The Default (mindless) Path
It’s incredible, the way we can drift through our convoluted existence with such relative ease. Effortlessly navigating our physical and social environments; empowered and escorted by the knowledge, experience and momentum of prior days. No need to halt and heed the utility of a chair, the palatability of an apple, our degree of trust in our friends or the general behavior of a foreign people. No, these details have been noted, generalized, packaged and shelved for easy, automatic retrieval; helping us to avoid the paralysis that would ensue if every encounter was appraised like our foremost introduction.
A voyage heavy with assessment, investigation and curiosity is expensive. For a ship, this means extended time and increased resources; for our minds, the same. We are remarkable beings of efficiency and internal-resource management; so much of which is subconsciously automated. These mechanisms persist without ever so much as asking our consciousness for a second opinion; deepening the grooves, refining our perspectives, and compounding our habituated being, allowing us to travel ever more efficiently through our hastily narrowing lives.
Acceptable or disgraceful? Risky or secure? Pleasurable or painful? Crisp, efficient, binary labeling aids our competence and enhances our maneuverability. Ambiguity and nuance cloud our lenses, muddle our map and convolute our journey. In an effort to sustain progression, our minds will inconspicuously trim, stretch, shrink and expand our perception of the landscape as needed. Much like a master tailor can effortlessly alter a new coat to better fit our body, our mind can alter a new observation to better fit our narrative; a gracious accommodation free of bounty.
Sure, we could pause to scrutinize each fragment of information that we observe; but who has the time? We don’t know how many years we have in this lifetime, but the pursuit of happiness seems to require just shy of all of them. With each new acquisition, milestone and box checked, we are yet another step closer to a state of blissful serenity, the faint abstraction that lies in the fog along the horizon. What benefit might we possibly reap from examining alternative perspectives that would outweigh the time lost in doing so? Or worse, what of the monumental setback that would occur if our inquiry forced us to re-examine our path, trajectory or our current, fundamental beliefs and values? There just doesn’t seem to be enough leeway, it’s hard enough to keep pace as is and, to be honest, we may have generated so much momentum that the option to pause and examine our perspective is all but forgotten. It’s probably better that way… right?
The Alternative (mindful) Path
To believe that the events in our lives have inherent meaning may be the most egregious and cumbersome load we can place upon the back of our personal freedom. The snow upon the path we must walk in this life is deep and difficult to trek; but objective curiosity can lighten our load, help us glide upon the crust of the frigid floor and gracefully explore the expansive terrain. Our face, regardless of the path, may still be blistered by the sting of the unyielding winds, but the hurt doesn’t seem so bad when we are no longer being held down and the promise of spring rests along the new horizon.
The proficiency with which our human bodies can absorb and process the details of our surroundings is nothing shy of astonishing. But even the most powerful machines and elaborate processes have shortcomings and outright flaws. Real danger lies in losing sight of the location of these components, but incredible strength and enrichment may be found when we know where they are hiding and we visit them regularly and deliberately. We move through our lives imprisoned by faith in treacherous interpretation, failing to realize that we have the capacity to alter the hue of our experience from the seat that we currently sit, in the moment that we currently reside.