Cleaning Up Our Mess

The world is in such a mess!

It has always been messy, that’s nature, but mostly, prehistorically, when everyone lived in Jurassic Park, messes were local business: some moments of violence followed by inelegant feeding, and plenty of scavengers to clean up after. Humankind, we don’t confine our messiness to moments or a limited area, we spread it far and wide, and it never seems to end. But in those times, we didn’t have the reach we have now.

I’m writing now about a particular element of the human mess: our propensity for deadly conflict. Is it biological, rooted deep in our DNA? Is violent territoriality hard-wired into Homo sapiens, as it appears to be in other primates? If that were so, then we could not choose otherwise. But we can. Many don’t, but every human being has the potential to make choices, to choose not to go with what comes automatically. We abandoned Eden so that we could make our own choices.

It has been said that we are here in this world to learn how to make successful choices. We are designed to observe and interpret, to explain, to understand, to decide, to believe. We feel, too, and that certainly colors what we decide about what we’ve observed, and what we do with the information we believe we’ve pinned down about Reality.

If we all saw clearly, and really did grasp Reality, there would be a lot less to fight over. But we don’t. We could, but we don’t. It isn’t what we choose. Yet.

Perceptual Filters and Paradigms

Reality happens. Right there in front of us, it happens, and we see it happening. If anyone asks, we can tell them what we saw happen. But can we tell them what happened?

Probably not—because we are not allowed to see what really happens: Our own minds don’t let us.

Everything we observe of reality comes to our consciousness through the filters we have set in our subconscious to interpret for us, to make sense of the world according to our experience and expectations.

Paradigms are a kind of perceptual filter: a template, a set of rules, a collection of beliefs about the world and all, that helps us define our own reality. It is a shortcut.

It is a great time-saver to sieve stimuli through a set of beliefs about How Things Are—established beliefs about Reality—to organize and interpret, to understand where things fit in Reality. Of course, it isn’t absolute Reality, but personal reality we are thusly defining.

The trouble comes not just from not knowing the difference, but from not even realizing that there is one.

  • We don’t see what we don’t want to be true.
  • We see what we’re looking for.
  • We reject what doesn’t fit through our filters.
  • We seek to explain rather than to understand.

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    1. Thanks! If one follows the Biblical tradition, and the pre-Biblical sources of the Eden story, it is accepted that Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, but I am quite sure they would have left on their own anyway–that they could not have been kept within it much longer.

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