MJ: Not too long ago there were several people standing around a bridge. And near that bridge was a large cargo truck they noticed that looked very suspicious to them. It looked suspicious because it had been parked there for some time. The windows were covered, the trailer was covered, it was quite conspicuous in its presence, but one could not tell much about it.
The people who gathered around the bridge began to speculate about the truck. They began to speculate about what cargo it might hold. And whether or not that cargo might be dangerous to them. They talked about the origins of the truck and who could have placed it there—who intended to do harm to them.
And so the speculations increased about who might have placed the truck there and may have put the hazardous cargo there intending to harm everyone. And before you know it the small crowd had grown.
They had enlisted others to their cause about this hazardous cargo truck they saw parked near the bridge; convinced the truck was there to blow up the bridge and to harm them and to prevent them from leaving their city. This speculation grew and grew until the crowd had grown so immense it surrounded the truck and demanded to know who was inside and what was inside and to dismantle this hazard immediately. As they approached the truck and tried to peer through the windows, through any opening to try to see the cargo, they could see nothing. This remained a mystery—what was in the truck and who put it there?
It wasn’t before too long that a car made its way through the crowd very slowly to the truck. Exiting the car was a tall gentleman around 6 ft. 5 in., slender, dressed impeccably in a Western style dress suit. He walked up to the truck, raised his hand and asked the inhabitants of the truck to step out. He couldn’t see a face, the window was blacked out, yet opaque enough to see movement inside the truck. Slowly the door opened and out of the truck stepped the driver, a short portly man, a full foot shorter, looking quite frightened and scared. Sheepishly he climbed down from the truck cab and stood facing the tall gentleman with hands raised.
The gentleman asked him, “These people are concerned about you and your truck and its contents and about what harm you intend to do.” The driver was quite surprised and also one could see it expressed in his face. He was quite relieved because he knew the cargo of his truck was not intended to do harm. It contained supplies for the people of the city. It was donated supplies the people needed. He was bringing it, but stopped before crossing the bridge because he needed to rest. He’d been driving all day and all night and was tired.
He wanted to enjoy delivering the supplies to the people of the city when he was fully awake; so he decided to rest before he crossed the bridge.
Learning of this the people dispersed and returned to the city and he drove the truck across and delivered the supplies. Everyone in the city rejoiced at this good news.
So, what do you make of this? What do you make of the story and the people involved in the story?
TM: I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m curious about who the tall gentleman was with his hands raised and why it was significant to the story. He broke the escalation of fear and anger of the crowd because he resolved the curiosity driving their speculation.
MJ: Yes, this is what happened. The tall gentleman who raised his hand to stop the crowd from speculating on the truck representing the danger and threat. He decided to take their curiosity and explore it. What is the truck, what is it for? And rather than presuming danger to ask, he ventured to ask. It was that simple to resolve by asking.
It was that simple to stop the speculation, stop the suspicions, stop the escalation of fear, to produce ideas and thoughts about the threats.
He was no one special. He wasn’t an official. He was just a person who interjected exploration, questioning and understanding in the place of ignorant speculation.
TM: Do you think we’re in a place where we are very quick to draw conclusions about things in the events we see; that we draw conclusions based on our fears?
MJ: If you look at all of the events unfolding in the world right now, most of them are local or regional conflicts, with very specific causes and with very specific aggravations within the local cultures and local populations. How much of that can be understood on the world stage?
How much of those local customs and those local histories of conflict are known to you, and can be known by the vast majority of the world population to form an opinion on these things?
TM: Unless one is willing to study vigorously the facts and reports regularly, I don’t know how one could possibly keep up. So, you have to have a trusted source tell you. But, I’m not so sure I can keep up with all of it with enough knowledge to form an opinion. How important is it for us to have an opinion about all the conflicts?
MJ: It’s not important to have an opinion on the specifics of these conflicts. But you can see the patterns. It’s important to see the patterns. That’s what you are looking for. Not the nuance of subjective facts to do with a particular situation. But the patterns that emerge from all of them. And which of those patterns are similar? And are the causes of those patterns similar?
TM: Well, are they? What patterns do you see?
MJ: I see the same patterns that you do. I see the same patterns that nearly everyone sees; the ones they are unwilling to stop. Everyone sees the problem, but no one wants to make the changes that it takes to stop. And therein lies the bigger problem. The perpetuation of the problems that exist will continue until the ability to stop is achieved. And people everywhere can look at their behavior and look at the way they think about things and can say the way that I think about this, the way that I believe in this is that helping me? Is that helping the situation?
The truth that may come from that understanding may arouse suspicion that you came about it without as much effort as you needed to apply. And so you study the facts even more to reach that understanding. You’re not willing to jump to conclusions that have scant evidence. You’re not willing to overlook certain things that would be clues that might be otherwise too horrible to consider.
Conveniently we look at these situations and we bend the truth to the thing we can most accept, or to the thing we can be most horrified we can reject. Often the truth lies between those two points.
TM: I’m not sure what you mean by the truth lies somewhere between these two points.
MJ: I mean that humans at this time are feeling narrow in their choices. They must choose sides because of uncertainty. The choosing of a side feels like resolution to the anxiety present in uncertainty—it resolves the tension between the opposites. It feels like choosing is being decisive. It’s committing oneself to a certain belief, certain agreement of facts and truth. And gives that feeling. It restores certainty, because now one is certain what one believes, one can be certain in a situation, and one can conclude and put it aside.
TM: So, you’re saying that the polarity of differences is extreme enough that it creates the tension where we feel obliged to resolve that tension and so we just change the view of the situation, the truth of it in order to make that fit for us?
MJ: I’m saying that it distorts perception, that the bias creates distortion.
TG: But isn’t that true for most things? Isn’t it true that our distorted view of things our missing facts, our misunderstandings, our describing and speculating on the intent of others has always rendered us more ignorant even though we feel more informed?
MJ: Yes, that is true.
But it doesn’t stop people from doing it. If it did, everything would be okay and we wouldn’t need this discussion. But it is true that all you just described is what happens. It introduces a false narrative that people then commit their beliefs to.