Biases, People and Spacetime

Fear and Creativity

Loud noises and falling forward, the two discernible fears we’re all born with along with an abundant instinct for creativity. Without them, we’d never have learned to master language, move about and engage with the world around us. We can grow up taking these skills for granted. Or at least failing to realise they are amazing feats of socialised learning, accomplished through hours upon hours of play and practise. Whatever else we go on to experience and achieve, these fears and creative instincts are ineradicably hard-wired into our DNA for a very good reason.

Shared Experiences Create Our Reality

We’re equipped with an effective, biological system that senses and deals with danger. Whenever we anticipate the unexpected, adrenaline is automatically secreted into the bloodstream increasing our physical and mental capacity to respond to potential threats to our wellbeing. You could say dealing with fear is not only a good thing, but within the parameters of reason, it’s quite healthy.

Over millennia this mechanism has served us well on our evolutionary journey but today humans have few reasons to fear predation and natural perils. We have, by and large, tooled-up extremely well to protect ourselves against those particular risks. No, today, the greatest hazards we face as a species are self-generated, and we are disproportionately inflicting them on the other life forms with whom we share our precious planet.

Faced with Big Ideas We’re Inclinded to Over Simplify

People are people. We’re one and the same species, yet we compartmentalise and create unnecessary boundaries in situations where collaborative endeavour would benefit us all. There are 7.7 billion of us on this earth. It’s a big number and in an effort to make sense of it we end up doing something very odd. We try to make it small. And, ironically, in doing so we can’t avoid doing what we do best; joining the dots, connecting. The “odd” part in this equation is how we join the dots when it comes to people.

First and foremost, there are those to whom we feel close and familiar, ergo safe. We don’t need to trust or scrutinise them because we easily identify with them. They become us. Then there are those we learn to trust because we have shared experiences and values. They are easy to love. Others we come to know serendipitously through the random collisions of space and time. The remainder of the 7.7 billion we perceive on the periphery; unknowable spectres scattered across the landscape of our imagination. They can easily be dismissed.

The World Isn’t Necessarily How We Feel About It

What this demonstrates is that our tendency to filter and categorise is a deeply flawed way of understanding how we inter-relate. Like the spell of the Magician’s Apprentice, each attempt to differentiate the connected whole simply multiplies the undesirable divisions. So race, nationality, gender, sexuality, religion, political persuasion, social status all become ways in which we see what’s different as opposed to the ways in which we intersect.

How Others Feel

Around the age of six, we begin to realise there are other people in our lives who have been travelling with us through the hills and valleys. About the same time, a complex equation begins to play out in our mind. That is, how to balance the way we feel with the way our fellow travellers might be feeling about the circumstances we share? This question is the dynamo that generates our ability to empathise, and through empathy to learn and make sense of (not simplify) the human condition.

See Those Others in the Rear View Mirror? They’re Us

It’s a journey perceived in retrospect: cue nostalgia, guilt and regret. Cue the good old days. The memories. Cue learning and better tomorrows. Cue attachment. The trick is to experience life lesson’s through the windscreen, not the side view mirror. The windscreen shows us the road ahead and is also the data needed to inhabit the present moment. The windscreen is wisdom. The rearview mirror is learning. Together they point to our now.

All Roads Lead to Now

Relationships are the default lens through which we make sense of the world around us because when all is said and done we are social animals. The folks on the bus with us at any given time are randomly selected. At the same time, we’re the product of all the meaningful conversations we’ve been involved in. Outwith the bus, 999.99% of those conversations are invisible to us. That’s a lot of unheard “others”; missing data that is destined to be forever hidden away, unless our lives somehow touch in new and authentic ways.

In this era of insight-driven relationships, it’s “who don’t you know?” not “what don’t you know.” Insights encompass knowledge, skills, purpose and values. So those instincts we’re born with now have a new set of challenges to guide us through. Today they must power our moral compass to keep us alert, mindful and empathetic. They must protect us not from the risk of being hunted and consumed, but from ourselves. There comes a point on the learning journey where we start to understand that all roads lead to now, and in the now we always have the power to change. If we so choose.


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