Child blow bubbles image

What makes us human?

It’s our ability to make meaning out of nothing. Our ability to blow lots of bubbles from a single wand of bubble making mixture. Of course, this is both a joy and a curse. Life would seem impossibly dull without it!

It’s a joy when I think about my kids and my heart fills up with love, when I notice the beauty and calmness of nature, when I imagine the adventures of my next holiday. But it’s a curse when I remember a past hurt as if it were still happening now or imagine a future event that conjures up uncomfortable feelings of anxiety. Assigning negative meaning is something that we learn to do, it’s not a natural process. You only have to watch a young child move from happy to sad and back to happy, to see that it’s the moving on that is the natural process. It takes knowledge to make a simple look or an automatic reaction mean something more.

Let me give you an example. My friend owns a spectacular horse, he’s retired but in his day was very successful. This is what I know: I hadn’t ridden a lot in the last 30 years; he’s used to having good riders on his back; they are big animals; it’s a long way to fall; I could hurt myself… (I’ll stop there but I could go on). We were out riding one day and he spooked at something in the hedge, it was a natural reaction. How helpful do you think my knowledge was in this situation? I tensed up and inadvertently assigned layers of negative meaning to it. I didn’t enjoy the rest of the ride because I was anxious.

Unlike the child I didn’t move on. In fact, over the next couple rides I was even more alert to the possibility of it happening again and this completely altered my relationship with riding – eventually I stopped going! I hadn’t seen that I was assigning layers of meaning to the horse’s normal reaction to a surprise.

Take a few moments if you can, to reflect on your own relationships, either with people or things, such as a job, or particular aspects of your life. Are you struggling to move on from something?

It’s really helpful to see that we’re not doing this to ourselves on purpose. Creating meaning is a normal human trait, distinguishing us from other species. It happens because we have the gift of thought; but for the power of thought we wouldn’t be able to create something out of nothing. There is no judgement as to whether this is good or bad. It’s just what we do.

Child-like freedom comes to us all when we see that nothing becomes something only as a result of our thinking about it. It goes back to being nothing as soon as we stop assigning additional meaning to it. Like a child, we are back to feeling happy, sad and happy again. We see that life just is.

As humans we are designed to thrive, to experience the highs and the lows but always to move on. Seeing this opens up the possibility of the space beyond our personal thinking and that is where the magic lies – the untapped potential that lies within us all. We don’t know what we’re capable of; the joy and wisdom that we can bring out into the world when we free ourselves from the trap of our personal thinking – when we see beyond the curse and know that there is joy in abundance.

If you would like to explore this further, why don’t you leave a comment or get in touch.

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