For a while now I’ve had this feeling that I’ve been stuck in a dream, floating in and out of experiences, that two years ago I couldn’t have imagined having. Coming home felt like part of that same dream, seeing all the people I loved, visiting all the places in Australia I have missed. Even getting the opportunity to explore more of what my beautiful home has to offer seemed within the infinite possibility of a dream.
I am still yet to wake up, it’s exciting but at the same time terrifying to think that, like a dream, I might suddenly be jolted awake; forgetting everything that has happened. Getting on the plane from Australia headed to Ecuador didn’t feel out of the ordinary at all. And that kind of scared me.
I don’t want to become numb to experience, to be in a mind space that relegates the incredible to the mundane. Even if I don’t always show it to those around me, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me, and the support from strangers and loved ones alike.
I’ve talked about hedonic adaptation before, the tendency people have to derive less and less pleasure from an experience the more they are exposed to it. There is another psychological process which effects our perception of the world and thus our reaction to otherwise incredible experiences. Schemas are a cognitive process that organise a thought pattern based on preconceived data. A kind of mental short cut to understanding the world so as not to relieve or waste time processing new information.
Stereotypes are the easiest example to understand, by simply looking at any random person we immediately make an inference on the type of person they are. Right or wrong, that is our initial impression. Getting to know that person will either confirm or reject that assumption, but the original thought is a schema. Your brain uses these shortcuts in place of having to physically engage every person in sight. In essence, it is as if you have already met this person.
While hedonic adaptation inspires us to experience the new, schemas guide our decisions in what we believe will bring us fulfillment, and it is worth being aware of their shortcomings. They make it easy to forget just how incredible an experience, like for instance traveling over 15,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean to another country, really is. We can so easily become numb to these experiences that previously filled us with wonder and excitement.
Maybe it is the people I hang out with, my friends, my family or maybe it is just luck, but I really feel we are a generation enchanted by the world. Our unprecedented access to this earth really does make us global human beings and compels us to at least attempt to see it all. What makes us want to leave our comfortable homes, and lives, to be thrust into uncertainty, and unfamiliarity? Why do we love so much to be lost, without language, direction or a clue?
This desire to explore and experience is innate in all of us, it is what makes us human. We cannot lose that enchantment, that inspiration we derive from the world because that is precisely what makes life worth living.
To paraphrase Walt Disney, worrying is a poor use of the imagination and I think the same can be said for complaining. We have a remarkable ability to complain especially in the western world, no matter how good it gets. I am certainly constantly guilty of this, perhaps it is unavoidable to feel that way, but it is just as easy to take a moment and realise that this world is fucking beautiful and we owe it to each other to feel that way about it.
If you are reading this chances are things are not too bad in your life. I personally believe that the meaning of life is to create, inspire and bear witness to all that is beautiful. If you are ever feeling uninspired or unhappy take a break, take a walk, look up into the sky and the stars and remember how amazing it really all is!
“The more often we see the things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin
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