In a post earlier this week, I mentioned how people are great at comparing two things and making a judgement, but bad at evaluating a single thing in a vacuum.
The reality is, it’s not just that humans are bad at that. It’s that there is no objective value of a thing. It’s either better or worse than something else, that’s it.
Imagine you caught a fish, and you’d never seen a fish like it before in your life. It was totally new to you; you have zero information about it other than the fact that it came up on your line. You decide to call it a “Todayfish,” because that’s when you discovered it. Your fishing buddy asks you, “Well, is it a good todayfish? A bad one? Is it big or small for a todayfish? Is it a real beauty of a todayfish, a prime example of all that is todayfish-ness, or is it a sorry excuse for a todayfish?”
How would you know? You don’t have any idea. So instead of pondering these questions, you just take it back and fry it up. It’s delicious; you have a very enjoyable meal.
Now just as you’re finishing up, some stranger walks by who just happens to be an absolute expert on Todayfish. They’re actually called “Speckled Purple Strait-Leapers” and the one you caught was a disgusting example, according to this stranger. Most Strait-Leapers are way, way better and you should have thrown yours back.
Would this bother you? For some people, it would. For some people, the knowledge that what they just ate was a low-quality example and much better versions exist would actually retroactively reduce their enjoyment of the delicious meal they just devoured. For a wise person, however, they’d just shrug and say, “well, it was delicious to me.”
Today, my oldest daughter graduated from the “kids” karate class into the lowest tier of the full adult classes. She’s been taking her lessons via Zoom, creating her own training studio right in our living room while video calling with her instructor. A masked and gloved (and proud!) Master handed over her brand new (and heavily disinfected) belt. This wasn’t weird to my kid; she was just proud.
Instead of a summer water park, all three of my kids spent the afternoon in the back yard, playing with sprinklers and other garden hose attachments to take advantage of the beautiful warm weather. The lack of a better option didn’t bother them, because they don’t really know about them. They just enjoyed their day.
Humans have an absolutely amazing ability to adapt to their surroundings and environment, rolling with whatever punches and changes are thrown their way. But that’s not their best feature. The best feature is that once they’ve rolled with the punches, once they’ve looked around at the new circumstances, humans are absolutely amazing at being able to just say “Okay, this is the thing now. Let’s play.” Even the most cynical of us rarely dwell for long; we build new sandcastles as the old ones wash away.
It couldn’t be better.