A Matter of Perspective

It’s interesting to me that we all have a tendency to create situations so that we can gripe about them. I know that I have been suspect of this more times than I can count. The problem is that it’s way easier to create a situation that we can complain about, even if it is only in our heads, than it is to face down the issues that you’re actually fighting.

I think it’s a matter of perspective. It’s easier for us to handle the bite-sized figment of reality we’ve created in our own heads than the absolute shambles that true reality actually is. It does lead to the question of what’s really real. That’s a massive philosophical debate which I know that I’ve gotten caught up in myself. It’s hard not to philosophize about the big questions.

As I write this I find myself listening to American Pie by Don McLean. It’s interesting because no one can quite decide what it is that he is actually trying to say. Even with the discovery, sale, and analysis of his original manuscript a few years ago, people who have been listening to the “Song of the Century” for years are not backing down, and it makes me wonder why they aren’t, particularly when the knowledge is coming from the source. I think it’s a matter of perspective. These people have listened to it a certain way for years and years, and if you listen to a song a certain way for long enough, that’s what you believe. The same idea applies to knowledge and understanding. Humans are beings who crave familiarity, if you’ve done something a certain way for as long as you can remember then it’s easier to just keep doing it that way even at the expense of other things.

One of the hardest things to do is to break out of these familiar molds, it hurts to think about and do. Blatant evidence of cognitive dissonance. To a certain extent it’s not a bad thing to experience this dissonance, I think you just have to be aware that too much could be a bad thing, just based on the studies they’ve done on cortisol. Having experienced cognitive dissonance myself, I understand how painful it can be and am aware that you don’t want it around too much. On the other hand I understand how useful it can be towards learning. There’s sort of a barrier in our brains that we all reach at some point and it can take a certain level of discomfort to climb over that barrier, but the learning experience from getting over that barrier can be more than worthwhile.

As I type this I’m getting a visual picture of being in a form of basic training for an armed service and at first the officers send you to a wall to climb over and you keep trying and trying, and failing and failing until one day you make it over, and you’ve suddenly learned a new strategy for climbing that wall. A few days later, there’s a higher wall and you approach it with the strategy that you just learned and while it works to a certain extent you still fail, but it takes you shorter to learn to climb this wall. That’s the interesting thing about cognitive dissonance, at least for a topic you focus on, the more you work at it, the challenges will certainly be harder, but tackling them will be easier and you’ll feel better about it. I guess it’s a matter of perspective.

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