What, we say, is the Mind? Let’s just say that it’s the complicated-yet-often-ironic-sometimes-hypocratic-occasionally-correct-in-intention-but-wrong-in-practice-thing-in-our-brains. What, then, creates our Mind and shapes the decisions we make? This time, a simple answer: a police officer and Netflix. Or, even more specifically, the police officer who just speeded by me on the highway, texting.
Firstly, the police officer. Human morality. A leader in society, trained to be an example to others, an enforcer of law, and the ultimate definition of what an “ideal citizen” should look like. He is cunning in his ability to look at issues rationally, act calm under the pressure of intense situations, and to make the “right decisions” so that he may be the representation of what society wants. A perfect picture, frame worthy, identifies the police officer as a role model who strives to reach for excellence, not only for personal attainment, but also for the satisfaction in helping others attain like virtues.
The officer of our mind is not a liar, nor is he impulsive. Place him in a situation and he will, rather, be calculative, assessing the various pros and cons to specific actions, and making his decisions based off of the principles of the society for which he serves an admired and respected public service. In all, a policeman enforces public and personal virtue—he supports the calm and rational mediator within ourselves that encourages safety, protection, and security. As the “Good Side” of the human mind, he is the virtues of the Human Race, placed on a pedestal and actively promoted as an individual most capable of existing and functioning in the swirling society that is the Brain, a mediator between vices.
Yet hold up: Right now, he is texting and driving, a message he himself has told us multiple times not to do. He’s breaking the rules set out by society, which he is supposed to enforce.
Now enters Player number two: Netflix, the other side of the Human Mind. Netflix and maybe a nice hot coffee from Dunkin to wash it down. Picture it: a trashy, mindless TV show, or perhaps a few episodes of Chopped after a long day while kicked back on your plush TV couch after a long hot shower. The prospect sure is enticing, and Netflix knows it. It is the vicious creature tapped into your inner police officer that feeds off of pleasure. It’s a scavenger that searches for moments of weakness of character before attacking its kill with a sudden bout of impulsiveness, when that officer puts his gun down for a break. In our minds, Netflix is our pure emotional gut reaction for wish and desire. Its addictive qualities make it difficult to resist. When left to make moral decisions, Netflix creeps in to tell your police officer what it wants you to think you want. Ultimately, you are often pulled in favor of the contradiction of truth, virtue, and duties of the individual, as more than anything, Netflix is powerful.
So we are left with ourselves and our decisions. The actions we take are simply just decisions led by the conflicting forces of our minds. They are the police officer following rules and approaching life from a rational and sensible way. But the inner workings of our mind are also subject to the power of Netflix, or the pull towards instinctive and impulsive emotional decision making in favor of pleasure. Where they meet, there is a dichotomy: officer of the law versus officer of pleasure. The result of their tug-of-war competition? A police officer humorously and ironically speeding a hundred miles per hour, texting on his iPhone, as a representation of the Human Mind—rational at heart, yet convinced by pleasure to justify rash decisions.
Plato once created an allegory similar to this in which he described the mind as a chariot pulled by two horses, one black and one white. The black horse is unruly and rough, straining to bring the chariot down into the depths of hell. The white one is well-behaved, calm, serene, and the opposite of black. This horse pulls upwards, following pure virtue. The chariot, of course, is then left stretched and pulled one way and then another.
Sometimes, I feel like that chariot, or like the debating police officer, torn between Netflix and duty, vice and virtue, down and up, black and white. There are moments that I can sense the wheels slipping, feel the strain of the horses as their powerful muscles propel them so purposefully towards the direction they want to go. I feel like a hair elastic, straining to wrap around my ponytail just one more time and barely being able to make it over. It is uncomfortable, anxiety producing, and downright cruel in many ways.
Why our brains like to play games on us humans beats me. Yet as Crystal Woods said, “The irony of the human heart is that it’s tormented both by the presence and absence of its own soul’s counterpart.”
I try, with this mindset, to look at internal conflict as a double edged sword which we all must face. We are our own best friends and worst enemies.
However, those two sides of us are still intrinsically connected and oddly necessary, as one without the other leaves our brain-chariots just as unbalanced as the two in conflict. The policeman is only as good as he can be if he allows himself the pleasure of Netflix occasionally, and too much Netflix will make him slack on his job. If the charioteer loses grip of the reins and one horse gains just a little more leverage, it will pull the rest of its cargo in its direction, or the chariot itself will tip and lean on the side, like one of the shopping carts in the grocery store whose overused wheels always drift one way.
The result is an unfortunate battle within the mind, yet a battle that, learned to harness, can be used to the best of its abilities. We must learn to calm the horses, live in the moment, and grip the reins just a little tighter to stay straight. A little coaching here and there, maybe some WD-40 for the faulty shopping cart wheel, and a steady pace at (or perhaps a tad above) the speed limit, phone on Bluetooth instead of in your hand.
With constant positivity and strong mental stamina, we can win that battle. It’s just a matter of now, choosing sides.