7.5. It’s a Both-And World

We need to be a million times more humble about what we think we know.

Wherever you are, take a look around you.

Everything is energy, isn’t it?

It’s in a bunch of different forms. But there’s nothing around you that isn’t fundamentally energy. It’s all the exact same stuff.

But even though it’s all the same substance, it’s equally true that everything is infinitely varied and complex.

You know that even something that looks like a discrete object—like a phone, a chair, or even your own self—is made up of smaller parts.

You know that everything that looks like it isn’t changing is actually totally different than it was even a millisecond ago.

You know that no two things are the same at any point in time and space.

It’s not a case of either-or. This universe is made up of both infinite sameness and infinite variation.

Which will make sense to you, when you acknowledge that our brains are limited.

We don’t have the brainpower to process the infinite sameness and infinite variation at the same time.

What our brains do, through a series of biological, psychological, and socially learned shortcuts, is take in as much information as possible about the outside world—and then massively, mercilessly whittle it down to only that teeny, tiny percentage that it considers most important.

That’s not the truth of what’s out there. But because we only have so much brainpower, our brain shows us what it believes to be most useful.

If all you saw was infinite sameness, it wouldn’t be very useful to you. You wouldn’t know what to say or do. If a car was about to run you over, you wouldn’t see it coming.

Neither would infinite variation be very useful to you. How would you know which variations were most important? Or which ones might kill you?

I’m not just saying this to bend your mind. This is actually really important.

Because people constantly confuse the end product of this sequence of mental shortcuts as “the truth.”

But it’s not. It can’t be.

The truth is totally beyond our capability to understand.

What we get, instead, is what our brains have determined to be most useful to us—which may or may not have anything to do with the truth!

And that process is extremely fallible.

What we end up with is a fraction of 1 percent of what’s really out there.

What we end up with is full of oversimplifications, distortions, biases, and inaccuracies.

We take this totally crude representation, pretend we see “truth” or “reality,” and then we build it up into belief systems that we’re willing to fight and die over.

We’ve got to be about a million times more humble about what we think we know.

Anything that comes out of our minds utterly pales in comparison to what’s really out there.

And if an overeducated scholar like myself can accept that…you can too.

 

This is the 113th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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