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If we wish to change the person we find ourselves to be, we must change our thinking.
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January 19th, 2019
Each person has a completely different circumstance. Drawing similarities between the circumstances of two different people is perhaps unwise because doing so glosses over the details, and as we like to say, this is where the devil lives.
Each person occupies their own physical space which cannot be inhabited by another person simultaneously. This fact is so yawningly obvious and yet we are very quick to forget the ramifications of such a fact. On a literal, physical level, no two people can inhabit the same exact perspective. The most literal example of this is taking turns looking through a telescope or a microscope. Even if we achieve the exact same view of a celestial body or some microbe in a petri dish, we are not viewing it at the same time.
On top of this, no two people have the same exact neural functioning. Brains, like situations and circumstances, might have many similarities but again, to say they are the same glosses over the details. The details in this case are what separate an Albert Einstein from, well, anyone and everyone else. The same is true in reverse though. No matter how smart or talented a person is, they cannot somehow magically inhabit the existence of another person. Attempting to approximate this sort of feat through empathy, compassion and an intelligent modelling of another person’s mind is certainly a worthwhile, useful endeavor, and perhaps near the core of what we like to admire in our species. But it is still an approximation.
Since the task is an impossible one, it might seem hopeless and therefore pointless, but this admission of impossibility can fundamentally level-up our ability to listen and communicate.
The reason is simple: because of the unique attributes and circumstances of each individual’s existence, everyone is limited to their own point of view. Given each particular physical circumstance of location, timing, and neurology, it’s impossible to have come to a different point of view – as far as we understand the laws of the physical world. This is true on both a literal level and a figurative level.
Keeping this ironclad fact in mind can be a useful tempering agent when in discussion with someone who seems stubborn. In a physical sense we are all very stubbornly limited to our own experience. And this isn’t a choice nor an option that we can edit.
In a sense: everyone is right, no matter what buffoonery they are spouting and shouting to the world.
Such a blanket statement, however, is self-cancelling. If everyone is right then the concept of being ‘right’ is effectively meaningless, at least in the argumentative sense where a person can be wrong. To be clear, it would be completely unproductive to use this argument that ‘everyone is right’ in an actual argument. It is a thought exercise to increase the ability to leverage our intellectual compassion while trying to understand the perspectives of others.
If we admit to ourselves that any given individual had to come to their particular perspective in some way, regardless of how much we disagree with that perspective, then instead of seeing that person as ‘wrong’, we can focus far more productively by asking: what might help this person’s perspective evolve? What haven’t’ they experienced that I have? Or vice versa. What have they experienced that I’m blind to? What questions have cracked open my thinking that they’ve never heard?
Our goal should not be to manipulate another person’s perspective to be in line with our own, but probably: to curiously engage with the potential for both that other person’s perspective and our own to evolve as a result of dialogue.
Even things that are in sync with one another are not the same things. Like two people performing a complicated dance together. Neither becomes other in such a process, but, the two together achieve something that is impossible to do alone.
This phenomenon of being in sync is perhaps exactly what our debates and arguments should aim for. Instead of trying to dominate the dance floor alone, so to speak, with some kind of superior performance, our debates and arguments will be far more productive if we figure out how to think together. There is perhaps a fear and a threat to identity inherent in this possibility, but this is not true, just as two people trying to dance with one another field no risk of becoming the other.
The only thing they actually risk, is succeeding together.
This episode references Episode 42: Level-Up.
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