How much do you understand?

February 3, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog, Evolutionary Psychology, Freedom

Want a liberating concept?

Our brains and senses are limited. Our ancestors didn’t evolve minds to understand everything or senses to sense everything. They evolved them to navigate their environments enough to propagate their genes. That’s it. The ones that could had children eventually resulting in us. The ones that couldn’t didn’t.

Limited senses mean we have limited access to the universe. The observable universe stretches for tens of billions of light years in every direction, yet from my chair I can see a few yards, hear a bit farther … a bit more from other senses. In my whole life I’ve observed not much more.

Limited processing power — that is, brain power — means of whatever we observe we can remember and understand a fraction. To understand just one other person would require another brain, which we don’t have. Yet we interact with dozens of friends and colleagues.

To think we know much of absolute reality (if there is such a thing) is a huge stretch.

Our beliefs and emotions are based not on reality but on our perceptions and other beliefs, each based on incomplete information incompletely remembered and understood. The simplifications introduce biases. We don’t know what information was filtered out by our limited perception.

In other words, all our beliefs are flawed and they are our connection to reality. Our physical bodies may interact with our environments, but our mental selves only interact with beliefs, which are inconsistent with reality. We have no idea how much or, for that matter, how significant any flaw might be. Something once trivial can become critical before we know it, and vice versa.

Here’s the liberating concept: these flaws and filters are only problems if we think we perceive and understand absolute reality. If you get that you are a step removed, it gives you freedom to influence how you perceive your world.

The ability to influence ones beliefs and facility with it, combined with understanding of how your emotions and motivations work is the foundation to why some people are more or less happy, productive, effective, etc in life.

I’ll come back to this topic many times.

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