Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ellen Langer on Mindlessness and Mindfullness

Mindfulness is an often vague term that has been growing in popularity of late. Some people think it is a new idea but the notion has been around since before Buddha who, in fact, was one of the great popularizes of the concept.

On Being recently had an interview with Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer. Dr. Langer talks about mindfulness from a western scientific foundation and has been since well before the current fascination surrounding it.
 ...mindlessness is pervasive-- Ellen Langer 
The above quote, and similar ones from Langer, make me wonder whether mindlessness is a factor in how people like Spring, Nelly Wince, Judge Mearly and the many others who have harmed my children and me during the divorce process could act is ways that are so contrary to pretty much any ethical value system out there. One of the recurring refrains that goes through my mind is, "How can people act in such an evil manner?" I have pondered this over and over and over. 

I always thought that people may do bad things out of carelessness, passion, or fear but that few people, at least among those who were lucky enough to have been well educated and had a good upbringing, would act in ways that are, to be blunt, simply evil. Maybe they are acting mindlessly - not thinking about their actions at all. Maybe they need to think about their actions, reflect on what is right, and ask themselves if they are acting in accordance with their professed values. Maybe they need to be mindful. 

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