With all the talking that goes on about thinking outside the envelope, there have been very subtle, if not important, changes happening to the envelop itself. If we understand the concept of the envelope, we recognize that it represents the usual limits or boundaries to which people think or perceive within. When we speak of someone thinking or working outside of the envelope, we assume that their thoughts and actions occur outside that of the average person’s awareness and comfort zone. They are out of the ordinary. They tap into a little know current of thought and awareness.
But, what if those outer boundaries change? What happens if the field of what is considered normal shrinks into a smaller range of potential; a smaller range of what is acceptable as being usual or common to our mental and spacial capacities? Minimizing the field of choice may make it simpler or easier to see and understand what is considered normal but it also makes anything seen as unusual or creative to be perceived as being more remote, father away from possibility and more outrageous as compared to what we’re used to and comfortable with. The further away the choice, the less likely we are to be aware of it let alone choose it for our action.
With life becoming more organized, automated and programmed, we find ourselves becoming much more dependent, complacent, lazy and more prone to allow ourselves to be led by those who establish “new” technological limits. We are gradually being “farmed” into a headspace where we will readily expect less and be complacent enough to accept only what is offered by those doing the programming. If we know and expect less, we are much more manipulatable in areas that we are unaware of. Let’s examine this premise from another perspective.
Our educational system is becoming much more regulated and stringent in terms of what is “necessary” to fulfill our idea of being educated enough to successfully live and work in our rapidly changing world. Fifty years ago children in elementary school only had to contend with a few aptitude tests, IQ test and general testing for academic proficiency upon leaving elementary school. The general consensus of thinking by teachers then was that they were “crystallizing” a child’s innate abilities lying dormant in each by teaching them reading and math in order that they might have a common language with the rest of the world to share their individual creativity. Since then, things have radically changed. State testing of our children now occurs beginning in the second grade. This seems innocuous enough but when we more closely examine what is being tested, it becomes acutely obvious that technological skills and their testing far outstrips the humanities and all but eliminates truthful knowledge about our history and the history of the rest of the world. This, in itself, is alarming enough, but when we then consider that most teachers, having only a limited amount of time to teach and too many students to service effectively, resort to only teaching children what is necessary to pass the test rather than developing their innate talents, all of our internal alarms must now ring off the wall telling us that children are now selectively being channeled and programmed into becoming specified cogs in a technological wheel depending on their tested ability to regurgitate facts and knowledge. It becomes distressfully apparent that individuality and creativity are no longer valued by the educational administration unless they promise to enhance or improve the existing proficiency of wanted and expected performance and its ease in being tested. Despite the rising percentage of children being home schooled and enrolled in private schools due to fears of unwanted potential violence, undesirable social influences and a desire for their increased physical safety, creativity and humanitarian education are still being kept alive even in its wake. Based on our current financial structure and the powerful influences presented by consumer and manufacturing lobbies, its continued evolution towards its technological end shows no signs of retreating. In this light, maintaining humanitarian values in our children is a task that rests solely and squarely on our shoulders; their parents.
It should not be assumed that blame for the outcome of our children’s lack of humanitarian awareness rests within the responsibility of our teachers. There own survival as teachers is included in the coercive dynamic. We can see this in the fact that teachers themselves are “graded” on their children’s ability to perform well on the state testing and their tenure or continued services in the educational community depends on how high their quotient of effective performers compares to other teachers. Those who accelerate the effectiveness of children performing well on state testing are the ones who are retained by the schools, especially, since funding for public schools comes almost exclusively from the state.
The shrinking envelope can also be evidenced by what appears on television now and what was programmed fifty years ago. Current programming which is banal, inert and corporately owned is geared to effectively enable and monitor a public mindset which does not questions, counter or threaten the validity and effectiveness of our currently existing political administration. In the same vein we can also see a stark absence of programs that support our curiosity and our attention toward examining our feelings and circumstances with an eye toward improving the depth and richness of our own personal lives. What have taken their place are reality shows, cooking shows, a larger variety of “cops and robbers”, survival shows, forensic shows, crime investigations, “Judge Judy” shows, “lockup” shows, and many other shows espousing the prudence of focusing on and aligning with popularly known systems of living and conformity. The media has effectively directed our attention away from what we feel within ourselves and is refocused on the circumstances surrounding others who we’re encouraged to believe have it worse than we do. If that’s not enough to discourage us from “listening” to our hearts and our conscience, the onslaught of extreme and offensive advertising insists that we buy products or services validated by an underlying implication that we are somehow less desirable and less efficient to others than we have an assumed responsibility to be and that we need their assistance to regain the appropriate power and dignity. What is so ironic is that it is we who are not being listened to or considered by others when it comes to our needs, our opinions and our individuality. Our culture, religion and family beliefs systems are responsible for making us capitulate and become susceptible to accepting less for ourselves by making us believe that others’ welfare should come before our own and that we are somehow responsible for fixing their needs and comforts before even considering our won. Our value system has been totally turned upside down. Why do we talk about self-improvement when the end result is only to be coerced into believing that it is our responsibility to give those same self-improvements over as advantage to others coupled with the enabling of a guilt generated feeling of neglected obligation when we don’t? When we allow this to occur, our “envelope” of what we consider normal and acceptable shrinks even further.
As a culture, this change has been perceived by very few since its progression has happened over a long period of time. Similar to the old analogy of the frog and hot water, if the frog is immediately thrown into hot water it will immediately feel the sudden change of temperature sparking their awareness spurring them on to struggle feverishly to escape. But if the temperature starts to change at body temperature and rises slowly, it will take much longer for them to become aware that it has become unbearably hot. In the slower change, the frog will even notice the change much later than when it occurs in the moment. Most people are notorious for not noticing or sometimes ignoring changes that occur right under their noses. Others will be afraid to mention what they feel out of fear of offending others or believing that “this is the way it’s supposed to be.” Those of us with a longer memory, like our elders, may notice simple things like actors no longer having the refinement they had “in the old days” or “We never had to do that in school when we grew up.” And because these observations of change come most often from those who are retired or aging, they’re observations are chalked up as their being “stuck in the old days” or “going senile and living in the past.”
As technology and the media have evolved to growing and changing faster, and as we as consumers have had to chase “progress" simply in order to survive, the process has become an all encompassing distraction from looking at our human values and considerations from the perspective of what our hearts need simply to feel peaceful and relaxed. But now with the Shrinking Envelope, and as we slowly lean back into that well deserved peace and tranquility, we can’t help noticing that our world has lost a bit of its color, its individuality and the things that spark our curiosity and interest in feeling the awe in recognizing how we and nature are and have been so superbly intertwined.