The Pioneer plaque.Image via Wikipedia

John Bittleston

IF WE want to prevent the imminent end of the human species as we know it, we need all the creative thought we can muster.

We have less than 20 years to manage technology and keep our ability to decide our future. The alternative is a controlled species of semi-sentient automatons responding to a central decision-making organisation run, perhaps, by bankers.

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to measure how happy we are. The basic ingredient of happiness - selflessness - is hard to grasp because it has to do with motive as well as action. We do not understand our own motives and are usually wrong about other people's, because everything we do is done for a mixture of selfless and selfish reasons.

That is what the human race has at stake. Our world is interesting and challenging because of its imperfections, not in spite of them. Eradicating them is seen as the road to Valhalla. The journey provides opportunity for character-building, for fun and as a test of our capabilities. The material destination is within sight. The emotional destination has yet to be identified. Now is the time to do that by concerted creative thought and effort.

What do we need to know? What must we do?

Understanding our personalities, what makes us aspire to create "beyond the single need" and how we work should now be top of the agenda, ahead of technological development, more important than health, wealth, longevity and material comfort.

The mind has been neglected in our researches. If 10 per cent of the effort to understand, explain and promote the soul had been devoted to fathoming the mind, we would have been an infinitely more balanced world than we are. If the amount spent on missile shields was matched by that on expanding the mind, the need for missile shields would disappear.

Even setting up the plan for such research requires creative thought beyond what we have achieved so far. We need to put thinking back on the pedestal it occupied in ancient Greece. Many have tried to do this over the centuries. Some have had modest success, but the conclusion has almost always ended up as a reckoning to be reached beyond death rather than one to be achieved on earth.

When we become immortal - very soon - we shall need to address "heavens below" as well as "heavens above".

Brain and mind research must merge so that we discover how developing the one can be matched with expansion of the other. Unleashing the abilities of the mind, which even today are barely understood, will allow man to put technology and material matters in perspective and give us control of our destinies in ways that we have not yet begun to achieve. Singapore is in a unique position to spearhead this.

The arts let us glimpse the potential of our thoughts and feelings, yet we neglect them in favour of war weapons. The emotional intelligence (EI) of the young is more precious to humanity than is the trick of programming stock market transactions, yet there is no EI programme in Business Administration or Economics.

Desire to communicate with and influence millions of people is less important than the yearning to attend to a fellow creature and, in return, receive the same attention from that person.

An uncontrolled race for wealth and technology deprives people of their right to freedom of choice, to self-understanding and to the balanced lifestyle of which we hear so much and for which so little is being done.

Can we pause to put thought before action, mind before matter and understanding before it is too late?

John Bittleston mentors people in business, career and their personal lives at

From TODAY, Business – Monday, 28-Sep-2009

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