At a recent social gathering, a gentleman was conversing rather loudly. He started telling stories about someone who everybody knew but was not present. The stories were not flattering — they were pure gossip.
I could tell that some of the people listening were uncomfortable and getting embarrassed. It became evident that the storyteller had too much to drink. A person I was having a conversation with turned to me and said, “Oh, that’s not really him; he is under the influence of the beer.”
“Under the influence” and “not really him” rolled around in my head for a while. I began to question, besides alcohol and drugs, what other things could we (and I include myself) be under the influence of?
An associate of mine often comes in the office saying, “Did you see that on the news?”
He is constantly watching the news either on his computer or TV. His general viewpoint on daily events is very conservative. Could it be that he is under the influence of CNN or Fox News? If so, who is he really?
If he was not under the influence of the media, what would he really be like?
Other things could we be under the influence of:
n Social Media. Now that the programmers have admitted that social media is designed to be addictive, it is one of the most powerful influences in our lives today.
n Society/Culture. Do we in the West inherently see things differently than people in the Far East? The Middle East? How about Africa? The Middle East tends to be an “eye-for-an-eye” culture, the Far East is very self-reliant, and Africa is varied in culture.
n Religion. Example: Shamanism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We in the West and non-Christians often think we are not influenced by the Judeo-Christian ethic, but it is deeply ingrained in Western culture. Just the idea of a deity being separate and outside of ourselves is very different than religion in India, where we are considered emanations of the deity.
n Corporate Culture. Corporate culture extends far beyond employees. It affects where we live, when and how much we work and what products we buy. I have known someone for many years who has worked his way to the top of the corporate ladder. Now that he is there, he has the “corporate edge” and is very different from when I met him 25 years ago.
n Political Systems. Life in a democracy can be very different than in a communist society or dictatorship or under a tribal leader. We in the West assume democracy is a given.
Many things influence us. Some we may be aware of, but others we may not recognize.
The behavior exhibited by the man at the party was only temporarily influenced by the alcohol. But the person who stood up for him implied that the drinker was really someone else. The question that then arises is “Who is he while not under the influence?”
And a bigger question is “Who are we?” without the daily influences of news, social media, politics, culture, etc., who would we be when not under the influence of all these things?
How many of the areas of influence have we consciously chosen? What if we decided to no longer be under the influence?
What would we be if we simply allowed ourselves to be whatever we are naturally? Can we make a conscious decision to be something other than what is dictated by these influences?
If our inherent nature is “good” and we have the potential to be anything we want, can we make the decision to not let ourselves be under the influence in any or all areas? One has to wonder just how much of our greatness can be expressed. Could we lead truly magnificent lives?
How many of us would be fully “actualized,” as Carl Jung talked about? Is our potential truly unlimited? Would our lives be more peaceful and fulfilling?
What are you under the influence of?
The World is not broken. Be in peace. Jim Hatton is author (under the name James Apollonius Alan) of “A Spiritual Master’s Guide to Life,” available on Amazon or at SpititualMaster.co. Send 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.