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Hidden Forces of Flow
Ren
#1 Posted : Thursday, June 02, 2011 2:32:40 AM

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Posts: 36

Water always flows to the path of least resistance. Either in that form or something similar, it's a saying that most people have heard at some point in their lives. Watch a river or stream or even just a little drop of water as it moves along some path and you'll see it in action. Block one path and the water will flow through an easier path. From a casual observation, it makes plenty of sense. However, when people use the phrase, they are typically metaphorically referring to other people. Are people really like water? Perhaps we should start out with an even stranger question, is water really like water?

What do you actually know about water? As most of you know, water is made of oxygen and hydrogen. What you might not fully know is that the hydrogen gives water a very interesting property. The hydrogen creates hydrogen bonds between water molecules. As the name implies, it creates bonds that hold water together. Water doesn't want to flow at all. The most natural thing for water to do is to stick to itself. We can see this in our own lives by just barely overfilling a glass of water. The water will get above the rim of the glass, but not pour out despite the path of least resistance being to spill out.

For an even more extreme example of water sticking to itself, check out a video from an astronaut in space found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyTwLAW-Z8c

With the forces of gravity removed, we clearly see that water doesn't flow at all. It doesn't seek out the path of least resistance. It just wants to be left alone to float through the world. The water on Earth flows because gravity and other forces push or pull it all around. These hidden forces force water to flow to the path of least resistance.

What about metaphorically? Are people really like water?

I would say that people generally are like water. Most people do tend to flow to the path of least resistance. But just like water, that path of least resistance is not some natural thing. That path of least resistance is created by the many external forces that surround people. Some of those forces are very easy to recognize while others are much more hidden.

In my last article, I gave a pretty harsh criticism of religion in general. That criticism was actually based on this path of least resistance. Believing in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam is not something that people just naturally choose. It would be extremely rare for a person to wake up one day and start preaching the values of a religion without first having had deep exposure to that religion. There's nothing in middle eastern DNA that draws people towards Islam. There's nothing in western DNA that draws people towards Christianity. Yet, most middle eastern children become Muslim while most western children become Christian. It is no more natural than the flow of water. It's about the hidden forces.

There are powerful forces at work. One of the most obvious forces is pressure. There is something in our genes that drives us towards being social. We have a burning need at a very basic level to fit in with other people. Our method of reproduction highlights this need. A pregnant human mother or one who has just delivered can become nearly incapacitated. There is no way that the mother could fend for herself and her child in that condition without the help of others. Without the drive to bond together into family units and larger communities, we could not reproduce the way we do and that would end our existence. Somewhere deep down, we seek out communities and the approval of others. However, this genetic drive can be used in the form of peer pressure. Peer pressure applies a force on us that bends us to fit into the community. If our peers are all Muslim, then that pressure causes us to flow in the direction of Islam... the path of least resistance.

While powerful on its own, peer pressure is not the only force that helps shape who we are. Fear is another powerful force. Somewhere deep down within our genes we are told to be afraid. At the most basic level, if you fear dangerous things, you will avoid them and not take risks with the things you fear. You can then live on and reproduce. If you aren't afraid, you may go do something dangerous which can cause you and your genes to die. Evolution supports a healthy amount of fear, and it is evident all over the world in nearly every human being. Yet, fear also acts as a force on people that will help them flow to the path of least resistance. Fear is a part of almost all religions. In some, the fear relates more to the fear of missing out... a Buddhist tries to seek out Nirvana and may fear missing it. In other religions, fear is very explicitly used. Within the Christian belief system, Christians get to go to Heaven and eternal bliss while everyone else goes to Hell and eternal torment. There is nothing in the mortal world worth fearing as much as Hell and this fear is a force that drives people down the path of least resistance towards Christianity.

Peer pressure and fear are two of the more obvious forces that shape who we are, yet there is another force that is much better disguised. This other force is called trust. Deep down within every child there is a force that tells the child to believe its parents and other authoritative people. It is another natural evolutionary process. Our parents tell us that fire is hot, so don't touch it and if we trust our parents, we don't get burned. Or if we do touch it, that early experience of getting burned teaches us to trust our parents. With very little life experience to go by, children rely on the trust of the authority figures around them in order to survive. Yet, this trust becomes a force that drives people down the path of least resistance. If both of your parents are strong followers of Judaism and they tell you that it is the true religion when you are just a little child, then you will likely believe them. It's not done out of a sinister intent, but instead out of a true belief. Yet, through the force of trust, that belief is transferred to the child and the religious belief becomes the path of least resistance.

If you dig a little deeper and do some more thinking, I would suspect that there are many more forces that push people towards the path of least resistance. And while I have criticized religion for using those forces, atheism does not get a free pass either. A child born within an atheistic community will face a lot of peer pressure to not believe in any religion and will be mocked and laughed at for believing. He will fear missing out on the good things in life that might be more readily available to non-believers... like an extra hour every Sunday (as compared to Christians) to relax or get something done. Likewise, his trust in his parents will be a very powerful force in his life as they tell him that none of the religions are real. Even the atheist is not immune to the forces that drive them down the path of least resistance.

Both in water and in people, the seemingly natural flow is truly the result of many external forces. With water, we can take away many of those external forces to see water's true nature. Yet with people, we cannot. A baby cannot sustain itself without directed external forces. And each of those external forces applies the pressures of peer pressure, fear, and trust upon the baby. It truly would be interesting to see what our natural state is. Is our natural state a religious one or something much more mundane? Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like we will ever know.
Ren
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MJsusan
#2 Posted : Thursday, September 29, 2011 1:45:10 AM
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Posts: 3

wow, the post is so long. thanks for your sharing.
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