Our worldview is shaped by how we frame our experiences; the narrative we tell ourselves about what we have gone through. The frame is comprised of various cultural values, opinions, priorities, correlations, preferences and expectations. If memory serves, it is transcendentalism that says we operate by the lamp of our own experience, and as such every new experience is colored by those that came before.
It’s hard enough to deal with the fickle feels of biology that make us cranky at the slightest imbalance or discomfort (I think modern sensibilities are more tender as well, but I digress…) let alone the difficulties inherent in meeting deviations from our givens; the things we take for granted. The challenges that come with disturbing our sense of regularity are manifold, and cause cognitive dissonance for the majority of average folk.
Our understandings of reality are built on observational comparisons and contrasting analysis with all previously acquired knowledge. As such, we use all sorts of compartmentalization, categorization, and priority evaluation to determine what we think something is, how it functions, how it can interact with us, and we assign it an approximate value in relation to our own existence.
Part of the nature of perception is that it uses a limited quantity of data for analysis, since we’re limited by our biological capabilities. What we choose to focus on then becomes a more heavily weighted element in our value calculations. How we quantify and qualify our perceptions and experiences is layered, and includes our own biological responses, and what we perceive of the people around us. Social behavior dictates we observe each other’s cues for group security.
It is up to us to paint the picture of reality in our mind’s eye with some fundamental understandings behind that work. When we look at the famous painting that reads “This is not a pipe” beneath a representation of one – we are encouraged to understand that we are not creating or re-creating the real thing in our own estimation, we need to keep the spirit or essence of the real thing in our handicapped versions though, since that’s the best we can do. It’s up to us to look beyond the paint and implied shadows or textures it represents, to recognize the concept that something is inherently more than we could possibly grasp or regurgitate psychologically. We need to see that our own personal understanding of the world is limited, and that the whole world is very real and ongoing, despite our own limited understanding of, and limited direct experience with these elements of the world we live in.
When we try to use previous experiences, correlations or qualifications in relation to our current situation, we are looking to provide context or some level of overarching or widely connecting concepts to help us understand the situation. But truthfully, past experiences are only helpful in a limited number of instances going forward – in specific, anyway (past experience is generally useful but hardly in specificity). It’s a detriment to us that we look for patterns in a completely unplanned and unfocused reality. Events are rarely linked enough to be worth making connections about, despite our tendency to force them into a limited set of categorical definitions or sections that provide a false sense of cohesion amidst entropy at work.
The truth is, even (or especially) when it comes to human behavior, drawing conclusions based on expectations of regularity is counter productive at best. As much as we wish anything was consistent or predictable, things are largely neither. Even fundamental scientific principles can surprise us in how they play out. This mindset also limits our ability to draw a more complete or accurate view of a given situation. We rule out pertinent data and keep irrelevant data, largely based on our pre-existing frameworks.
The tendency to try to create order has a lot to do with adaptation, and it’s the evolutionary trait that rightly tells us that it doesn’t really matter what value we place on something, in order to survive we need to adapt to what we are currently and most frequently are confronted with. We need to work with what we’ve got to make it. But humans would generally prefer to modify the situation to fit their definitions and understandings. However, too much framework or coloring-in of our experiences only leads us to a false sense of imaginary structure around things that were never truly premeditated or organized to begin with.
What we tell ourselves about what we see changes the reality we live in, and if we only do things we expect and only accept things we can control or compartmentalize, then there’s not as much room for the things we wish or hope or struggle for. Letting the past color the present is about hanging on to pain and suffering and bringing it with us, but we can acknowledge and remember those transgressions without prolonging or worsening the damage from them. We can move on past feeling hurt by things and take comfort in the fact that it’s not a premeditated plan of ultimate punishment that is personal against each of us. We are not in hell and we are not here to suffer for what is only colored as bad, when really it’s shades of self preservation.
We don’t need to spin tales for ourselves to convince us that there’s a reason for things or a pattern among them or deem them targeted, nor are things inherently bad or worsening. Life is just living, one breath at a time, each moment alone in the continuum. Let us find points of reference in existence rather than attempting to paint the universe in frames of reference.