We live in a society in which people are taught to believe they have a higher purpose within the universe. People learn when they are young, depending on their background and culture, that what they do reflects who they are and what they would become. We view things in how we want to perceive them. In the article "Wisdom," written by Robert Thurman, the reason Buddha chose such negative words as 'selflessness,' 'emptiness' and 'voidness' when describing his discovery of actual and ultimate reality is analyzed and explained. According to Thurman, "he did it on purpose, to liberate you!
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Why? Because the only things that are frightened by the word 'selflessness' are the artificially constructed, unreal and unrealistic self" (Thurman, 435). The author also describes a more profound sense of interconnectedness, a realization that individuals do not have a fixed sense of self, but rather a self that is always changing. Based on previous work on unconscious and free will, and the Buddhist idea of selflessness, there are some different notions of "self" that can be inferred from each reading.
First, in "Mark Zuckerberg's War on Free Will," by Franklin Foer, transparency and data privacy are crucial components that represent the notion of "self." Foer goes into depth about how major Silicon Valley companies, like Facebook, believe that they are changing the world for the better, but in reality, they could be doing more harm than good. Foer states in this article that Zuckerberg wants to incorporate "radical transparency" into Facebook, an idea that aims to create a more open and honest online environment where people share every detail about their social and work life. However, if radical transparency is utilized on Facebook, people will broadcast personal information that they did not want to put online for the world to see, but felt pressured to do so (Foer, 105). Also, keeping personal and professional life separate in this day in age is important because so many employers look at social media accounts to get an inside look at the kind of person someone is. Finally, social media can become addicting due to the obsessive nature of what people are posting, which potentially causes mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.
Increasing "transparency" on Facebook will create a harmful and inaccurate ecosystem on social media because there will be a lack of privacy, a destruction of a personal and professional life separation, and a risk of addiction resulting in mental illness (Foer, 107). Privacy is considered to be a fundamental right that can be negatively affected if radical transparency is advocated for on Facebook. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, encourage the use of their public check-in feature to display where individual's location at a different time and also tag or refer people around. Foer terms Mark Zuckerberg's concept of "radical transparency" as an inefficient idea, mainly because of its selfless and would deprive people of their rights (Foer, 105). According to Zuckerberg, radical transparency is the sharing of all information through the use of social media. This concept emphasizes the notion that by putting all information out into the world, it will force the public into being better people and doing more honorable things, but would not form a 'self' reliant generation. But this concept presents a degree of selfless as advocated by radical transparency. Foer believes that radical transparency and portrays the notion of selfless that would cause chaos within the country and negatively impact the nation as a whole.
Also, in his piece, "Immune to Reality," Daniel Gilbert presents the notion of 'self' differently. According to Gilbert, individuals' psychological immune system reflects the way they perceive themselves in which manner in how we conduct in society. Gilbert uses the concepts of the psychological immunes system to understand how we go about the "pursuit of happiness" (Gilbert, 189). He defines the psychological immune system as an unconscious defense mechanism to protect ourselves from bad things changing by changing negative actions or events in our life to positive ones. The author presents that people with psychological immune systems tend to blame other people, and it becomes more challenging for them to see the overall need to embark on changing themselves or their 'selfish' behaviors. The notion of 'self' makes Gilbert feel that people resists changes, mainly because everything has already been done, and when it comes to issues about the psychological immune system; Gilbert states, "ignorance of our psychological immune system causes us to mispredict the circumstances under which we will blame others, but it also causes us to mispredict the circumstances under which we will blame ourselves" (Gilbert, 219). In this case, what Gilbert is saying is that when a person is not facing the facts about themselves or their true character, they find ways to protect themselves from the truth, which leads to ignoring the things around them. By defending themselves, they blame others for what is happening to them. Nevertheless, what they fail to realize is that blaming others is not helping them; it only leads to more problems that would eventually lead to their selves to be blamed for the problems in their lives. The psychological immune system is an obstacle to selflessness because we do not realize we are protecting ourselves from suffering.
Forgetting about own self or not realizing is what Thurman would call an emptiness or voidness. As Gilbert describes the psychological immune system "unconsciously" protects people from adversities and trauma, but also hinder them from fully experiencing as well as processing the trauma or extremely challenging circumstances. People tend to blame others for selfness. However, it is not because other people are selfish; it is due to resistance of change and the notion of self in people's minds. Most people are comfortable wherever they are, and they are not ready to accommodate any changes. Individuals can only achieve selflessness primarily if they consider adopting changes and avoid thinking of themselves (Gilbert, 219). Instead of being malleable and feeling, they are supposed to be the center of the universe. They must realize they have to interconnect with their selves by doing so they must meditate. The psychological immune system typically acts like a filter, where it is a survival instinct and defense mechanism. Based on Gilbert's idea, for us to be delighted and free from constraints, we should understand and be aware of various unconscious processes and work out emotionally intense experiences so that we can live unfettered and genuinely free. People would portray their selfless to explore an individual's identity provides creativity and new innovative ideas to society. When society members are welcoming to new creative ideas and democratically express unique personalities without relying on others, freedom will be part of the culture.
Therefore, we do not experience equal or the same reality as other people. We do experience the world depending on our own subjective experience of the world. The psychological immune system typically acts like a filter, where it is a survival instinct and defense mechanism. Also, those with psychological immune systems don't realize they are protecting themselves from suffering. Instead, they are happy than suffering from the truth about themselves. Therefore, they live in an illusion. There is clarity to our vision when we completely forget ourselves and concentrate solely on the task before us. It is an energizing feeling to be so focused on someone else that there is no thought of our welfare, predicament, or problems. I believe that to achieve the ultimate goal of selflessness, we need to think about how being self-benefit ourselves. We need people in our lives to show us the reality of what is around us. Though it seems ironic, it is a blessed state, far more meaningful than when we are obsessed with our trials and tribulations, but it is not one that naturally colors our spirit. Self-centeredness can creep up on us in so many ways. Our fallen nature and our culture collide with the force of an avalanche to push us ever further down the hill of selfcenteredness, but true faith calls us back to the summit of selflessness.
Foer, Franklin. "Mark Zuckerberg's War on Free Will." In World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. New York: Penguin Press, 2017. Print.
Gilbert, Daniel Todd. "Immune to Reality." In Stumbling on Happiness. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2006. 189-211. Print.
Thurman, Robert. "Wisdom." In Infinite Life: Awakening to Bliss Within. New York: Riverhead Books, 2004. Print.
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