Having participated 5-6 years ago in Lois’ experimental process of sharing each chapter of this book as she wrote it, I was excited to hear she had finished the project. I hope it gets the attention it deserves, and P4P offers another chance to contribute.
What impresses me about Lois is that she has chosen the path of most resistance in her profession. Psychology, like philosophy and religion, affects all of us whether or not we pay any attention to it, because it frames the way we think about our own thoughts and relations with others. What makes this particular topic so relevant to politics is that as long as we worship knowledge, we are prey for those who claim to possess it. In my perfect world, brainy people would follow Lois’ lead by using their gifts to liberate rather than dominate others.
Chapter 4, “The What and How of Knowing,” was my favorite. While safari hunters go after the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo), Lois hunts the Big Four dichotomies (good and evil, mind and body, nature and nurture, and right and wrong). Especially in the West, we are taught to think about ourselves and everything we encounter in life as independent components with fixed properties and to assume that everything that happens must be associated with cause and effect. Thinking differently is revolutionary. Lois invites us to do so. The beauty of it is that we don’t have to wait for permission or win any arguments. Each of us can simply choose to treat everything and everyone (and especially ourselves) as not just what they are but what they are becoming. It’s a subjective perception that requires letting go of comforting illusions, but as Lois has shown in her practice, it can open up so many possibilities!
A well-known Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, says that a major objective of Zen practice is “to free beings from their prisons of knowledge and prejudice.” Koans (riddles), which are legendary Zen creations, are designed to do just that. So it seems Westerners are not the only ones who struggle with overweight brains. It’s remarkable and unfortunate that people have to work so hard to unlearn ways of thinking that have been accepted without question for so long. What is clear to me is that learning new ways of thinking will never come from institutions aligned with exercising power. Freedom is both the means and the end of taking the path of most resistance. But that doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.
Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association. Steve is a member of the Eyes on 2020 National Cabinet.
Politics for the People
Conference Call With Author
Dr. Lois Holzman
Sunday, December 8th
Call in number: 605-313-5156
The Overweight Brain
How our obsession with knowing keeps us from getting smart enough to make a better world