Select Page



by William H. Benson

May 31, 2012

     The Prisoner first premiered on American television on June 1, 1968. It was a British spy mystery and said to be “one of the most imaginative shows ever on television.” It featured the actor Patrick McGoohan, who played the role of a top-secret English spy agent, who in a huff abruptly resigned his position, was immediately knocked out, abducted, and taken to “the Village,” a quiet and prosperous town on the coast of Wales where he was called Number 6.

     Now, a person is not normally kidnapped and incarcerated for quitting his or her job, and yet Number 6 was. There, in “the Village,” he discovered that each time he tried to escape a six-foot bouncing ball, called the Rover, would roll over and detain him.

      The show’s seventeen episodes featured a supervisor, a Number 2, who would play mind games with Number 6. “We want information,” the supervisor would say. “Why did you resign your position?” Number 6 was forced to think through complicated situations, second and third guessing the supervisor’s words, for things said and done were never as they appeared. “We want information.”

     Graduation season just ended, and college will roll around in August. The university classroom is where information is dispensed in large doses. Some people do want information. They want knowledge. They crave to know how and why things work as they do. They will do whatever they can to go to school and learn. Then, there are others who do not want knowledge. They display very little desire to acquire skills, to know much of anything.

     There are a thousand hindrances that will prevent the mind’s free use, to stop it from soaring, and people who fail to walk the path that leads around those hindrances will invariably feel as imprisoned as did Number 6. Because some people are lazy, their minds remain untrained, misused, unexercised, and clogged by television, songs, movies, gossip, trivialities, and stories of romance. They are stuck.

     Poverty is another major hindrance. When a person lives constantly near the point of desperation and starvation, there is no extra money to buy books and supplies, or pay tuition. A young person born into such poor circumstances must be powerfully determined to escape his or her pitiful condition. He or she must make sacrifices, deferring until much later the acquisition of job, family, house, and toys. Instead, for years, all he or she does is geared towards learning and gathering information.

     Also, there are all kinds of errors that people can fall into when they set out to acquire information. They can get derailed into accumulating a blinding series of football, basketball, or baseball statistics. They will memorize mountains of meaningless data, or they will adjust and match their lives to outrageous religious or legal codes that sets their minds into a locked position. Nothing new enters.

     Then, many people deliberately seek out and explore society’s restricted areas of knowledge—into alcohol, drugs, cruel and violent deeds, or sexual abnormalities—and are shortly thrown into jail, prisoners of their own appetites. Training the mind begins with self-discipline.

     Born on this day, May 31, in the year 1898 was Norman Vincent Peale, the author of a quite profound book, The Power of Positive Thinking. He called positive thinking a great law. “If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results, but if you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results.” “You can think your way to failure and unhappiness, but you can also think your way to success and happiness.” “To change your circumstances, start thinking differently.”

     Peale’s idea is simple, and yet we see it played out repeatedly. Everybody gets what they want; more specifically, they get that which they do and say. The cynic, the griper, the complainer, and the resentful one gets exactly those kind of things, but the positive, optimistic, and progressive thinker—the one who makes everyone they meet feel great—gets those same things in return. People reap what they sow.

     Peale’s ideas may sound simplistic, even childish, and they are. I would argue that falsely accused prisoners, soldiers swept up into a horrific war, and victims of violent crimes are people thrust into positions where they would find it challenging to change their thinking. To that Peale and his disciples would shout back, “Transform your thinking wherever you are!” I say, “Easier said than done.”   

     Number 6 was very intent on escaping the Village. He would not submit. He would not give them information. But then, if he had relaxed and adjusted his thinking towards the positive, the television network would have canceled the show because it then lacked the necessary drama.

     On Monday, we celebrated Memorial Day. Because much of our inner personal thoughts revolve around reminiscing and reflecting upon pleasant memories, we should do what we can to acquire and file away the more satisfying memories, at the same time that we are warehousing knowledge.

     “We want information.”