The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Monday, 24 November 2014]

The story we tell ourselves

Us humans filter everything we see and experience through our existing narrative. Nic finds this fascinating.

If you follow politics in America these days, you’re probably angry and depressed a lot, no matter where on the spectrum you fall. Because the other side is not getting what you’re talking about at all.

Of course the other side are mentally deficient idiots. Of course they are. The truth is out there, it’s self-evident and they are refusing to even see it.

They must be insane or at the very least liars.

But of course that’s not the way it works. Whichever side you’re on, the opposite side aren’t morons who want to watch the country burn as they giggle and drool. (Well, not most of them at least.)

Instead, what’s happening is that people are being people. And us humans are poorly equipped indeed to deal with the modern world.

We are exquisitely well-tailored to living in extended-family groups of less than 150 people on the African savannah—that’s where our species spent most of its time, hunting and gathering and procreating.

At that time, a tendency to freak out at specific threats—like Ebola—and an ability to dehumanize everybody different from you was valuable.

But now we live in huge cities where we’re forced to interact daily with people we’ve never seen before. Think about it: The person driving the plane or train or subway or bus you take to work is probably somebody you’ve never even laid eyes on before the trip. And yet, you’re going to trust that person to take you to your destination without crashing. How do you know that person can do that? You’re going to have to trust the system.

Otherwise you’ll have a hard time just leaving the house.

So the story you tell yourself is that this person has been trained and tested by whatever appropriate authority and will perform just fine.

That’s your narrative while traveling.

The narrative is mostly underground, outside your active consciousness, guiding what you think and feel, taking new pieces of information and conforming them to what you already know.

But that’s not all the narrative does: The narrative forces you to discard any piece of information you receive that don’t fit.

This is how we keep from going insane—tailoring the inputs we get to our existing narrative, in the process throwing away inputs that don’t fit—those inputs that don’t fit would force you to rethink what you believe.

And that would suck: Now you’re spending a lot of time and energy reevaluating what you believe instead of finding food and procreating. This, to your mind, is a huge waste.

You should follow the narrative; you should bring every new piece of information into line with the narrative. If you don’t, you’re fighting your brain and you’re spending energy your brain is worried will run out on something non-essential and potentially harmful. This can’t be tolerated.

So your brain will bring you back on track—to the narrative.

It’s useful to think about your narrative and if it still fits your life.

A hard thing to do, but very much worth doing.

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