“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
A large part of what occurs in our life is the result of what goes in our mind. Therefore it is worth paying attention to our thought processes. Today I am going to talk about the trap of black-and-white thinking that we tend to fall into sometimes. What is it? Why do we do it? How to overcome it?
Life seems much easier to manage if everything is well organized. Things fit nicely in clearly spelled out patterns that leave little space for doubt. However, is this really an efficient way of managing life, or are we fulling ourselves?
As an example relevant to the context of raw foods, suppose that you have been a raw foodist for a while, and experienced some wonderful results. Suppose that you have lost excess weight or got rid of some significant health problems. Suppose that you got amazingly looking skin and are more beautiful than ever. You have been overwhelmed with the results and this led you to believe that this is the optimal human diet. You have learned to believe that those who promote this diet are good people who are helping others, and so you trust them with all your heart. You have created a nice little ‘white’ space inside your mind, which is positive, and warm, and inspiring, which helps you maintain your lifestyle, and grow. So you think.
Now, suppose that one day some information presents itself to you that puts in doubt the belief you created. Perhaps you hear a story by someone who did this diet for some time and ended up sick in hospital. Perhaps you hear that people you trust, may not be as trustworthy as you used to think. Your nice little white area is in jeopardy and you feel the need to protect it. Since this new information does not fit in your reality, you have to create the opposite, the ‘black’ space, where you can safely hide it. Away from your eyes, thoughts and worries. You have to create various excuses in order for this to work too. Such as for example, that the person presenting this new information to you must be lying, must have some bad motives, or must be completely mistaken. You perceive listening to them as threatening to you. Alternatively, the person who ended up sick, must have done something wrong, and so you look for various excuses justifying how that person went wrong, so that you can maintain the status quo. Anything that challenges your white space, must be black. And so like this, step by step, you might create a black-and-white world of beliefs, which does not require too much thought from you, and is easy to manage, while you are busy living your life.
An alternative scenario to the above is that, upon learning the new information, in order for your black-and-white world to make sense, you have to make your formerly white space, black. So you decide that your fruit and veggies diet is bad, anyone who eats it is in some sort of cult, and anyone who promotes it is a bad person, is in it for the money, or is completely mistaken. Then you find yourself another diet, which is the true optimum human diet. Suppose it’s paleo. Then the cycle repeats. You may be on a different diet now, but the colors of your inner world remain that same. Black and white. Has anything really changed?
So, how to overcome this trap? How to see the world in color? And, is it safe to do so?
Let’s have a look at this from the point of view of a modeller. The external world can be seen as an organism with a complexity far beyond the comprehension ability of the human mind. Consequently, any model of it, scientific or internal, can only be a simple, if not crude version of it. The greatest minds, amongst them scientists, philosophers, humanitarians, poets, musicians, artists, have created a range of different models of the reality that in one way or another, describe what we observe. However, even the most sophisticated of those creations, the result of the highest level of perception, are not equivalent to the original. Science, for example, consists of theories and hypotheses, which evolve in time, as we learn and discover more. Doubt, curiosity, and inquiry is an integral part of it. There is no model that explains everything.
Your mind is a modeller. Your choices influence what your mind creates to a considerable extent. These can be driven by how comfortable you feel about exploring the alternatives. Sometimes the fear of the unknown might place a large part in such decisions. What are the alternatives? As a suggestion, consider the following possibilities that exist amongst them, in the context of raw foods:
- Some people might do well on a raw food diet, but some might not, and this may have nothing to do with how well one is following the diet.
- There may be no perfect diet for everyone at all times. There may be a perfect diet for an individual right now. What’s optimal may be a function of many variables that evolve in time.
- The concept of a perfect diet may be flawed and too narrow. There may be no one perfect diet, but a range of mostly positive behaviors all leading to health.
- 7 billion people considerably increasing the consumption of healthy foods may be an output that is nearly 7 billion times better than 100 people being 100% raw foodists in the long term.
I am not asking you to adopt these suggestions as your views. Rather, I am asking you to explore alternatives that extend beyond your current beliefs, and am offering the above as some possibilities. As a window with the view outside your current world, into the area of many different colors, completely safe for you to explore. You can easily add to this list yourself. Try doing this for fun and see where this leads you.
Of course, beyond what’s discussed above, there are other important considerations. In particular, our system of beliefs needs to be in tune with our heart.
This does not have to happen at the cost of denying the reality. You do not have to claim to be 100% certain of everything in order to make choices that keep your heart happy. It’s OK to admit to not know the correct answers sometimes. It’s OK to not divide the world into right and wrong. It’s OK to accept that your beliefs being different from those of another person does not necessarily mean that only one of you must be right. Perhaps you could even see everyone as a different color of the same world?