What Was Your Last Original Thought: Choices and Illusions, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the first 6 chapters of Eldon Taylor’s book, Choices and Illusions. There were some great stories about how our thoughts can have a tangible effect on our bodies. In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at the next 6 chapters.


Chapter 7 picks up right where the last three chapters leave off: marketing. In particular, Taylor asks one of his favourite questions: “What was your last original thought?” In continuing down this line of thinking, Taylor emphasizes how a great deal of planning and money has been spent on trying to get you to, in a sense, manipulate your thoughts. Now, I don’t want you think that Taylor’s talking about ‘mind control’ or something like that. In fact, if you think about it, you can probably come to the same conclusions that Taylor has. When you’re hungry, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? For many, that will be fast food. When you’re thirsty, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Pop (or soda, or coke, depending on what part of the country/world you live in). How are those your first thoughts with these biological instincts?

Taylor also continues on subliminal thinking in Chapter 8. There are a couple of good stories, one about the 2000 election and the subliminal messaging used by the Bush campaign. There’s also a discussion of dichotic listening, which brought me back to my class in cognitive psychology from several years ago. Similarly, if you’ve never taken the Stroop Test, I suggest checking it out.

Chapter 9 has a two-part story that I thought you’d enjoy. Here’s part 1:

 It is about a Zen master who made it a habit at noontime to meditate while he walked in the gardens. On this particular day, he became so engrossed in his meditation that he wandered far into the jungle, where he met a hungry tiger. Well, our Zen master did what any Zen master would do, which is to attend to the urgency of the moment. He fled as fast as he could with the hungry tiger in pursuit. Soon he came to the edge of a sheer cliff, but with a hungry tiger about to eat him, he jumped over the edge. On the way down he grabbed the only thing jutting out from the cliff, a small tree. There he hung on as he heard a roar from below. Now, there was a hungry tiger above and a hungry tiger below. Just then the small tree began to pull out of the ground. He looked to his right. Nothing. He looked below. Nothing. He looked to his left. A beautiful strawberry. He picked the strawberry, and it was the best fruit he’d eaten in his life.

Taylor uses this story to emphasize the now: “The moral of the story is, be mindful — you will find the strawberries.” The second part of the story is just as good:

 After I told this story to an audience in Malaysia, a fellow approached me during a break and asked if I knew the entire story.

“I thought that was the entire story.”

“No,” he said. “Would you like to know it?”

We sat down and had coffee while he related the story that he said comes from Paramahansa Yogananda. It seems that the Zen master, when confronted with the tigers, was actually hanging from a small apple tree while mice were digging away the light soil that the tree was rooted in. The story cuts away to a picture of the event hanging in a gallery. There spectators are viewing the art, when one speaks up, “Look at that stupid fellow. He’s selfishly indulging his senses while blind to his circumstances.” The story then returns to the Zen master. Another tiger runs onto the scene, and now there are two tigers above. The Zen master enjoys his apple, and pretty soon he sees vultures circling overhead. The two tigers have fought and killed each other. The mice see the shadow of the birds and flee. Below a herd of deer comes down to drink from the brook, and the tiger below sets off in pursuit of them. In short, what seemed like dire circumstances fixed themselves or were fixed by some power above.

Of course, some folks may balk at the idea that every situation will fix itself, but I’d argue that lots of people forget that when they are trying to decide the best course of action, ‘wait and see’ is overlooked more often than it should be. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the last 6 chapters of the book.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book.)

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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