Although it seems there’s no longer much more to be said, yesterday’s Aha moment is an exception.
Here’s the back story.
Over Thanksgiving week-end, for the benefit of those who hadn’t seen The Walking Dead series, we spent several hours here watching back-to-back episodes of the first two seasons.
For me, this second go round had an even greater impact. The content speaks on many levels, in many ways, to our increasingly dangerous times.
Like life itself, the series is a complex counterpoint of relationship drama, political intrigue, philosophical ponderings and soul searchings. It’s intense: not for the weak of stomach or for lovers of sentimental fluff.
Beyond the surface story line, however, it is poignantly symbolic. Perhaps in a very deep way, it’s prophetic. Which explains why a simple pilot unexpectedly took off to become a sensational success. For those with ears to hear, it resonates straight to our very core.
How, you might ask, does a story about a world overrun by hoards of cannibalistic zombies apply to current events and leadership issues?
Well, let’s see.
In The Walking Dead, zombies are mindless corpses that carry on after humans die. All but the primal, limbic functions of the human brain have been disease-destroyed.
When you think about it, it’s not such a far cry from the end result being achieved (perhaps intentionally, perhaps not) by manipulating humans (programming them in the name of education) based on brain science.
Neuro-marketing, for example, stimulates the same vestigial, animal part of the brain that drives zombies – intentionally bypassing rational cognitive functions involved in critical thinking and rational decision-making.
An academic website defines neuro marketing as : the formal study of the brain’s responses to advertising and branding, and the adjustment of those messages based on feedback to elicit even better responses. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) to measure specific types of brain activity in response to advertising messages. With this information, companies learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what parts of the brain are motivating them to do so.
It increasingly seems as if walking dead hoards include not only fictional zombies, but average consumers and citizens — even the college professors, marketing professionals and politicians who direct their communications to these same animal brain functions.
Economists and politicians have jumped on the marketing bandwagon, exploiting brain science. Earlier, I expressed strong reservations about the ethics and consequences of applying brain science research to marketing and policy making.
Intentionally targeting instinctual, animal functions of the brain with subliminal messages represents an intentional effort to control and dehumanize the general population. The results could be scary indeed.
In a LinkedIn article that points out serious problems with Thinking, fast and slow, Kahneman’s book on behavioral economics, I concluded:
To continue sleep-walking on the shallow surface of life as most of us do now plays into the hands of madmen and tyrants, some of whom, if it seemed to further their ambitions, would have no compunction whatsoever about plunging the entire world into nuclear war.
But back to The Walking Dead. As a commentary on leadership options in this scary new world, it triggered my Aha on the importance of “keeping it together” as a devolving world militates to tear us apart. The answer I came up with is part mystical, part medical for those with the training and diligence to practice yogic breathing and concentration methods.
The primary questions this series challenges us to think about are, “Who is going to survive in such a chaotic future, How, and Why?”
The protagonist, Rick represents the voice of reason. His words and actions show him to be more evolved than most. He’s a “natural leader,” if you will. This former sheriff’s deputy knows weapons and can handle himself in a fight. But in balance, he is also a “righteous dude.”
Rick earns farm-owner Hershel’s respect by showing him respect.
Hershel – a religious optimist who chooses to deny the existence of danger closing in on all sides – wakes up the hard way, losing all he owns in the process. He’s highly evolved, but out of balance. The practical street smarts were too late coming. At least in the beginning, he was extreme yin, out of balance.
And then there’s the opposite side of the coin. Shane. His exudes extreme yang energy. This treacherous shake in the grass, ruled by animal appetites, rationalizes his lusts and takes whatever he wants however he can.
Shane dogs Rick’s every step, working to undermine him, scheming to take everything – Rick’s wife, son, and leadership role in their small community. Shane operates from the solar center, with little heart awareness and no functional conscience. He has no concept (much less respect) for higher levels of consciousness. Mercy is outside his range of awareness. To Shane, Rick and Hershel seem weak.
Shane seduces whomever he can with the argument that, civilization being destroyed, he is the wave of the future. Only he is qualified to protect the group. But, depending on the rest of us, that vision remains to be seen.
How to deal with the Shanes of the ugly new world? I’m reminded of Lao Tze 41:
In thinking about what combination of leadership qualities will succeed in steering small communities through both the internal and external dangers they will face if/when “civilization” breaks down, I was amazed at how skillfully the leaders in The Walking Dead adjust to change. Like the ancients, they keep their balance by adjusting to the fluctuating demands of a dualistic world.
For in duality, as Solomon wrote:
In the future, those in small communities who persist in old ways of thinking, clinging to one extreme or the other, either rational or animal, rigidly ignoring the complex demands of an altered, endangered new world, risk forgetting Henry David Thoreau’s warning: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of feeble minds.”
Certainly Christ knew this. He taught, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Yet his was not an example of foolish sentimental permissive “tolerant” love. Certainly he had no use for the money changers and demonstrated fierce anger towards hypocrites.
It was at this point in my thinking that the Aha happened. The Star of David, traditionally worn over the heart, is the perfect symbol of balancing the polar qualities future leaders will need to keep civilization from devolving into the exclusively animal realms of a zombie-like existence.
This Star is housed in the “secret place of the Most High” described in Psalm 91. It is associated with the heart center located in the middle Dan Tien. It is the seat of compassion, the place where the upper Tan Tien’s mental light and lower Tan Tien’s solar fire join, blend and balance.
This joining is mirrored in the meaning of Ha-tha (sun & moon) yoga = union.
This six-pointed Star is formed by the intersection of two equilateral triangles. According to Chinese medical notation, the upward pointing triangle represents the quality of yang energies. The downward pointing triangle represents yin.
It is no accident that equilateral triangles are the strongest, most stable of geometric structures. Those who internalize and actualize these realities have the practical means to keep themselves and their communities together.
In the Hindu tradition, the Sri Yantra is similarly constructed of nine interlocking triangles that surround and radiate outwards from a central point.
These variations are each based on the same subtle geometry. They express the same inner experience of a central, underlying reality.
To repeat, while on one hand, the universal secret of these interlocking triangles is a profound mystery, on the other, for those familiar with yogic breathing and concentration methods, they are the foundation of practical disciplines with physical, mental and spiritual results.
Given time to refine what is written here, the ideas could be better expressed. But the substance remains as a Christmas gift offered to those prepared to receive it as such.
Arguing and nit-picking would miss the point. The better choice is to bring your own understanding to an urgently important subject and make it your own. It is a key to not only personal survival, but the hope for a better future.