Updated: Jan 15
"I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened." - Mark Twain
Our brains make wonderful tools, but terrible masters. We are inundated on a daily basis by billions and billions of bytes of information, yet the filter responsible for dealing with this information is (evolutionarily speaking) old. Ancestral humans did not have smartphones, Google, social media, rapid transit, international politics, and millions of combinations of social groupings. Our brains evolved in an environment rich in natural stimuli, seasonally and regionally limited resources, and small groups of familiar people.
Albeit, we have adopted some cognitive upgrades along the way to help us cope like complex languages and cultures, writing, photography, and cloud storage, but the truth of the matter remains. We still have so much being thrown at us on a daily basis. The result is a sense of overwhelm--an increased sense of fear and anxiety. It's not the kind of fear of imminent death or injury; rather, it's a kind of background noise that slowly infiltrates our minds. You know the kind. The pointless thoughts that crowd our minds at night and keep us up or distract our attention during the day.
The the near-infinite access to intellectual resources (AKA the Internet) sets the stage for disappointment, fear, and anxiety on a grand scale. The unspoken assumption is that because we have access to all of the answers, it is on us to solve all of our problems. Never before have we valued independence like we do today. And in our obsession with independence we have placed an unprecedented weight on the shoulders of individuals. Enter the age of the self-made man, self-help books galore, and selfie pictures. We have become over-focused on the 'I' and have lost a sense of 'we.'
It is essential to have a sense of agency and autonomy in our lives, but not at the expense of tranquility. Tranquility lies in some element of trust. In faith. In belonging. We often fall into the trap of thinking that if we gain 100% control of our environment then we won't have reason to fear. Yet, history proves again and again that the most tightly controlled governments are the ones that fall, the most rigid of trees are the ones that blow over, and the the most structured minds are the most judgmental. We have control of a few key elements in our lives, but the rest is more or less out of our hands.
Instead of thinking about eliminating all of the fears and worries from our lives (like emptying a bucket), think about watching your fears and worries flow down a stream. The ones you hold so important today are almost always replaced by others later. Try to spot the patterns and act to avoid the major rocks and hazards, but don't delude yourself into thinking that you can ever outrun the river. Instead, pick a river that you enjoy traveling, a crew of raft-mates who can help you, and let the rest take care of itself.