Scientists have identified 8.7 million types of species on the planet earth. Only one of those 8.7 million species is the human species. Unlike most other species, the human life does not have a set standard manual. We have both the pleasure of choice and the impossible task of standardizing our species to one “human manual” for life. Parents, educators, governments, religions, and idealists have tried it to no avail, no success. We cannot get our kind to behave in exact same ways and flawlessly follow a system. Not like the birds, lions, lizards, sea creatures, and other species do. The wisdom of life and existence is not coded within our human software. Life is complicated for us.
We work to connect and easily segregate. We defend and easily blame. We love and easily hate. To be a human is no standard thing. We are born with an empty human software at birth and have to program a life template by learning from the simplest mental and physical movements to having emotions and feelings, to building relationships with others, with the world, the planet, and with ourselves.
Neuroscience has determined that in order to learn everything we need to be a human and do it efficiently, our brain comes with a few built-in biases. This biases have both positive and negative effects, as we must learn everything we need to know from other humans who learned and lived it before us. One of these powerful biases is Novelty Bias. Our attention caughts something new, something exciting, something that’s not so mundane. It’s great for our learning and development. Think of a one year old crawling around, looking at everything around with a wonder to know, to touch, to feel and take in. We sit in school or listen to speakers, watch videos to understand something, fine tune a skill. Without this Novelty Bias there would be no science, no medicine, no creativity. We think, alnalyze and embark on new unknown territories to solve problems or improve situations. We are also propelled to spread the new knowledge, new ideas, new ways of life, because it is novel and attention grabbing. You can see how advertising and new ideas are constantly generated to grab attention. It’s the newness of things that our brains are wired to point the flashlight to. It’s a really powerful mechanism to help build both personal and collective ways of life. The negative side of it is that we can also be attracted to false information or bad news around us, feel propelled to spread it in the same way and plute the minds of others.
Then there is Truth Bias, another wired function of our human brain. Having to predict and manage countless functions and budget body resources, fact-checking every little information or perception is not as pertinent to our survival. Whatever we think, feel, hear or conclude, the brain makes us believe as true. This Truth Bias is sort of a builtin naivety and trust that what is presented to us from our mind or the external world is real and true. Think of your childhood. As children we believe and trust our parents, teachers and friends epecially when they tell us something that is new or been pounded into our heads over and over. Now a days, we have access to knowledge and numerous perspectives and some rights to be independent and chose. Nonetheless, what we think ,no matter how faulty it might be seems true to us. Some grow up rarely questioning the validity of their interpretations and assumptions. If people’s actions and beliefs don’t match their own “truths” they attack and criticize rather than seek to understand them. Critical thinking and questioning to find out the truth is not a skill every human learns. It’s an excellent skill and should be a part of human training manuals. Otherwise, there’s nothing but conflict, hate, anger, unhappiness, feeling victimized and stuck.
To seal the deal on thinking what we think is true, the brain has Confirmation Bias. It choses to pay attention to anything that confirm our truths and mindset, specially our feelings. This too is an important function. It creates the building blocks of learning and connecting pieces of information to create fuller perceptions and understandings. However, in cases we don’t have an accurate perception of the situation and only seeing things that confirm them would only lead to think wrongly, act inappropriately and in some cases get stuck in denial, fantasies, or judgment, fear, and anxiety.
So, what are we to do?
The first thing is to realize how incredibly difficult it is to be a member of the human species without proper training. From your own experience, you can extrapolate that there are no perfections and that all beings, not just humans, want to be fed, be happy and healthy. No being likes to live in fear and be sick or go hungry. Not even a little spider.
The second thing is to broaden your heart’s capacity for kindness and a warm understanding for any human’s failure. Given that we all have these powerful biases ingrained in our brians and minds and can be wrong at any given time, we can pause, breathe and question things with curiosity and goodwill. It is very helpful to be able to question what if I’m wrong about this thing that bugs me? What if there are a hundred other reasons for such and such situation. I’m sure you have experienced being wrong about an opinion or a fear or worry. Also, asking what if the others who think they are right can’t see their own truth and confirmation biases? Now that I know this it’s possible I believe in the wrong thing, I can pause and be more patient, gentle and and become motivated to get to the bottom of the things.
If you have a realization or conclude that everything you know about everything may be wrong, you may feel overwhelmed or avoid this process. So, take it easy and look at one little thing at a time. To practice thinking critically with curiosity and goodwill, look into something that’s not so emotionally charged. For example, maybe a neighbor is placing their trash bin somewhere that doesn’t make sense to you. You may not care much, but you feel a little judgment about them, thinking they’re not considerate. Become curious and look more closely at the environment. Maybe it’s because they need a little space to get out of their driveway. Maybe the ground is on a slope and the bin may role down, maybe it’s because when the trash truck picks it up and puts it back down it damages the wall they built around their garden. Maybe they can’t see how this might affect your property and if they did, they’d definitely change it to not make it difficult for you. There may be many other reasons, other than just being inconsiderate, for the neighbor not tucking their trash bin closely to their home.
From there you can continue seeking to understand life. Understanding oneself is very helpful to understand others.
If anything to be understood about being a human is that you have the makeup to live in alignment with the nature of existence or to live a fabricated limited version of it. Either way, you must know some truths so that you can choose based on true knowledge. Based on the results you desire. Not some built-in result, like your reproductive codes, but the results you chose out of freedom and clarity of the end goal.
Being a human is an absolute gift. An opportunity to not be standard like other animals, following instinct travelling north, traveling south, fulfilling a set destiny. Everyone the same. No, we're not stuck like that. We can make the life we want. And what we want is open for design. Open for creation. We can look around. See who's got it right, what place on this earth is suitable?
Who said we had to be bound? Bound to a location or to a profession? Bound to others' whims and ideals?
Yesterday, I thought to myself, why should I wait till I'm retired? I can sell my house now, go do what I want. Someone asked, what would you do? Spontaneously I said, I'd go visit all of Ajahn Cha's monasteries. All 350, all over the world. Wouldn't that be something? Wow, that brightened my heart. So, it's not a standard life. I can do as I wish, as I plan and as I desire. Having children is a plan one can make or a vision one may have. Getting married, settling down, having a profession is one of the million variety of ways people live their lives. It's not standard. It doesn't have to be. Being a human is the most creative way a specie can live. So, take advantage of it.
And there needs to be a goal. A worthy highest goal of life. I'd say, no goal is higher than to love oneself. For this, you need to cultivate wise intentions. Intention not to harm, intention of goodwill for all and intention of letting go. That is a must. For one's way of life, choice of design, and effort to be a happy human cannot impinge on another. For if it does, one forgoes the power in being a human. No longer able to love oneself. For if one loves oneself, one will not harm others. Harming others is equivalent to harming oneself. Harming oneself leads us far from the greatest mission we can have as a member of the human species.
So then, there's much to learn. Let's get to it as life is precious and moments fly by quickly.
To begin we can breathe and smile.