The headline in the Parrot’s Weekly read: Titantic Sunk. No Parrots Hurt.
–Katharine Whitehorn, quoted in The Artful Universe by John D. Barrow
Oh the power of a point of view…Parrots may not be your thing, but something is.
Washington’s poet laureate Elizabeth Austen speaks to our proclivity to narrowbanding in her piece, How poetry can help us say the unsayable:
WE make our world by what we choose to see.
I wrote that line years ago, and have copied it from notebook to notebook, waiting for the rest of the poem to arrive. But lately I’ve begun wondering if maybe it’s less a fragment of a future poem and more a manifesto.
At first glance, it might seem like an endorsement of confirmation bias, that all-too-human tendency to only value evidence that confirms our existing ideas and opinions.
Confirmation bias is most insidious as it relates to beliefs we’re not conscious of: We filter the world around us, selectively noticing, believing and remembering things that affirm our ideas, all the while unaware of the unconscious editing we’re doing moment by moment.
We make our world by what we choose to see.
The operative word is “choose.” We can actively cultivate—seek out, take in, consider—perspectives that complicate and expand our view and, thus, our world. Or not.
And from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
From the mountain you see the mountain. We animate what we can, and we see only what we animate. Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.
These jewel-like mantras feel very useful, and they will fit easily in my backpack of supplies as I head to “new to me” destinations in Asia.
It isn’t hard to get caught in a life that is way too focused on tracking parrots—or whatever it is that consumes the conscious mind day in and out. And as Emerson suggests, we can animate the world anew no matter where we are. But one of the best aspects of a trip to somewhere else for me is the involuntary shift in the frame I have been using. That dislocation forces my hand, gratefully. So yes, I am so ready for a full scale reboot.
I’ll be back Slow Musing in June.