Assembling reality is mostly patchwork (from Anna Hepler’s exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art)

More on the theme of being right and the cost of that fixation (referenced earlier in this post):

An article appeared in the Sunday New York Times Book review last week that speaks to our proclivity to put blinders on as we parse reality into understandable chunks. An essay, Fight ‘The Power’, written by two academic psychologists, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, uses scientific data to defame and dismantle concepts popularized by books like The Secret and The Power, both by Rhonda Byrne. Chabris and Simons do an essay-length deconstruction of what is wrong with Bryne’s books and with the others that promulgate the unscientific idea that a “power of attraction” is operating in all our interactions.

I’m not a rabid “Secret” advocate, and a scientific parsing of all things has its value. But too much of a good thing does have a price. Reading this essay was a reminder that any scientific approach to human consciousness eventually flattens us to little more than a complex set of biochemical interactions. In that particular laboratory of life, there is no category for what happens in my studio when 6 hours pass and it feels like 20 minutes, no explanation for where ideas come from that appear out of nowhere, no model to explain why I sometimes can feel what is happening with my kids when they are thousands of miles away, no framework to explain the attraction I still have for my partner Dave after 30 years.

We are so quick to get to the either/or when the both/and could and should be a better approach. Arguing “against” science these days aligns you with the crazies (of which we have way too many in the country right now.) But instrumentation has its limits. To define a world view based solely on what we can measure will seem absurd in 50 years. Is it possible to be a self respecting, thoughtful citizen of the planet and embrace the notion that our understanding is incomplete? Is it possible to create a Western version of that satisfying Zen notion of the “don’t know mind”?

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