Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Sense of Things

If there's one thing I've learned in my cognition class this semester, it's this:  The human brain is amazing at creating a unified picture of the world when, in fact, there isn't one.

Last week, a friend said I "wasn't very good with ambiguity."  He meant it in jest, and I laughed, then subsequently snapped something sassy back.  "You know what?  Most people are not okay with ambiguity!"

And so it is.  Even with something as simple as perception.  The visuospatial system of the brain does not work like a camera, catching every single thing with one blink of the eye.  We see what we want to see.  Our short-term goals and motivation affect what our eyes perceive.  We cannot attend to everything, and as such, we do not see every object or event in the world around us.  Almost like magic, our minds fill in the blanks and close the gaps.

General cognition is the same way.  The human brain is uncomfortable with unfamiliar things, so it attempts to make sense of events that might not literally make sense.  This is actually a good thing most of the time.  There's a lot of information in the world, and the amount of cognitive load would be too heavy for anyone to get anything normal done, were it not for the brain's capacity to make up stuff.  It also makes us feel good about ourselves or events in life that elicit anxiety.

Take for instance, the recent events in my life.  My apartment was broken into.  I was scared for days.  I had (and still sometimes have) nightmares.  I was sad and angry and worried.  Despite such negative emotions, here's the thing people said most that week, "Well, have there been any silver linings?"  And so I looked for silver linings; I even found a few.  In this context, I found patterns and meaning where perhaps there was none, and yet, it was important for my sanity and happiness that I "saw" them.

I've been thinking lately, about other kinds of meaning we find, in order to deal with incomplete pictures and anxiety.  The idea of soul mates is one.  The idea that God has a specific plan for each of us is another.  The latter one, in particular, seems preposterous, and yet, for the first time in my life, I feel very strongly that He does.  That is, Austin, Texas, is the city I need to be in at this very exact moment in time.  I tend to think that God has flexible plans for us -- more like overarching goals, really -- but I've come to realize that there is the possibility of checkpoints along our individual timelines that God has specific interest in.  For me, Austin is one of those checkpoints.  I'm sure I've said it before, but I think it's worth recording again, if only for myself.

Thing I'm thankful for: a new apartment


Blogger cardlady said...

SARA! YOU ARE SUCH A GREAT WRITER! You are soooo concise and expressive at the same time. I love YOU! Momma
Glad you are getting your spark back. I can tell it in your voice. NEXT! TRIAL!

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Barry said...

The checkpoints idea is exactly how I see it, too! Ha!

1:39 PM  

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