Please first read the summary in
The Habitual Ruts of Security and Pleasure

Part One : The Individual Development

Human babies don't have sufficient instinctive talents to survive. First we have to learn – and to learn we have to focus with our senses; and concentrate or focus with our minds.

To learn, we usually have to repeat the things we do and know. Repetition confirms, and makes knowledge and actions automatic and secure. To repeat, we have to focus on memories. It is an efficient system. Focusing and learnt habitual repetitive ruts are essential for our survival.

Hands with opposable thumbs, and a larynx with vocal cords, would have been useless without focusing. Even our larger brain would be useless without focusing.

These days, we encourage concentrated focusing from the earliest age to give children a good start in life. We learn to focus with our eyes and ears to read, write, draw and listen; with our bodies to coordinate riding bicycles and kicking footballs; and with our minds to think and remember. Without focusing we can do nothing, learn nothing, and remember nothing.

Development of Language

Humans were successful, because we developed memory systems with our ability to focus on abstract words and symbols. We learnt to understand what's happening in terms of the interrelationship between independent focus points, subjects and objects, things which do and are done to.

And the words, grammatical constructions and memory systems we developed, to describe and understand the practical world, were very successful in mastering that material world. We learnt to process, collect, and communicate ideas. And we soon learnt to repeat an amazing amount of tricks.

Development of Civilisations
Focused thinking was the way we learnt how to make fire and wheels. It was how we developed symbols for written language and later printing machines, to make encyclopaedias and learn more.

More recently, focusing and focused thought gave us houses of brick, hot water bottles, peanut butter and deep freezers. This system of doing and thinking is deeply confirmed in all of us, both individually and culturally, because it gets things done.

Modern civilisation has successfully confirmed several billion times that focusing – learning, memory, abstract thought, and repeating the habitual ruts of the past – works successfully to get the things we want and need for our survival.

Emotional Development

This learning system we developed in the practical world, is the same one we use for feelings and emotions, and feelings and emotions also develop habitual ruts.

Focusing doesn't automatically lead to wanting and emotionally learnt habitual ruts. Look at a wall, focus on it, you don't want it; focus on the floor, a bus, a tree, you don't want them all. But when we feel something which causes pleasure or displeasure then sometimes – depending on the degree of pleasure or displeasure – it leads to wanting it (or wanting to avoid it).

And once we want something, we will repeatedly remember it and focus on it again, and it becomes an habitual rut. Wanting always leads to focusing. If we want a bicycle or a french fry, we will periodically focus on it until we get it.

We repeat what is pleasurable, or what promises future pleasure. We avoid repeating what is unpleasurable. This is sensible. And such habitual ruts are a successful way to live with purpose, and to get what we want.

Even if an habitual rut, a 'memory repetition', is unpleasurable, it gives us a sense of direction and a basis to compare, evaluate and guide other experiences. It gives us a direction in life.

This emotions dominate our sense of purpose in life. Having a sense of purpose is to do with having focus points in life. We live for our focal points, our wants, our purposes in life, otherwise we feel our lives are pointless.

Modern Forms of Relaxation

Natural peoples developed music and dance, even before fire became the the 'hearth' and heart of the tribe. And around the central fire and focal point, we developed our ability for relaxation and leisure time.

Our cultures have developed some ingenious and valuable balances for our focused work, but all we ever do is to do with focusing.

Modern leisure time, balances our mundane daily focusing with art, music and dance, where we focus with our imagination. Sport, where we focus on the ball. Even entertainment, where we focus on the screen, or on an actor who is focused on entertaining us.

Even when we are dreaming or daydreaming it is about something specific, we are focusing on doing something or going somewhere.

Even when we are believing, it is about something specific, and we focus intensively on an idea or image of God.

The only exceptions are the occasional panoramic moments when we are amazed at the stars or looking over the ocean, but when they happen we hardly recognise why or how.

Self-perpetuating Feedback Loops

So, when we see, hear, or otherwise focus on something and it causes pleasure, it leads to wanting – and wanting automatically leads to focusing on what we want.

This is a self-supporting, self-perpetuating feedback loop. And, in itself, this is also a positive influence.

When we want something, we will periodically remember it, focusing again on it in an abstract form, until we do it, or get it. Then the focusing may stop for a while – except as a 'self-confirming memory' – till the next time we want it. And that's efficient.

The Apparently Irrelevant Disadvantages of Selective Focusing

There are a few irrelevant side effects in the focusing system, but these don't seem vital to our survival.

When we focus on something specific, we directly inhibit our general awareness of the many other things which are happening. Selective attention, is always a dissociation from the wholeness of our sense of reality. Focusing on a girl, i drive into a tree. But this is not felt as a draw-back to 'focusing', we interpret the problem as a lack of concentration on priorities.

We focus on where we're going or what we want. So, focusing is inevitably not entirely now and in the present moment, it's a relationship, a direction, a purpose.

Not being now, but being on the way, is what focusing does, it was built that way, it's going somewhere which is not here, doing something which hasn't happened yet.

The main practical difficulty it involves is on the level of selecting priorities, because doing everything which we want to do is impossible. But here again the focusing selecting system can help us to choose our priorities.

So, focusing works best for practical things in the material world; but this same focusing learning system also appears to work successfully for our emotions, wants and pleasure.

And there seems to be nothing basically wrong or critically inefficient for survival, connected with having an emotional content to memories, or the consequent behavioural habitual ruts, aims, ambitions, and wants.

Focusing and focused abstract thinking, have been so very successful in our human development. It is so confirmed in all our thinking and learning, that we can't imagine another way of looking at anything, understanding anything, or doing anything.

The Problem Is – We Can't Stop Thinking

The basic inefficiency with the focusing-learning-wanting system, is that the feedback loop – "focusing → wanting → focusing" – repeats under its own momentum. This often causes the persistent repetition of ideas and feelings for years – long after the actual stimulus is gone.

This is especially problematic when the repeating memories are unpleasant ones. But even with pleasant memories, we can't stop the repetitions. So as we grow older the repetitions and memories accumulate.

And the eternal abstract chatter in our minds, continually rethinking and reconfirming our memories, leads inevitably to a closed circuit mentality, inflexible to change. In other words, closed-mindedness and a lack of actual life.

We accept it, some older people become contented, maybe happy; others stressed, dull and bored, or scared, but stuck in our self-perpetuating habitual ruts with our fixed behaviour.

Beliefs, Ideas, and Opinions

Even the most open minded among us develops fixed beliefs about the value of open mindedness. We all develop a world view. We all have beliefs. From football clubs to Zen meditation they are all beliefs: habitual focal points.

Ancient human cultures had absolute Gods and mutually confirmed traditional beliefs. These beliefs were the central priority for a sense of reality, identity, purpose, and even hope. They were the central common focal points.

But as we repeated all the things we learnt and wanted, this inevitably led us to an ever-increasing multiplicity of things to learn and want. And gradually The Speed of Modern Life increased.

In the practical world we can trust ourselves to know what peanut butter is, we don't need anyone else to tell us. But in the abstract world of ideas, we normally need social confirmation. I can put my finger in peanut butter, and taste it, but my ideas are invisible and unreal unless someone else touches them.

And as modern man explored his abilities with abstract thought, we started questioning our ideas and beliefs. Until nowadays, our beliefs are insecure in a way no humans in any previous culture, have ever experienced.

Please continue with Beliefs and Their Confirmation

Back to Chapter Three : Civilisation's Habitual Ruts
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