When we face our life and the world we live in, what we see could consist of either reaction or reflection. Our reaction is on the process of fast thinking. It looks more intuitive and emotional. Our reflection is on the process of slow thinking. It is a prudent meta-perspective.
There are both pros and cons in such fast, reactive thinking. The positive side is that we could capture the whole picture and in-depth without articulation. The advice like “following your heart” might be in this category. If you feel something wrong, even you can’t explain why, and most of the time, such feeling could be a good non-verbal insight that could save you.
It could be, however, dangerous, too. On our reaction alone, various harmful biases and prejudices would control us. We would accuse, even curse our life, others, and the world only because we feel something wrong, which may be on our narrow-minded biases and prejudices. Indeed, our human history has consisted of a series of such collective reactions.
Our reflection, however, is on the process of slow thinking. It is an effort to avoid the negative side of fast thinking. For example, when we feel something wrong, even you can’t explain why. At this very moment, we should not follow such a feeling alone. Instead, we must come up with our explanation of why we feel wrong. We must never conclude it unless and until we can explain why with an appropriate articulation.
Most of the time, we can find our narrow-minded biases and prejudices that made us feel wrong. And such slow thinking could correct our wrong mindset. Indeed, our human history has consisted of a series of such (collectively) self-corrected articulations.
(Also, we sometimes use our articulation to justify our reaction, which would become our belief and ideology to reinforce our wrong mindset. In this regard, the reflection is not perfect and yet at least a good effort of our meta-perspective.)
With our reaction to our life and the world we live in, moreover, our reaction to ourselves and others, we were so superstitious, judgmental, even cruel. In history, we had no hesitancy to kill those others who were different from us, like those who were from different tribal communities.
Who are our enemies? They are those who are different from us. How are they different? There were many ways based on our reactions, fast thinking, even wrong slow thinking with beliefs and ideologies.
We hate them; therefore, we kill them. That is our mindset. And unfortunately, it rests on the deep primitive layer of our brain, which would emerge itself in extreme life situations. Even in the present days, we are so superstitious, judgmental, even cruel.
Using our reflection with the right articulation and meta-perspective to recognize our dangerous reaction, perhaps we could be a little bit wiser. It is an effort of reflexivity.
When we see others, we could be mindful of imagining that they also see us. In our reaction, we hate them; therefore, we kill them. In our reflection, however, we could be mindful of imagining that they could also hate us and could kill us. Furthermore, in our reflection, we could even imagine that they could be mindful in the same manner.
The process looks like this:
- We hate and kill them.
- They hate and kill us.
- We recognize that we hate and kill them, and they hate and kill us.
- We recognize that they recognize that we hate and kill them, and they hate and kill us.
- We recognize that we recognize that they recognize that…
The first layer is our reaction, the second is their reaction, the third is our reflection on both reactions, and the fourth is our reflection on their reflection. And only from this fourth layer, the reflexive dialogue could start.
Only from this fourth layer, the basis of the Golden Rule and Love Your Enemies could make sense. You can also change this we/they collective distinction into I/you personal level. Saying “I hate you, therefore I kill you” contains the same reflexive perspective.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.Matthew 7:12
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;Matthew 5:44
To stay in the layer of mutual reflections and reflexivity, we have to know ourselves first – how we are narrow-minded, superstitious, judgmental, sinful, even cruel, just like others are so. In doing so, we can see ourselves. And we also have to know they can see themselves as well.
Respecting others means respecting how they see themselves just as we see ourselves as well. Once we see ourselves in such a reflexive perspective, we can also see they see themselves as well. Thus, both could be in the same layer.
When we say “Yes” to our life and the world we live in, moreover, saying “Yes” to ourselves and others, it is not a simple Pollyanna innocence. You can deceive ourselves and others by keeping on saying “Yes” falsely.
There is, however, an authentic “Yes” in the reflexive perspective, which is saying “Yes” to our “Yes and No” reactions. We live in a world of love/hate reactions. We love and hate our life. We love and hate ourselves and others. That is the reality of reactions. But a reaction is a reaction. There is the layer that we can say “Yes” authentically. It is like saying Yes to God. It is like our collaboration with Life and with God.
Image by Patricia Alexandre