I hope that it’s okay for me to take a slight break from technology. I was listening to a podcast earlier today that talked about the power of subtraction. The idea was that sometimes our best option is to take something away when we’re having difficulty handling some problem or situation. The specifics of the argument aren’t particularly important here. The point I focused on is that we can make things too complicated to deal with.
I think this is especially true when we can’t see. We have something we want to do or maybe even need to do. We start thinking about it and consider this problem or that issue. It’s probably just human nature for us to start listing all of the things that might go wrong, problems that might come up, reasons why it might be better to just avoid the pitfalls all together. Maybe we will put it off till later or perhaps chock it up to another one of those things we can’t do since we can’t see.
The result is that our can’t do list keeps getting longer and our can-do list gets shorter. It’s easy enough to see where that gets us, how we end up doing less and less, while avoiding new experiences and opportunities more and more. The circle of our world gets smaller or perhaps never expands beyond our comfortable chair and limited living area. Concurrently, we convince ourselves that we actually like it better this way. Well, we don’t actually convince ourselves, but we get pretty good at covering up our depression and disappointment. We believe that it is what it is and unlikely to get better any time soon, if ever.
There is a mental health disorder called agoraphobia that has some similarity to what I’m talking about. It is an extreme condition, but the people get quite anxious and upset with even the idea of leaving home or needing to interact with strangers. The condition is a lot more complicated than that, but the main point here is that they are afraid. That’s the part that applies to us when we keep the circle of our worlds small and safe.
So, what are we afraid of? Actually, it’s a short list. It starts with being afraid that we will get hurt and, if we leave our safe area, we might get lost. It also includes being worried that we will make a mess we can’t clean up or cause other problems that we don’t want to deal with. Add not wanting to be embarrassed over doing or not doing things as most people who can see do them, you have come to the end of the list.
Now we see the formula. We start with a world of options and possibilities. We first subtract most everything where we might get hurt. Next goes any situation where we might get lost, even if only temporarily. Now take away actions or activities that hold the potential for making a mess or causing problems that we either can’t or don’t want to handle by ourselves. Finally, subtract those situations or encounters where we think we might embarrass ourselves and then calculate the remainder, figure out What’s left.
Have you done the math? Sure you have and so have the rest of us who can’t see. The fact of it is that we do the math every day. We calculate the risk of getting hurt or lost. We calculate the odds of making a mess or causing a problem that we can’t or don’t want to handle by ourselves. We assess the likelihood of embarrassing ourselves and debate with ourselves about whether this or that goes on our can-do or can’t-do by ourselves list. Here’s the good news. So long as we are still doing the math, we are still in the game. If we have stopped calculating, it likely means that we have given up. Not seeing wins.
There are a lot of conclusions and inferences one could draw from all of this, but I suspect you have already figured them out for yourself. Pointing out the obvious, we would do well to develop better strategies not to get hurt, better strategies not to get lost and strategies for handling it if we do, better ways to do what we want to do without making a mess or causing unwanted problems, and improved ways of engaging with people and situations in ways less likely to result in embarrassing ourselves. As a bonus, we can also work on developing techniques and methods to do stuff for ourselves that usually require asking someone who can see to help us or do the stuff for us. Or, if math is too hard or just not our thing, we can sit quietly while the circle of our world continues to shrink.
I’m thinking that I should have some pithy close or succinct advice for you, but I don’t. The best I can do is to encourage you to do the math. There is one notion that’s probably worth tacking on here though. The circle of our world either expands or shrinks over time. As much as we might hope that keeping the status quo is an option, it isn’t. It’s expand or shrink. The choice is up to each of us.