Difference Makes the World Go Round January 10, 2012

What’s different about you?

Like everyone, I am far more alike everyone else, than I am different, and I probably have a few more differences than are normal.

Some of them are quite interesting in their development, how relatively small difference can lead to differences in choice and circumstance, and have quite profound consequences for subsequent development of more classes of difference.
One for me was being tongue tied – a small flap of skin under my tongue that prevented me from make and “r” sound, or whistling, and other similar things that can seem very important to small children.
Another was having a dad who changed jobs a lot, so we moved from place to place a lot, making me the new kid, at the bottom of the pecking order.
Another was being very small for my age, until about 17, when I grew from 5’2″ to 6’2″ in just over a year.

My choice, to escape the bullying and harassment, was to read books. All sorts of books. And to observe nature.

At home I was encouraged to question, and to try things for myself. That inevitably meant making a lot of mistakes. I learned to clean up after the messes made by the mistakes and move on. To try different approaches, and to never give up.

I can see now how those early experiences, many of them very unpleasant, have given me a depth of empathy and understanding that few others share.
My love of science and of systems has given me understanding of what is happening below the surface phenomena we see that few share, and that understanding goes across all the sciences and philosophy, and stretches into many of the arts.

I now understand how brains form the connections that give us the understandings we have of the things we know, and how those understandings arise from the exposure we have to masses of experience (be that experience of action, or of perception, or of contemplation, or of abstract thought). The brain learns from what it experiences. Jeff Hawkins has done some amazing work on learning systems within our brains.

All this lets me see how I am different, and at the same time, shows me that we are all different in exactly similar ways. We are all exposed to roughly the same number of experiences in our lives, and we each have brains that learn as a result. Each of the differences in experiences leads to differences in brains, some subtle, some profound.

I now understand how Ailsa can see and feel music, as a result of playing the piano for about 5hours a day for 45 years. I know how it works, yet I cannot do it, because I haven’t played the piano for that long (or even a tiny fraction of it).
I now understand how some people experience their emotional understanding of others as colours – they really do see auras, even though there are no photons there to see, that part of their brain that normally deals with vision has been coopted to process emotions, so for them, they really do see auras, even though there is nothing physically present.

This leads on to the very interesting area of what we as individuals experience, as against what is actually outside of us, and to understanding the fact that none of us have direct access to reality. For all of us, our experience is not of reality, but of a model of reality that our brains generate for us. That model is initially built in a certain cultural context, and however much we question and reconstruct our models in later life, they always retain a certain “flavour” of the culture into which we were born.

So it is a world of difference on many different levels.

Viva la difference!

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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