Time dulls the senses, the years blur our vision until the only things we notice are the cars that swerve into our lane. We curse the driver for appearing unwelcomed into our consciousness. If we are restrained we let them go and return to the isolation of our podcasts. If the offense is extreme we punch the horn, hit the gas, and embrace the rage as the television in our brain switches channels to an agressive alternate reality.
Next time you are traveling with a child in the back seat, wait until you’re in an exceptionally dull part of the trip and ask the child to what they see. If the child is bright and still in their data-gathering years you will be amazed by what they describe. Contrast your mundane adult view with the adventure playing out in the child’s mind and you realize there are dueling realities, different movies playing on the same screen. For us the world is mostly predictable, but the child’s reality is still expanding. What if you could get back there, recapture the joy you felt when everything was still waiting for you to discover it?
Adults have apparently maxed out our ability to gain new knowledge from observation. Our minds have finished indexing the world and our brains are organized neatly into tightly curated buckets. The only things that capture our attention are the outliers, the too-good-to-be true bargains, the extreme sports, the tabloid headlines, the fake news, the politically incorrect.
Worse, we outsource our reality curation to our devices, trading the heavy lifting of critical thinking to computers that ping us whenever an algorithm detects dopamine-worthy anomolies. We sacrifice write-access to our brains in exchange for a dependable source of neurological stimulation. Am I exaggerating with my zombie metaphor? I don’t think so.
Let’s return to our road rage metaphor, to the moment that jerk cut you off. Is this moment really as exceptional as it seems? The only thing remarkable is the fact that you noticed it at all. For some reason the programming in your brain has created a trigger that fires when certain parameters exist. Morning commute + being passed on the right = oh no you didn’t! It’s a similar pattern with our phones. Boredom + vibration in our pocket = dopamine hit. We put our lives on auto-pilot and let the equations determine our responses. We fool ourselves into thinking we are in control, that our road rage is warranted, that our device addiction is normal. Nothing is ever our fault, we accept our dead-end jobs, we endure abusive relationships, we outsource our pleasure, we persevere fueled entirely by whatever dopamine hits trip our triggers. That’s not good.
Perhaps these neural pathways are too deeply plowed into our brains. It is tempting to accept the inevitable transformation of our minds from flexible young sponges into old leather bags. I prefer to believe that we have complete control over what we allow to have write-access to our minds. We can choose to be the wide-eyed child captivated by the journey or we can decide to be bored commuters begging for someone to swerve into our lane just so we have a reason to feel our pulse.
The secret to regaining write-access to your brain is observation. The more you look, the more you see. It sounds simple but it has the power to alter your reality. It reopens the sealed book of your mind, awakens the child within whose brain hasn’t been completely indexed. You transform from an intolerable know-it-all into someone who changes the world.
Thanks for reading. I write on Saturdays and if this story triggered a dopamine hit, consider following me. Stay creative.