World Parameters

The eponymous frog knows only his world and compares his experience solely to the confines of that world. His parameters are well radius, well depth, temperature, water level, the amount of light entering the well and food number density. He shits in his well and if he is lucky another frog of the same species, but opposite gender, might come along for him to mate with. So long as there are no frog eaters around, his world remains intact. His world is secure. To get out of the well will require some work against the gravitational force. He probably hasn’t gotten an A level in physics, so he may not understand this. But he knows that if he wants to explore beyond his parameters he must head up to that light thing at the top of the well. Beyond the lip of the well there is the unknown, which might be scary. He is bound by the well and if he wants to make a bound-free transition he must put some effort in. Since he has been in the well a long while he is an expert on the well, on the inside of his world. He knows nothing of the world outside, he has become institutionalised in his well.

This metaphor has wide application. The frog does not even know his world-view is limited and at first resists what the ocean frog tries to tell him. He simply cannot conceive of what the ocean frog recounts. The frog in the tale is a brave frog, so he goes exploring. He is a little too stuck in his belief system and thus when he sees the ocean his mind explodes, spattering brains everywhere.

Anything which lies sufficiently outside of our world parameters is hard to countenance. If we make the assumption that nothing does, we have become more than a little insular in our thinking. Many smart people become experts in one area, they can become institutionalised. There are some who would kill the ocean frog for suggesting that the world is different. The well frog although he may deem himself an able and fluid thinker, has yet to meet the ocean frog. The ocean frog threatens his world order.  The parameters of his well frog world are those of a local minimum, he has become trapped in a tiny part of a wider hypersurface.

As an exercise:

Is my own reality somewhat limited?

If something offers a different perspective how do I react?

What are the parameters of my world?

Are they sufficient?

Other Worlds and Local Reality

Unless you are a visitor from another planet, then your home world is Earth. Yet within this planetary domain there are many different “worlds” and differing realities. Even within countries those “worlds” vary. When these “worlds” collide miscommunication, misunderstanding and prejudice are common. Although I live about forty miles from London, my world is not the same. We share a commonality of language, currency and many other things. But, out here, there is less noise, less commotion and generally lower stress levels. Although I once lived in the city I am now more bumpkin than city-folk. They have strange ways them city-folk.

Perhaps my use of “world” is a little extreme. But think about it for a while. If one grows up in a village in rural Africa, then the components of that world, its values, its beliefs, differ from metropolitan London. The whole basis of interaction is different, yes there is commonality, yet the mores and ethos are not the same. There is a tendency for people to only interpret things through the lens of their world-version. What is customary in one place is weird and strange in another. Until one has experienced the sensory onslaught of say Africa, one has no idea of how intense smells, colours and sounds can be. The word vibrancy has less meaning than it might. This sardine thinking, that everyone in the tin, should look the same and be the same, is a bit silly. There are vast differences in experience amongst our human species.  What is important to a city slicker in not so vital for a person with a large extended family for whom they are the breadwinner. The priorities diverge. The very nature of their conceptual local reality is not the same. The social devoirs are differently ordered.

Without recognising that there is likely to be a difference in outlook, it is pretty difficult to communicate effectively, and assumption is the mother of all cock ups. Just that little thing, considering that someone is coming from a different place, a different world, a different reality, can make a huge difference to the quality of communication. Until one has lived a world, one cannot know the pressures, economic and social, it has. One may read about it, but that is not the same as knowing, though many assume these equate.

If one leaves a world we have the Educating Rita situation, or the Platonic Cave thought experiment. Outside a world, things are different, when you go back into a world, there is difficulty explaining to those who never left the world what lies outside. Moving from one world to another changes you and you can no longer fit so well back into the old world. People in the old-world sense this though there is a desire for conformity to the old ways, the old world. They cannot see and rarely accept that you are different now and seek to apply the old world-rules to you, they want compliance with something that no longer fits. It is a non-sequitur that you are somehow different, and you can be berated for this. People do not like the coterie of their world-version challenged by people leaving it and then having a kind of temerity to come back. There is an assumption that the local reality of world-version pervades universally when it does not.

My function for over a decade was to be an academic, that world academia, has rules, a social hierarchy and a lot of gossip. I am no longer of that world, though it has influenced me. My academic ability has not changed though my status has. Because of this I am likely to be viewed as less able than I am, simply because I am no longer a world-member. My kudos battery is depleted and uncharged. People may even feel sorry for me because I am no longer in the club. It is a bit fucked up, but there you go.

We each of us have our own local reality which will overlap with others in the same “world” as us to an extent. We may be members of a given world. As such we need, at least in public, to subscribe to its mentality, its games and its public relations statements. These local, personal realities, are everywhere. We all have them. I know the parameters of mine fairy well. These do not coincide with what others may think they ought to be. The history does not predict the actuality of the present, my trajectory from the norm has diverged. This is conceptually difficult for people to accept, it does not make sense back in that world. I no longer share the same aspirations, which is a kind of heresy. I have my own local reality and it does not fit into the set of local realities that comprises the other world, the one to which I used to pertain.

There is a problem with worlds and world-versions in that they assume a completeness and that they are encompassing. The boundaries to world are not transparent and are perceptually adiabatic. Nothing can flow in or out of the world. World-versions can become myopic and insular. They can be defended with arms. And when world-versions or cultures interact there can be war. These world membranes need not be so concrete. Today there is at least a wider theoretical understanding of other cultures; arts and the cinema can provide some fleeting insights. Few have lived them. Anyone who has made a transition between worlds knows that there is some discomfort along the way. What one once held to be true, is no longer inviolate. New experience alters one. One hasn’t transitioned into the new world entirely yet and there is a middle ground where nothing seems to work all that well.

I have made a few illustrations of worlds, world-versions and local realities. It can be helpful to at least consider that the “reality” to which we adhere is imperfect. It is a starter for ten in trying to understand that living in sardine mind is not broad nor inclusive. There is a whole bunch of stuff that we do not know, though we may profess otherwise. I am of course talking a little about humility as opposed to an arrogant assumed omniscience.

What is so wrong with admitting that there are many things in life that we do not yet know or understand fully?  

A Little More Open-minded

I hinted at position taking in the previous post and this kind of stance has an increased prevalence in our polarised times. You are either a Brexiteer or a Remoaner, for example. For whatever reason people like to adopt a position and well, argue the toss. I remain unconvinced at to whether or not this is constructive or aids learning. This polarisation can be found on all sides. People are either an angel or a devil, depending upon their belonging to the same camp as you, or not. The idea of having an exploratory open mind seems to be vanishing.

I enjoy the social commentary of Nick Galifianakis. Take look at this image on open-minded at his web site. It takes the piss slightly but even here we sense some polarisation the wishy-washy liberal as opposed to the positioned “clear” thinker.

Many imagine themselves to be open-minded, it is a mark of intelligence aspired to. Yet like all things an open mind is a relative thing, one could say that one is relatively open minded. We all, whether we like to admit or not, have our prejudices. We have made up our mind about stuff, before we have experienced it personally. The influence of our peers and our subscription to group-mind or group think, play a part in this. Each of us has some cultural legacy which colours our thinking. We have some beliefs. The lens of mind is not without aberration, chromatic or otherwise. Our life experience provides some interpretive “reference” points to which we compare. We have our own personal dogma which is bolstered and maintained by the mantra of our speech. Our world-version and world-rules, whilst not necessarily concrete, may not be elastic either. We would not want our world-version to stretch so that it cannot snap back. Least of all we would not want that world-version to explode.

In order to learn there is a need to cultivate open-mindedness. It is by intending to be more open-minded and inclusive, that we can expand our consciousness and thinking.  In this respect age plays a part, there being a tendency to get more set in our ways as we get older.

Here are questions relating:

Might I be a little more open-minded and less judgmental?

What do I miss out on by assuming and advocating my own omniscience prematurely?

The Irreconcilable

From time to time we can be faced with irreconcilable situations, where there is no obvious solution.

Many of these stem from both and thinking. The moment one lets go of both and, some movement can occur. Whilst both and is clenched hard, stalemate.  In social interaction these can also stem from pride, unwillingness to lose face and sheer bloody mindedness. When there is a lot of positioning and posturing, the irreconcilable can occur fairly frequently.

When world-version and world-rules do not encompass the situation at hand, it is difficult to reconcile that which is held in mind (or internal dialogue) with the events unfolding. Under these circumstances reality can be avoided so that situation “fits” world-version and can therefore be explained therein.

These situations can evoke stress especially in those who want an answer or a solution. It can make people angry and when both and is clenched in fist there can be conflict. Especially when more than one party is keen on both and thinking. Some however love these posturing and negotiating games. It takes all sorts.

The irreconcilable can last in the mind for decades. And the short cut out is to blame other people, the world, the budgerigar or God. This blame game never does reconcile but it can lead to a feeling of righteous indignation and thorough justification. In time this passes and a strange feeling of something not reconciled comes back. In unreconciled situations the logic goes that it always the other party who has to move first so as to bring about reconciliation. This logic can’t be comprehensive.

The irreconcilable is karmic. It is caused by behaviour and attitude. In many cases the ability to reconcile is time dependent, in that there is a window in which it might happen, after that it pretty much ceases to be possible. Some people are more prone to bearing grudges than others and these are not good for well-being. Anything which remains irreconcilable in the self creates a sore point or a button. These can impinge upon freedom and equanimity. To get past one has to cease clenching and start dissolving otherwise the irreconcilable can become markedly disproportionate, it might even turn into something of a personal “demon” that sticks in the craw.

If you think about it carefully the irreconcilable can often stem from will or ambition. When these are in some way thwarted, people don’t have life on their own terms. Many is the person who likes their will be done.

If the outer situation remains irreconcilable then the only recourse is to reconcile internally, by letting go of the ember of it. There is much to be learned from irreconcilable or otherwise apparently impossible situations.

What Fries Your Brain?

And no, I am not talking about puzzles, quantum mechanics or freaks of nature. I am referring to the more mundane, the day to day. There are a set of rules, commonly held, about how life situations are meant to evolve. Things are supposed to go one way according to some set of precedents. There is a sense of established patterns, a kind of predictable causality. “If I do this then so and so is likely to do that”. There is a kind of protocol, that may work. Many attempt to manipulate situations according to an established method with a view to a particular outcome. We have the “cunning plans” of Baldrick and Black Adder. In TV land there is a comedic outcome, in reality when things don’t pan out, it can fry your brain, blow your mind.

This supposition can lead to a “what the fuck just happened?” moment.

These quirks, these unexpected things, can really mess with the set of world-rules which people have. There ought to be some kind of reliable trajectory of causality, some predictability even certainty. Humanity, as a whole, is coming to terms with an end of certainty in so many spheres. Yet there is still marked complacency in regard of the general applicability of world-rules. Life is more volatile these days.

When cunning plans go wrong, as they can do, people can be crest fallen. Life, for whatever reason, does not comply with the terms which we seek to foist upon it. Many persist in trying to shoe horn their terms onto life, to make it fit the shoe of their expectations. The universe can throw multiple spanners in. The narrative of how it should be, can fail. And even should it fail people do not like, how it is.  This conflict between the actuality of is and the insistence of should, causes suffering and angst.

Sometimes, in life, it is just like this and not how we deem it meant to be.