You, Darwin And Hula-Hoops

First watch this video.

Did you find this interesting? More importantly, have you ever thought about this before? We all know hula hoops and the surprisingly intricate skill needed to be good at them. But have you ever thought what it was like for a hoop to go around and around some one or some thing? Most people don’t.

If you did think about the hula hoop’s perspective, then consider yourself a rare breed. In today’s world, we are trained day-in and day-out for conformity. When we encounter something, subconsciously we make a whole bunch of assumptions and use those assumptions to process and make our decisions. This is the result of our brain’s evolutionary growth which has enabled it to make quick decisions by simply observing the obvious. You look at a building and in an instant, without even realizing it, your brain plugs in a number of little judgements about the building, like, how old it is, how well maintained it is, the type of people who live there and so on. This is similar to the brain’s ability that allows you to talk over your phone while driving.

Although this is a good thing, in a lot of ways it’s also a bad thing. For instance, we rarely think about a building’s foundation when we look at a building. Since we are so accustomed to simply observing the obvious, we also start to shun anything that does not seem normal. We are naturally inclined to take the path of least resistance whenever possible, and if we encounter something that does not fit our acceptable norm we protest, criticize and discard it. You can see it in almost all the commercials where complying to the social norm is implied to be paramount. You are supposed to get that particular shoe because all the special people are doing it. If you don’t buy this product, or eat that food, or have this look, then the special people won’t like you. With subliminal messaging and social pressures, conditioned behavior is more pervasive today and, sadly, even considered as an important skill.

Of course, the advertisers have something to sell and they get paid for making people comply. But what is more disturbing is the form of social compliance that is expected from everyone. We live in a world of tunnel vision where, if one chooses, he or she can happily live within a dream world which caters to their specific needs explicitly. There are outlets for everything including fashion, news, hobbies, education and careers which specifically provide information that perfectly fit one’s desires and preferences that the person can spend their entire adult life without ever knowing the other versions, different perspectives – the proverbial other side of the story. Surrounded by this bubble of self-satisfaction, non-compliance is seen as a threat. With Facebook and other social media, its not only important to comply but it also required to spread the compliance.

Consider this. Charles Darwin, at age 27, was developing his then-unheard-of theory called Evolution and during his research he was reading Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theory about the same topic. Lamarck’s idea was the polar opposite of Darwin’s theory and at this period of time, Lamarck was considered one of the eminent thinkers in the scientific field. Darwin did not say, “well, if this famous guy says so then its probably right“, but interestingly, neither did he say “This is so stupid. I know I am right“. What he scribbled in the page was “If this was true, Adios Theory“. He did not blindly follow what others said and at the same time he did not just focus on his side of the story. He was sure that he was on the right track, but instead of blindly rejecting opposing views, he analyzed other perspectives, and after couple decades of further research published the theory that changed the world forever.

While it is important to have personal convictions it is equally important to challenge them consistently. Make an effort to see things in a different light. Avoid making judgements and consciously see the different views with your mind’s eye. That is the only way to make sure that one is truly different from the herd.

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