What You See

Time for a little speculative extrapolation:

In the excellent book by Nobel-laureate Daniel Kahnemann Thinking Fast and Slow, he talks about a phenomenon he has coined as WYSIATI: What You See Is All There Is:

This theory states that when the mind makes decisions, it deals primarily withKnown Knowns, phenomena it has already observed. It rarely considers Known Unknowns, phenomena that it knows to be relevant but about which it has no information. Finally it appears oblivious to the possibility of Unknown Unknowns, unknown phenomena of unknown relevance.

…which makes me think that Donald Rumsfeld probably has read this book, too.

In my work within the performing arts, I’ve noticed this particular tendency in the way that artists treat other disciplines. I’ve seen people who are experts in their particular discipline try a new technique and, when it fails, determine that the fault lies with the other technique. It’s kind of a “What You Dance Is All There Is” attitude (WYDIATI). Much like the WYSIATI mindset, it’s rather counterproductive to growth. Unfortunately, as Kahnemann explains, it’s pretty much endemic to human nature, and so there’s really not a way to get around it.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Here’s where my mind starts extrapolating: if we are only able to conceive of the “known knowns” and “known unknowns” at best, it follows that the things that we love fall into those categories. In fact, it could be stated as a new acronym:

WYLIAYS: What You Love Is All You See.

And I’m using the word “see” in a general sense, synonymous with “percieve.” That includes what you think about, what you read, watch, dream, or focus on. You can only love those things. In some cases that could apply to whole people – but in reality, we can’t usually say that we “love” everything about a person. In fact, we probably love a very specific subset of characteristics, are ambivalent about a somewhat smaller set, and really can barely tolerate a minimal number of them – and that ratio results in the thought of I love them.

Here’s the key that I think becomes significant: if we only love what we see, then if we want to love better, we need to see more.

I’m not sure that that looks like for you. Maybe it’s exploring your hobby more deeply, or opening yourself up to other opinions about your country. Maybe it’s watching your kids a little more deeply to find that one little action that reminds you of them as a sleeping infant, or gives you a glimpse of the potential they can become. Maybe it’s just looking at your car in the sunlight.

I don’t know. But I invite you, this weekend as Spring approaches, to try looking just a little more, and see if the love grows.


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