Dr. Joel Orr
VP and Chief Visionary
Cyon Research Corporation
The nature of our relationship with the world in which we live is elusive. Sometimes we underestimate it, and feel powerless and ineffectual. Occasionally we overestimate it, and are brought up short by unexpected constraints.
In large measure, to each of us this world is what we believe it to be. If we see it as a place of opportunity, of abundance, it is. Likewise, if the world is hostile in our minds, a place of adversity - then it is that.
Even though, as engineering professionals, we take a certain pride in seeing the world as it is, our beliefs still change its nature for us.
Not only is our relationship with the world determined by what we believe, but so is our own nature. We can be whoever we want to be. "If you believe you can do it, or if you believe you can't do it, you're right," has been attributed to Henry Ford.
What is the meaning of "believe"? Simply to behave as if something is true. Writer Dorothea Brande liberated herself to write by adopting one particular belief: "I decided to act as if there were no possibility of failure," she said in Wake Up and Live! (1939).
Much has been written on "the inner game" of golf, of tennis, of skiing, and other sports. Based on the work of Hans Selye and others, we're told that our subconscious mind does not distinguish between real and imagined experiences. So if we diligently practice our golf swing in our mind, we find that our game improves as much as if we had actually gone out to the golf course.
For reasons I have yet to understand, coaches, motivational speakers, and psychologists seldom mention the dark side of this phenomenon. If we focus on negative imaginings, on failure, or on bad or wrong behaviors, we learn these things as well.
The more of our senses we involve in the experience, the greater its impact on us. If we imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of success, it leaves a far deeper impression than if we simply describe it to ourselves. And the same is true for negative experiences.
What movies do you watch? Do they portray the types of experience you admire? Or do they show behaviors you consider wrong or degrading?
Dr. Kelly Hollowell has studied the effects of pornography on people, and has found that it is invariably and inevitably desensitizing-and progressively addictive. That is, people who watch movies of pain and degradation being inflicted become less and less sensitive to it, and need more and grosser imagery to be stimulated by it.
One of the challenges we face when we go to the movies, or even when watching tv or a rented film, is that the story carries us along. We become passive; passengers along for the ride. Yet the experiences we are having affect us profoundly nonetheless-in fact, all the more, for our abdication of our will. People often make comments about the action: "Oh, how terrible! How disgusting!" But they keep sitting there, taking it all in.
The good news is that it needn't be this way. You can begin, right now, to take responsibility for your experiences, and choose to cut short the ones you don't want to have.
You have nothing to gain from watching explicit gory scenes, or torture, or people causing pain to women or children. You are not enhancing your compassion by listening to people scream in pain. Your soul is not edified when you wallow in "man's inhumanity to man." Instead, you are learning to not care.
We grow when we share in uplifting experiences, in the overcoming of great odds to achieve success. Our hearts are uplifted when evil is overcome, when good triumphs. It strengthens us to be part of the team that overcame its limitations, pressed itself beyond measure, and won the prize-even if our participation is vicarious.
You probably do not find any of this shocking, or even surprising; you know it intuitively, even if you haven't explicitly thought about it before.
So why not take the next step? Decide who you want to be, and take control of your programming. Do you want to be someone who is unaffected by the pain of others? Do you want to be unmoved by the plight of the innocent? Would you like to be inured to injustice?
Or do you want your "inner hero" to win? Do you want your blood to rise when you encounter someone in need? Do you want to be energized to do the right thing in every situation?
It's up to you. Choose what you watch, what you read, what you discuss. Don't immerse yourself in something that you wouldn't sit by and witness in real life. In real life, wouldn't you try to help, or call 911, or do something to prevent someone being hurt or in danger? Don't deaden your better instincts by witnessing evil without reacting to it.
What goes in your eyes and ears doesn't make you who you are. Your response to what goes in your eyes and ears does. What you accept, you become. Want to be a victim of our culture? You can. Want to be a victor and keep your virtue and courage intact? That choice is also open to you.
And that's my point: You are only a victim if you choose to be one.
is an author, consultant, and public speaker. He consults to Fortune 500 companies, high-tech startups, and government agencies on CAE issues. He is the founder of the League for Engineering Automation Productivity (LEAP) and has been an Autodesk Distinguished Fellow and the Bentley Engineering Laureate. A long-time Computer-Aided Engineering columnist, in the CAD/CAM Monthly e-mail newsletter, Dr. Orr will continue with his reflections on all aspects of engineering. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site: www.joelorr.com