How life enhancing is being open to change and reality?

This is a topic for which libraries full of books have been written. It has no simple explanation, nor a simple solution. People, society are complicated – and wonderfully so.

I was musing this morning that the source of so much conflict in our day to day lives stem from unvalidated and distorted perceptions of reality.

Everybody has a perception of reality that is slightly different than the next person and almost certainly flawed in some way. Often it manifests itself as the belief that “People / situations should behave or be this way” and it is incredibly distressing when a situation is encountered which does not conform to this perception. We have to leave our comfort zones in order to accommodate the reality with which we are confronted.

I believe healthy people are able to subtly adjust their world views based on experience and that folks who steadfastly refuse to accommodate the world as it exists enter into a spiral of conflict and distress that eventually consumes them.

A simple example are landscape planners. Have you ever walked up to a building and saw that, although there was a walkway leading up from the sidewalk, there were also paths of tramped-down grass cutting diagonally across the lawn leading to the entryway? Someone had a vision of how the front yard should be used and did not consider how folks would really use it.
What is the rational solution here? Should hedges be planted? Should “Keep off the Grass” signs be erected? What have you seen in your travels?
I have heard of a brilliant landscape planner that really didn’t know what to expect so he waited several months before finalizing the design and then simply ensured pathways were created where he saw folks were actually coming across the property. Folks use the property in a way that is convenient for them and their use can be incorporated into the design. This must surely be more attractive an option, and less frustrating for all, than muddy footpaths cutting throughout the property.

But what if your view of the world involves thoughts that are overly simplistic and you refuse to acknowledge or accept that the world is more complicated than that?

What if you are Howard Hughes and can’t accept that the world and especially the human body, was never meant to be absolutely sterile? How do you deal with that?

What if you feel that each person is unique and that the loss of all those experiences and personality to death would be unacceptable? How do you deal with the loss of a loved one? What if the universe does not cater to your ideal?

What if you feel that there is an underlying “fairness” to the universe and yet your house is flooded and destroyed by a storm? How do you deal with something that so fundamentally flies in the face of your world view?

What kind of person does it take to accept such realities, roll with them and move on to continue to grow and flourish? What kind of person collapses under these realities?

3 thoughts on “How life enhancing is being open to change and reality?”

  1. I’ve been thinking a fair bit about reality and people’s perceptions of reality, especially in the context of the massive levels of media input each of us receives regularly. Interesting to note, North American children experience and average of 44 hours of media input per week (with only .9 hours being books or magazines). I do believe it has started to skew our sense of what we should expect in society and how we tend to place ourselves in that context. A typical middle class North American has comfort and security and material well being that few kings in the middle ages could rival. However, most people inundate themselves with news of “stars,” their lifestyles and start to compare. They watch “Friends” and think Manhatten apartments are 3000 sq. ft. They see “typical” people living on beachside Malibu mansions, driving Mercedes Benz cars all through the day, funded by some jingle they wrote once or by a glamours job as a doctor/lawyer/biz person. A job they never seem to have to go to. Suddenly, the average joe in his 2700 sq. ft. house in the ‘burbs, with a Toyota and a job doesn’t think they are keeping up. They skew their reality to the media images and suddenly feel inadequate. So, the spending proceeds – a tonic against this sense of falling behind and the need to make those 57 hours per week on the job seem “worth it.” Unfortunately it results in debt and a need for on-going instant gratification and showiness.

    This is my opinion, of course, but the impact of media influence really hit home recently. A gentleman who was caught in the tragic Missouri tornadoes said, “It was so real … just like in the movies.”

  2. Just another thought on reality – this from an economic perspective. In 1974 the average household in Canada had one income earner. Today the average household has two income earners. Now, this is not a discussion of gender roles and who should work or not – that is not relevant to the discussion. The average household income in Canada has increased, in real terms, by 4%. The average worker works 8 hours more per week. So, we, effectively have added one extra worker to the workforce, per household, for free. So, reality – if we increase the amount of available labour, companies are not going to pay any more. Everyone just makes less. And, housework hasn’t gone away (nor child care).

    The reality: Average Canadian consumer debt (non mortgage – credit lines, credit card etc.) $26,000. Trying to keep up?

    An interesting personal thought. In 1980 my Dad showed me his T4 (Canadian taxable earnings). His nominal full year income was about $1000 less than my current income. Roughly, you could argue we do the same type of job (from a compensation perspective) for a big corporate entity (Fortune 500). So, according to what cost $1 in 1980 would cost $2.61 in 2010. I’ll let you guys do the math on my reality.

  3. @Carl – I agree with the skew that comes from having your reality shaped significantly by such a powerful medium as TV.

    I’ve argued for years that there is little or no difference in memories garnered from real experience (say our trips to Morocco) and memories garnered from well done (and perhaps even not so well done) TV programs. Anybody who has watched Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth” will have vivid recollections of some very spectacular aspects of our planet’s offerings. In 3 or 4 years I think you will find that those media-sourced memories will rival any but the most traumatic or exciting memories folks have gathered from real life travel and experience. To the extent that the two types of memories will become indistinguishable.

    I had to laugh at your last sentence: “It was so real … just like in the movies.”
    It really is so true.

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