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Friday, January 17, 2014

Our greatest weakness, or our greatest strength?

A fatal flaw of the human condition is our need to attribute meaning to things where there is none.

Every human experience, every interaction between us and our surroundings is nothing more than our brains processing electrical signals. Our sensory organs react to certain stimuli creating an electrical cache of information. This information is sent to the brain where it is then processed and reconstructed into a form the mind can comprehend. But this is not reality. It is only a hologram projected in our minds to convert information into a form that we can understand. Our wrinkly old brains are literally built to ascribe meaning to experience. So it goes to follow that this concept, as far as we know, is a singularly human trait. (Not because we are special or higher beings than other animals. But because of control levels, but that's another story.)

Things aren't "good" or "bad," they simply are. It is human beings who skew things to comfort and reassure themselves. Even our scientists, our so called "unbiased" observers, do this. (And shut up, you! I'm not about to bring up the Observer Effect or Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle so SHUT IT, SMARTASS!) Just because we share a common denominator with the distant cosmos does not mean we are the universe and the universe is us. It just means we are made from the same base materials; super-abundant, highly compatible materials. My favorite example of this is the popular space fact that's been circulating for some time. It is the one that states that the center of our galaxy smells like raspberries and a bit of rum, which are pleasant things. They say this because a gaseous cloud at the center of the Milky Way contains some of the largest, most complex chemicals in known space. (excluding Earth, of course.) One of the most complex/ most abundant chemicals found in this gaseous cloud goes by the name of ethyl formate. Ethyl formate is the chemical largely responsible for the taste of raspberries and the smell of rum.

I did not say they were lying about that. It's true, but only true in the sense that it's true you were late meeting up with your girlfriend or boyfriend because you overslept. Nevermind the fact that you overslept because you were having wild sex the previous night with a cute stranger. Ethyl formate definitely is found in raspberries and rum, but it's also found in grass, wheat, roasted filberts, grapes, blue cheese, barley, lemons, and my all time favorite, cow shit. Yes, a lot of that wonderful smell of cow shit is due to our lovely little C3H6O2. But nobody wants to hear that our galactic center smells like dung, so they leave that part out, not to mention it is highly flammable and damaging to our central nervous system.

As human beings we manipulate information to ease our egos and maintain minimal use of brain function. It's what we're made for. Whether you call it optimism, faith, stupidity, ignorance, or cognitive dissonance, you're still saying the same thing. We don't like to think too much. We don't like to be upset. We don't like to be wrong. And most of all, we want to be happy. But at what price?

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