudes that limit our altitude, it is often said. Gold is a depletable resource in the earth's crust but a mind that is charged with a goal and that is free of self-imposed limitations, is infinitely renewable.
To get a glimpse or grab hold of the elusive prosperity in 2013, follow the advice of the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey put to music by Bob Marley. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.
That's the surest way to change your New Year's resolution to your New Year's revolution.