During the time that I was going to school and a few years after that I was watching sports a lot. I was too much focused. Like everybody else focused I had my favorite team which was Panathinaikos. I think I made this choice because my father was an important figure in the history of the club so obviously I grew up immersed in the green color and the beloved trefoil which is the symbol.
As expected I was watching every game, I knew every single detail about the news of the team, I would even keep the athletic newspapers from the previous days in case I wasn’t able to read them at the day they were published. I was discussing with my friends about the athletic events (actually basketball and football) and I would very easily argue when talking about my team’s situation. You see I had to support it because it was “my team.”
Also, the results of Panathinaikos were influencing very much my moods. Since the morning of the day of an important game I had anxiety which was increasing as time was passing. During the game I was lost in it and was putting all my hopes for the good result. After the game my moods were based on the level of my satisfaction about the result. If we had a good result I would go to school with pride, if the result was bad I had to show courage to face my friends.
Is there any actual connection between us and the label we “belong?”
It seems I was failing to see that there wasn’t any actual connection with me and the team. We are in many ways convinced that there is a kind of ideology that connects us with the team and we don’t realise the obvious, that they are private companies. Very very rarely I have seen people’s lives ACTUALLY being influenced by the results of the team in their lives. In case they have a health issue for example, can the team save them? If they have financial problems will the team give them money? In case they don’t have a girlfriend will the team find them one?
This was one of the models I remember myself being into. Unavoidably it led me to be polarized. I was putting myself under the label of the team and I was letting it characterize and influence me. My opinions were based very much on how to find arguments to support Panathinaikos and I was wasting great amounts of energy for something that in reality wasn’t so important.
Unavoidable Dichotomy and Polarization
When being under a label you can’t avoid the dichotomy. There will always be “us” and “them.” There will be the egoism to prove that you have found the good and all the others the bad. There will be a limitation of what you want from life because this has very much to do with something entirely outside of the things that you can influence. Being happy or sad will depend on what someone else is doing. This will also play a role in your way of thinking as you will be rationalizing the ideas according to what suits your label.
This way we remain in a linear thinking. We try for ages to prove under millions of discussions that we are correct. We fight, we become angry, we support, we even die for the labels. Yes, we even die to prove that our label is right and not the other one’s. We pass all our lives having enemies, the ones on the other side.
What we fail to realise I think is that the ones of the opposite side don’t actually have many differences from us. Same way they are limited, same way they waste their energy to support their label and have you as enemy, same way the want you out of the face of the earth because you are bad, same way they consider you ignorant and so on. Imagine what you think of the other side, ehh, similarly thinks the other side about you. I know. You are gonna say that they are wrong and you are right.
I believe that many people think that they evolve by becoming better knowledgeable about their ideology. So that they can better prove to others that they are right and increase their influence in their group that is under the label. However, this seems to drag them deeper to the limitations of the label, the more you commit the more radically you induce yourself to polarization.
The Sides of the Coin
I, then recognise that there is another level to that. The coin has two different sides which in fact mostly have similarities between them, they belong to the same coin. If you look AT the coin then you may apprehend that all this time you were the one side. And this way you may stop doing what both sides are similarly doing. When you look at the coin as an outsider, you may see that you were playing a game with the same rules as the opposite side and the similarities are way more than the differences in your actions and way of thinking. In both sides is the fanaticism to keep the flame burning.
The differences were derived mostly from the image. Different colours, different language, different explanations about the world, different symbols yet the same type of borders in the supposingly man’s search for truth and similar reactions against the “enemies”, the ones of the opposite side. Unfortunately it seems that this feeds people and their need to embrace themselves. They need the enemy to motivate them to learn their label better in order to be able to face their expected attacks. To paraphrase Voltaire, even if we didn’t have an enemy, we would make up one. This is how all the empires have motivated their people for their conquests. The Roman empire had the ancient german tribes of Rhenania for example. The americans had the communists and now the muslims.
Some say that have become better because they wanted to prove something to their enemies. Even if it’s helpful in the short term, can you keep going by depending on external circumstances, on someone else? Can you keep feeding so much of you energy in confrontations instead of being creative, for example?
The Coin and both its Sides
That’s why I am talking about a different level of perception of the issue. When you take out all of these ideas of what you are and what you are not then you are looking at the coin and distinguishing the similarities that both sides share. And it starts looking pointless, is it not?
Then you are becoming able to choose for yourself. You can see what suits you, keep it and leave the rest from any kind of model. You have nothing to prove and most importantly it’s not influencing you any more. You can only receive because you won’t be limiting yourself to do something unsuitable to your not predisposed mind. Thus you form your own view.
In my experience people fall into fanaticism sometimes because they can’t clearly identify their relationship with the idea. Because on the one hand we can have our opinion as rational human beings one the other hand it depends which we way we state it. If we cause someone to react is only because of our opinions or because of our attitude?
However, when we identify our relation with the label things change and I believe we can be more convincing by causing less reaction to others. This is something I was struggling for years. Most people believe that other people react to them because they disagree. I think this is not the whole story and up to a point it’s an excuse. Many times we are so attached to our ideas that we come from an egoistic perspective. We want to convince the other people that we are the ones right for sure and they don’t like that because they sense it in their subconscious even if your words may not be underestimating. I don’t blame them. At that time Martin Luther King comes to my mind: “You have very little morally persuasive power to the people that can sense your underlying contempt”
So if you are detached from a label then whatever action or word of yours looks similar to it will be stated with a different attitude. This time you will be talking in a way that this is how you see things and not how they ARE. You will be expressing ideas clearly from your own perspective and you will be able to better understand that the other person is coming from another. Maybe something that is wrong for you is right for them at a specific moment. Maybe they saw things differently. Maybe they have different needs. Maybe they have a different mind. Or maybe they are in a polarised level that you had been in the past and you get it how it is to BE a side of the coin in this issue. The interesting is that it is difficult to describe it in words sometimes as it can’t be always defined in a linear way of thinking.
Then I am thinking maybe what we call maturity is something like this. You mature when you are realising that you have been polarised. And you were looking at it from inside. You were one of the parts and the part can’t recognise the whole. In the process of maturity then we comprehend our polarisations by looking at them as an observer. This way we stop being polarised because we are staring at it clearly, we see the big picture of the whole issue. When we see it that’s it, we have already depolarised, we can never again engage in the issue similarly. We have done a quantum step that the ones that haven’t done already, can’t apprehend and believe that we are going backwards. It’s because they don’t have the awareness of how it is to not be polarised in this specific issue. They may even become polarised that you aren’t polarised.
But just to make clear. The models, the labels are everywhere. We are in many of them because the mind works with models. In this pool of energy that all the universe consists of our senses are making a specific 3 dimensional model of the world in order to live. This creates the illusion of separation among objects thus we see differences, we can say this and that, the table, my body and so on. A model or a belief system doesn’t necessarily need to be something you have consciously put yourself into. In whatever you say “I believe” or “I am with this” and so on there is the hidden danger to be trapped and limited. In other words is what we call egos, this identities we believe characterise us and we have been used to believe that we have to justify them in order to protect ourselves. The thing is that we believe in them so much and we become fanatics although our senses are inaccurate and our mind has an amazing tendency to avoid logic in order to reason according to “how we feel.”
Consequently a positive spiral of maturity could be taking place when we are getting out of our fixed ideas about something. But in order this to be happening we have to put the observer in the game. Only by observing at ourselves with as little predisposition as possible we will be able to have the realisation someday about the polarizations we are participating. We need to yearn for it to appear because we know that it is there but is unknown, it will appear and then it will take a form. But when it takes a form it is ready to die, it’s not invisible and its influence on us is clear now so can be handled.
Life seems to be made in a way to balance us in this journey of maturity. Because it is full of unexpected phenomena that are shaking us. We just haven’t seen it this way. When we become too polarised, we are immersed in the label and we are far away from reality, phenomena happen to us that explode our emotions in order for us to awaken. Many times they are so intense that we just can’t avoid looking at them.
But we see all these as difficulties, unlucky situations, problems of society, results from any kind of reason apart from us. If we change perspective and trust life a little bit maybe our way of understanding about what is happening to us will change and we will be receiving the situations differently. Whatever happens to you can be received as a lesson that arrived in order to show you something that you have been missing and it’s ok. Probably you overdid it. The more intense what happens to you the more possible that you have already ignored less harsh messages. It’s your choice to adopt this mentality and I don’t think that it depends on the existence of someone behind it or not.
Towards and new attitude towards groups, teams and belief systems
So I fully changed my attitude with sports similarly as I try to do with every domain I reckon that I have been limited. This is only an example among thousands. I now see it as what is, a game. I may watch a match and have a good time because of the quality of the players wherever they are coming from. Remember that a good game is when both teams are very good and during the game surprises are taking place. It doesn’t matter to me who will win. I may prefer Panathinaikos still to be winning but I would feel satisfied even if they lose a game that was very interesting. I can’t miss admiring a great team or a player according to my values but independently of their origins.
I saw, as well, that in fact I didn’t like to watch sports so much, there are too many other things that make me way more enthusiastic. Maybe I was into this so much because everyone was or I just have changed interests. The team has nothing to do with me even if I let myself be immersed in a game with suspense. I find silly to be proud because “my team” achieved something. Yeah, ok, some people have participated because they were singing in the stadium and they paid the team for tickets and maybe merchandise. After the match my life remains uninfluenced by whatever took place there, when the referee blows my mind has already started going to different subjects.
Sometimes I am thinking would it have been better if someone has managed to explain to me how polarisation is working in the human minds, how much energy we lose in vain and how much against our maturity that is? Without being sure, I keep saying no because whatever I have been into is what faced me with the situations that left me with an imprint that was a valuable teaching. Because this unique mixture of experiences has been, is and will be a guide to a clearer knowledge of myself.