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August 6th, 2018
It’s easy to forget that a context larger than our own thinking exists. Indeed a context exists that is larger than all human perspectives combined. We are invariably trapped in our own perspective and the context it creates.
One way to visualize this is to think about something we all did at least once as a kid. Walking around while looking through a long tube. What does the world look like the longer the tube is? What does the world look like the more narrow the tube is?
If the tube is longer and more narrow, our context becomes increasingly small. It almost has the effect of ZOOMING IN. It’s easier to focus on the small portion of the world we can see and our focus determines our reality. In some sense, our focus determines who we are as people.
Identity could be defined as the mental context in which we imagine ourselves, similar to the visual context of the world we see at the end of the tube. The word identity comes from a root that means ‘same’. We imagine who we are on some sort of ultimate level of reality is the same as what and how we imagine ourselves to be. But these two things are different and we perpetually forget it. We can know there’s a difference because, sometimes, we surprise ourselves. When it turns out we can do something we didn’t think we could do. When we say something we’re impressed by. These little cracks in the continuity between who we think we are and who we turn out to be show that who we are is greater than what we merely think. We must remember this, and try to extrapolate on it.
Identity, or the way we think about ourselves, is a function of the words we use, just as our visual field is a function of the tube we look through and how long and narrow it might be. Luckily, the same words that box us in with our thinking can be rearranged to form the tools to open up our perspective. The words that build our own personal prisons can also be fashioned into keys to unlock doors or sledgehammers to BREAKTHROUGH walls.
Words can cleave open others, expanding less useful concepts into more generous contexts. Words are like Aladdin’s genie in the lamp. They can describe and design any concept we can imagine. Just as they describe and design the self-made prisons in which we live, or the tubes through which we look at the world, those same words can be fashioned into a CLEAVER which can hack that tube down so we can see more, or hack our way through the walls that keep us.
But first we must ask: am I walking around looking at the world through a sort of tube? Or are there specific subjects, or people, or situations that I look at as though through a tube?
Often it’s not a bad thing to narrow our focus, to zoom in and concentrate. But as most all of us learned as kids walking around looking through a tube, it’s easy to lose site of the larger context and trip and fall on something.
This episode references Episode 54: The Well-Oiled Zoom. If you’d like to fully understand the reference, please check out that episode next.
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