- To travel behind, go after, come after
- Travel along a certain course
- Act in accordance with someone’s rules, commands, or wishes
Have you ever noticed that we are all followers? We are followers of fashion, religion, regimes, or ideologies, amongst others. What I want to discuss with you in this topic is the lack of independence we have, and why we are happy to just follow somebody, anybody. Where is our individuality, and in particular where is our individuality of mind?
What I would like you to do is to start to reflect on your possessions. Look around you now. Look at the clothes you are wearing. Sure, you may have bought them with your own money; you may even have carefully selected them from the hundreds of retail establishments and thousands of product lines available; but remember, someone else designed them, set the “trends” for the season, and spent a huge amount of money marketing them, so you believe you freely chose to look a certain way.
You may also be wearing something because your company/religion/culture dictates you wear it, and you may also even believe it was your own free will that made you choose to wear it, but I would like you to think about this very, very, carefully. It is of the utmost importance that you become aware of what you are wearing, and why you are wearing it.
Listen to your thoughts, to the justifications your mind is giving you for dressing the way you do. With that in mind, let’s move into the home. Some of you reading this (in countries where mass consumerism hasn’t taken hold due to financial limitations), may find yourselves aware, that although you don’t have these things, you want them.
Look at your car, your television, your mobile phone, your satellite navigation system, your music system, your internet connection, your house, your garden (if you have one), your hobbies, your habits, your job, your aspirations, your desires, your likes, your dislikes, your political persuasion, your sexual habits, your religious views.
Please think carefully about why you buy, what you buy, why you say what you say, why you do what you do, and if you look closely enough, you may find you are not independent at all, but a mere follower. It may hurt to read me saying that you are in fact a follower of everything, but think about it carefully. Someone else is doing it and I like it, so I’m going to do it as well.
Someone has planted a seed, and given enough water, that seed has developed. The seed may have come from an advertising agency; from a politician; from a religious leader; from your parents; from your husband or wife, or your peer group. All of them know that in your deep desire to be accepted, you will follow; after all, it takes true courage (a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear) to stand alone, and most of us are too afraid to take that step. I can understand why.
Why should you choose to make your life difficult when the path of least resistance – the easiest way – beckons? I can hear most of you saying:
“What’s the problem of buying clothes! I’m not a fashion designer, nor am I an electronics engineer, so I need someone to design my clothes, and build my computer, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
And on the surface, I would agree with you. But you see, the problem lies, not with the tv, or the clothes, but with the thinking; for it is the same following that has enabled dictators to enlist the support of the people, and embark on killing millions of humans.
You can never blame the leaders. Sure, they might have the idea, but it takes more than just one man to start a war. It is you and I who actively or passively follow, who are accountable. So, although the purchase of a new mobile phone (because you’ve got to have one), or a new car (because the new one is more eco-friendly), or the wearing of a new type of hat (because everyone’s doing it), or listening to the latest pop tune (because the band is so cool), may seem like it has nothing to do with genocide or religious fanaticism – but think again.
Leaders, whether they be commercial, religious, or political need followers. Without you they are no one. They are just a bag of bones, connective tissue, and muscles with an idea. Please try to see this.
I will follow you whatever you say,
whatever you do…
So when you next think about buying a new ipod or digital camera, or engaging in ethnic cleansing or “holy war,” become aware of your thoughts. Question why you think the way you do. Where did the thought originate? Did it just appear out of the blue, like magic, or did the thought come to you another way? Perhaps through the tv, advertising, friends, colleagues, politicians, or religious leaders for example.
Try to stop before you allow the seed to take hold; the non-independent mind is easily persuaded by talk that appeals to your ego, to your desires, to anything that will make you feel important or superior to others, to anything that will make you feel secure, safe in the knowledge that you do not have to think for yourself. All thought has been already taken care of.
To me, it seems natural that we blindly follow others, after all, we are brought into a world where fear is universal, and independent thought is actively discouraged. Sure, you have choices – what colour curtains to buy, what party to vote for, what tv to buy, what job to do – but they are choices within clear boundaries.
As long as you pick one of the choices offered to you, you’ll be ok.
But what if you don’t want to choose any of them? What if you want to stand alone? I have found that the more you reject the choices available, the more you start to stand on the outside of “society,” where people begin to shun you for being an independent thinker. When I have talked to my old friends about the path I have chosen they find it hard to understand. How could someone who liked fast food, fast cars, spending money, and buying all the latest gadgets have rejected it all, and is now embarking on a journey to discover himself, and try to help other people discover themselves!
It’s all too much for them to comprehend, so they have gradually distanced themselves from me. My dad actually said I was becoming a social leper (a pariah who is avoided by others)! But for me, the further I get from the conditioned mind, the freer I feel.
For those of you who choose a similar path, I offer these words. It isn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. You may lose your friends. Your family may reject you. Society may reject you, and you may feel as if it’s a waste of time putting yourself through unnecessary suffering; but as the process begins, you will notice a change in yourself. You will notice that the less you follow other people’s thought, the more free your mind becomes.
I cannot promise that this will make you happy, but then happiness is a choice you have to make, just like buying a new car. The one thing to remember is that not being a follower does not make you a leader, but then look where all the “leaders” in the world have got us.
The independent mind
Free and limitless