The centre of our own universe

Although we are loath to admit it, we’re inherently self centred.

It’s not just that we’re selfish and that we pursue individual agendas, but that our entire worldview seems to begin and end with our own Ego-centric model of the universe.

We sit at the middle of our own experience and assume that the full extent of everything expands out from ourselves. Everything exists in relation to us. Its position, its meaning, its function.

This viewpoint isn’t necessarily our fault per se, it’s the effect of our culture on our perspective and it’s so deeply hardwired that it’s tough to unwind.

In fact, given how entrenched it is, it’s often tough for us to even recognise that there might be other viewpoints – other modes of function.

A great example of this is how sufferers of schizophrenia from different cultures tend to view auditory hallucinations (voices in their head).

When our individual nature is given absolute primacy, these other voices can’t be interpreted as anything other than an affront. They are invading our sense of self. An assault on our precious ego.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way?

A study of the interpretations of auditory hallucinations experienced by people from different cultures, found that our own society’s view of the self has a huge impact on the experience of hearing voices.

Participants from Ghana and India often reported that the experience of the voices could even be a positive experience because they were representative of their more relational and collective view of the world.

Instead of the voices being an intrusion, there were playful or even divine. In these cases, the voices are a boon, not a curse, because they represent an amplification of what is culturally important, not a challenge to it.

This is a potent example of how our deeply entrenched cultural viewpoint has a huge impact in how we interpret and then respond to an experience. It’s also an illustration of how fundamentally our own view of the world might be biased in ways we can’t even imagine.

In order to solve some of the world-sized problems that we’ve created, we’re going to have to develop some equally large solutions. And by large, I don’t mean scale, I mean that these solutions might fundamentally challenge some of the core beliefs we hold about ourselves, the world and our place in it.

Our view of ourselves, isn’t based on logic built up, brick by brick, from first principles – it’s based on assumptions. And we need to be prepared to challenge some, many or even all of those assumptions if we are to break the bonds which prevent us from looking at the world in rich, new ways.