I woke up early, as I usually do. There was a welcome blanket of white snow over the ground and on trees and roofs outside. I saw it as I quietly shut the door to the room wherein J was snoring (he wouldn’t call it that; this is a regular argument neither of us has yet to win. He’s probably right, but don’t tell him I said that). On the floor in the room were my 9- and 5-year-olds who were lucky that Dad fell asleep first last night (Mom did not move them to their own beds, but Dad certainly would have). And Max (our old, blind Terrier), who was (decidedly) snoring.
A mist in the air cast a magic over everything. I keep Peppermint coffee creamer for just these kinds of mornings. I whispered to my house to please turn on the Christmas lights (yes, I say ‘please’ to Alexa…), and on they went. I nestled into the loveseat to begin my morning routine. Before my meditation, I perused my daily briefing of the New York Times.
I then went down a rabbit hole which led me — as rabbit hole’s do — to Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. And since I was already there, I did the thing one does when in a rabbit hole: I read the comments.
People. Humans, apparently. All sorts of humans were making statements. And as easy as sorting laundry you could have put these statements into two baskets. I hate you or I love you. Division.
You’ve heard it, no doubt, said numerous times recently: division. “We’re so polarized right now.” “We’re a country divided.” “On the brink of civil war,” they say. And maybe we are. Or maybe we just think we are. And maybe thinking we are is actually the prophecy we will end up fulfilling, despite reality.
Before I went down the rabbit hole this morning, what was my reality? Snow, family, peppermint coffee. The actual, physical world was nearly exactly the same in that moment as it was just a moment later when I had inadvertently reminded myself of: Division. You can see the stark contrast from the first few minutes of my morning to where I ended up.
But here’s the thing: all that had actually, physically changed was *my* world, not *the* world.
There is a thinking error we humans commit. Daniel Kahneman, the famous psychologist and economist, calls it “what you see is all there is.” And I need not describe it, because its mouthful of a title describes itself. But I will say that it is an actual, tested, condition of human brains. What is reality in your world? Whatever you are aware of.
Does a calm snow lying over the valley mean the whole valley is calm? Probably not. But we feel like it does. And do ten people making statements on Twitter accurately reflect the consensus of the world’s humans? No. But we feel like they do.
You’ve heard the phrase before “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” In Gandhi’s 1913 piece on snakebites he more specifically said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”
There are at least two ways to read this: the world itself would actually change, or our worlds would change. If we change what information we let in, who we are with, what we choose to talk about, whether we choose to say positive or negative things, whether we build each other up or tear each other down, what we focus on in life, these things change our realities. What you see is all there is.
And here’s a thought: what if changing our realities actually does change the world as well? What if our perspectives, by osmosis, seep into the perspectives of our loved ones, and those go on to their loved ones, and so on? Maybe, if we call our loved ones and actually listen, if we take a (socially-distanced) walk and smile (from six feet away) at our neighbors, if we put our phones down and focus on the humans having discussions in our own homes instead of the keyboard warriors making statements online, maybe we will see we aren’t as divided as we thought.
And so, as we approach a season traditionally focused on bringing us together, I invite my friends and readers to consider their worlds. What is your world made up of? What are you doing with your time? What do you see throughout the day? How are the things you encounter affecting your beliefs about what the world is and isn’t? What have you made your world into?
Remember, what you see is all there is, so while we need to continue beautifying the world and making it a better place for all (no need to be ostriches), there is also something (a big something) to be said for once in a while removing your gaze from the trash heap and noticing the flowers instead. Both are real.
And now I shall drink my peppermint coffee.
If you enjoyed this reminder, please click the claps 👏👏🏾👏🏽👏🏼👏🏻 so others may be reminded as well.