I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that a week last Saturday the family and I stopped at couple of WWI sites on the way from Calais to Paris.
The first we stopped at was a place called Vimy Ridge.
The location of the WWI Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Which, coincidentally, began 105 years ago to the day before we were there.
They were setting up for some sort of service for later in the day just in front of the monument.
Watching (and hearing) a singer sound test singing the French National Anthem on the empty stage was a pretty powerful moment.
Amongst other things on the site that were of interest was a recreation of the trenches that had been used in that battle.
The reconstruction had only been made a few years after the war in the still existing location of the trenches.
So, other than the “sand bags” being made from concrete and the green grass instead of mud, it was exactly like it would’ve been on that day.
I’d read that the trenches at one point were as close as 25m apart.
Now, I know what 25m looks like.
But peeking over the top of one trench at my kids in the other 25m away was quite startling.
As was the size of some of the craters in the land that had been made by explosives.
Really made you think.
“If having to stay at home a lot and lose some money is the worst thing that happens to us in our lifetime, that’s not too bad, is it?” I said to the kids.
“Better than having being bayoneted to death in some muddy field thousands of miles from home and your body never identified.”
I’ve written several times about how we need an “antidote” to the prevailing narrative that we’re often presented with.
That “things are getting worse”.
That “the world’s going to pot” (or “the dogs”).
Because, let’s be honest, the average quality of life nowadays is unrecognisable from what our grandparents would’ve experienced.
I said several times during the Lockdowns that “If my Grandpa heard me whinging about having to stay at home a lot, I dread to think what he’d have thought of me”.
Which leads me to the “Blue dot experiment”.
Where people are shown hundreds of dots in shades ranging from deep purple to deep blue and asked to class which are blue.
The most interesting thing this experiment shows is that, the fewer deep blue dots are shown, the more likely someone is to identify the deep purple ones as being blue.
The amount of the different things that we’re comparing is the key.
A situation which can be termed “prevalence-induced concept change”.
Our definition of things change when the average of what we experience changes.
When we ask people to classify pictures of faces as “threatening” or “non-threatening”…….
And ask another group but with the more threatening looking ones removed………..
The second group is likely class the aces that the first group considered as natural to be threatening.
And the exact same with classifying people as tall or short, thin or fat or attractive or unattractive.
Today’s definitions of “violence”, “poverty”, “abuse”, “trauma”, “ethical” and countless other words can be very different to our Grandparents’ (and that can be a good thing).
Today’s “bad day”s would’ve been great days at some points in history or for different people around today.
The take home from this is that the way interpret life and classify our experiences is largely subjective.
And much of what we’re exposed to causes us to judge those experiences as less good than we could interpret them.
The news, social media and what other people say.
If our comparison of our lives is to everyone we know’s carefully curated social media highlights, then we’re bound to feel less good about our lot.
We can change how we experience life and it’s experiences by changing what we allow to be inputted into our brains.
Who and what we listen to.
And by challenging some of the commonly accepted narratives that we might hear and accept.
In the vast majority of ways, the world has never been better.
Many of our problems nowadays would’ve barely registered 100 years ago.
It’s human nature that, no matter how good our lives are, to be dissatisfied with the bits that aren’t where we’d like them to be.
Worth remembering to put our experiences in context (because no one else will do that for us).
Jon ‘William Kennedy Smith’ Hall
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