Many years ago, I was having a lot of trouble with a group of people with whom I was involved. As individuals, they all still seemed to be fine, but when they got together, they started behaving in ways which seemed to me to be dysfunctional.
One day at around that time, I went for a walk in the country and saw a sheep walk through a gap in the fence between one field and another. The nearest sheep in the field it had left noticed it had gone, and followed it through the gap. Then others noticed what was happening and made towards the gap themselves. There were lots of sheep in the field and the effect was like great ripples spreading out through a sea of sheep. It was a big, big field and because of the lie of the land, I couldn't even see the far side of it, so before long there seemed to be vast numbers of sheep heading towards me, appearing out of nowhere, all heading to the gap in the fence and into the other field.
It was such an extraordinary sight due to the vast numbers of sheep involved that I took it as a 'Sign' that a leader would emerge in my problem group and sort things out. As I watched the first field slowly vacate while the sheep headed for pastures new, I felt some comfort that order would soon be returned among my friends.
I walked on feeling rather brighter.
But after a while, I glanced back at the sheep - and saw what happened next.
One of the sheep - I don't know if it was the same one - was heading back through the gap in the fence. And slowly at first, one by one, the other sheep noticed and followed. Until before long, all the sheep were back in the original field.
I realized I had been mistaken in what I had thought. This wasn't order at all. It was chaos. There was no reason underlying any of it. I decided that the 'Sign' hadn't been about the emergence of a sensible leader after all. It had been about people's tendency to mindlessly follow each other: to behave in a particular way, often very dysfunctionally, simply because others are doing the same thing. I no longer felt comforted - but I was wiser.
Looking now at the global financial crisis, it seems to have been inevitable. The banks were lending recklessly. They were even encouraging people to exaggerate how much they were earning when they applied for loans. It was madness. And yet hardly anyone saw it coming. Those who did, had their warnings ignored. Why was that? Because everyone was doing the same as everyone else. They were all following each other into the same field, so everybody felt safe. But look what happened...
Throughout history, humans have blindly followed each other, ignoring their own common sense, their own knowledge of what is 'right' in order to 'fit in', to follow the pack. Without such an attitude, Nazi Germany could never have happened, nor any number of other atrocities - and idiocies - throughout the world.
It is worth us bearing in mind that just because everyone else is doing a particular thing, it doesn't mean to say it is 'right' - or sensible. Perhaps we should look at our lives and see if there is anything we are doing in which we are blindly following others, ignoring our own innate wisdom in order to follow the crowd. And if so, then perhaps we should consider if we really want to continue.
We all do have an innate wisdom. There is a useful Sanskrit word 'buddhi', meaning 'intuitive intelligence'. It is a wisdom we have inside us, deriving perhaps from collective consciousness or universal mind, from our Oneness with all that is. Techniques such as kinesiology, in which our bodies seem to tap into some invisible source of knowledge, suggest its existence, and - I believe - we instinctively know it is present. Perhaps we should trust it more, this buddhi, instead of blindly following the nearest sheep.
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