Reprogramming HAL

14 09 2010

I refuse to drag that bag of angry cats around anymore.  I’m dropping that sack of dead meat.  The toxic life is not worth living.

The most difficult task is reprogramming the not-conscious part of the mind that thinks for us.  It was once a common misconception that we only use ten percent of our brains.  It seems more likely now that we merely are aware of only ten percent of what it does.  Maybe less.  The rest of our cogitation is a rapid processing of accumulated information, an emotive computer providing judgements  for our conscious mind to act on.  Half the time we don’t know why we do what we are doing, because our inner HAL is doing it for us.

We’ve evolved this system and it’s a pretty good one.  Those gut feelings, those instincts, that automatic pilot that guides us through our routines and supplies us with fast answers when we have to react quickly, we couldn’t function without them.  If we had to carefully and consciously evaluate everything we did and said every minute of the day, we’d never get anything done.  The cheetah would have nailed our ancestors long ago.

But it’s a neurotic little on-board computer.  It hoards small injuries and fears.  It takes cues from our social context to place value on things.  All that nagging guilt and anxiety are just its way of trying to keep us on the right path, the safe path, according to what it has distilled from the barrage of propaganda it receives every waking minute.  It absorbs pervasive prejudice and remembers with devoted clarity all the horrors of the past.

Our conscious intellect is a kind of failsafe, a way to evaluate what’s being passed up to us from our non-conscious mind.  The advice from below may not always be good.  Sometimes it’s dead wrong.  Sometimes it’s toxic.

Is this what religious folks mean when they say the Holy Spirit is speaking to them or through them?  If so, that would explain a lot.  It does feel like authority, something that ought not to be questioned.   Sometimes one has to question authority.

So I went eyeball to red-glowing eyeball with HAL.  That’s when I discovered the sack of dead meat, and the bag of angry cats.

The righteous anger.
The brooding resentments.
The weight of guilt.
The desperate need to keep up with a litany of obligations and responsibilities that simply aren’t humanly possible.
The fear of—

And, one by one, I began disconnecting.  All the anguish over things that can’t be helped.  All the bitterness over past wrongs, real and imagined, past mistakes that can’t be corrected.  All those emotions that accomplish nothing.  Other people’s problems that I can’t solve.  Other people’s attitudes that I can’t change.

With all that weight dropped, I began to soar upwards.  It gave me a fantastic view of a larger perspective, and all the things that really matter in the long run.

All this was accomplished on a conscious level, of course.  I still need to deal with the other ninety percent of my mind that is continuing to do its non-conscious job, angry cats, dead meat and all.   I still get bogged down, and I curse, brood, urgently make lists and anxiously look over my shoulder.  But now I can catch myself doing it and cut the feedback loop.  Don’t need that.  Refuse to do it.  Remember what really matters and let the rest go.  As soon as I do, I rise above it again.  And it’s getting easier.

I can’t unplug HAL, but I can work at some serious reprogramming.  The examined life is certainly worth living.




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