HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A HUGE, two-ton elephant walking resignedly in a small circle, constrained only by a thin stick and flimsy rope tied to his ankle—and wondered why the elephant didn't just walk off? Why would he accept such a lot in life? I came across an article in the September 19, 2004, issue of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that described how baby elephants that are to be used as working animals are trained. The article, "Don't be a dumbo," describes how a trainer fastens a heavy manacle and chain to the elephant's leg, securing the other end of the chain to a metal stake driven deep into the ground. When the baby elephant tries to walk around, he cannot move any further than the length of the chain. The elephant may try repeatedly to escape, but this unyielding restraint holds him in check.
After a while, the baby elephant becomes so accustomed to this limitation that he stops resisting the chain and remains within the limited circumference of the area that the length of the chain allows him to move, completely passive and thoroughly convinced that he cannot escape. When the training period is complete, all it takes to hold the elephant, despite his enormous strength, is a light rope and thin wooden stake. Once the elephant has been conditioned to accept this limited mobility, he remains convinced of his captivity, even though he actually could easily go freely wherever he pleased. His mental impressions about the strength of the rope and a wooden stake—not the rope and stake themselves—keep him permanently imprisoned.
You might say that in a similar way humanity has been conditioned to accept views of health and well-being that imprison men, women, and children in acute or chronic illness, crippling and deadly disease, and limited mobility. Chained, so to speak, to ever-increasing information about diseases, matter-based causes, inevitability, incurability, prognosis, and myriad treatments, people unwittingly are often conditioned to have seasonal colds and flu, as well as aching joints, vision, hearing, and memory loss when they reach senior years, and a host of other health issues.