Poppp! Go ahead. Do it. Burst that wonderfully translucent resting place you’ve been sheltering behind for years – the one that makes it so easy to harness all your energy and focus it inward – toward your own home, your own set of friends, your own finances, your own challenges, your own health issues, your own children, your own likes, dislikes and everything in between. Take that unflinching step forward, knowing the elements may smack you around a little, but exposure to them will lead you down the path of a more enriched, exhilarating, meaningful life. A more real life. A more important life. A life that – because you were willing to live it in the most human way with others – will matter long after you draw your last breath.
The Bubble Formation
Whether we always knew it or not, most of us can reflect on life’s nuances and admit that at some time during the course of things, we nestled snuggly inside a comfortable bubble of ignorant bliss because it felt easier than any alternative. Sometimes we are aware of our ignorance (hence euphemisms like “burying your head in the sand”), and sometimes we aren’t as aware, but on the deepest level… we have an instinct to know what’s what. Hard to believe humans will choose to expose themselves to the real storms inherent in life, including others’ storms, even if the journey is – brace for it – uncomfortable? In 1974, the late Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick set out to prove that despite the “bliss” we can experience from ignorance, we instinctively want to experience the reality of things. Nozick conducted a thought experiment called The Experience Machine in which he allowed participants the option of being hooked up to a device that could produce whatever desirable or pleasurable experiences the participant could dream up, including the illusion that those experiences were real. It was explained to participants that while hooked to the experience machine, they would feel the effects of a fulfilled and happy life, the only catch being: None of the experiences would correspond to any external reality. Participants were then asked if they would choose the machine over real life. Overwhelming, people insisted they would not allow themselves to be connected to the experience machine. People insisted on living outside of the blissful bubble offered for the taking. Nozick’s Thought Experience suggests we care about more than just pleasurable experiences; we also want our experiences to be real. I would add to Nozick’s findings: We encounter the most real experiences when we willingly veer off our own, focused path, right into someone else’s.
In “The Truth Hurts,” Doctor of Behavioral Science, Jess Whittlestone, explains, “There are profound truths that seem worth knowing. The things we choose to know – and ignore – sometimes have consequences for people other than ourselves.”
A Step Further: Stand Up Speak Up
As Stand Up Speak Up’s founder, I believe we not only have the instinct to learn and know about things occurring in the world we share; we also have the responsibility to do something with that knowledge. Compassion for those around us is instinctive from an early age, but as we evolve into adults, every day working to perfect the fine art of bubble-reinforcing, we sometimes forget that. My strong pull to burst the bubble of my financially-secure, white, well-loved experience to acutely understand other’s experiences increased profoundly when my son, Zach, was born. An extension of my own instincts to learn, know and help others, I felt a strong desire to raise Zach to be aware that the world doesn’t stop at our doorstep, that there are people living every day without the privileges we enjoy. I also believe you can’t affect much change by simply knowing this. You can know things from within a protective, well-established bubble, after all. You have to insure your knowing with doing. With Standing Up. With Speaking Up. You have to willingly BURST. YOUR. BUBBLE. Once you do, there’s no turning back. (Don’t worry, you won’t want to.)
~ Karla Tolstoy
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