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Acquiring Different Frames

“I think well-read, well-travelled is nothing but acquiring more lenses in life to see things. The word ‘unusual’ starts dying as you travel more, as you read more. You are less shocked. You are less surprised. Because nothing seems unusual. You’ve seen it all, and therefore you have acquired different frames. And therefore, most intolerant people who have neither read nor travelled… don’t know alternate realities… We have to be able to tap into multiple biases that coexist in us by creating all these multiple biases in our head.” — Kunal Shah, on The Knowledge Project

We’re all frame collectors, collecting frames of reference that we use to determine how we act and react in and to the world around us. When our frame of reference bumps into someone with a contrary frame of reference it may create friction, but it ought to create a measure of curiosity as well. Why do they see things differently that we do on this topic? Are they viewing the world through limited frames, or are we missing that particular frame in our collection?

I won’t defend the worst tendencies of humanity, but I can better understand why some people blindly fall into categorizing other people based on politics, religion, race, sex, and on and on. They have limited their frame of reference to something so narrow that they’re compelled to lash out at anything that contradicts that view. This is what makes burning books or dictating what is taught in schools so dangerous—it constricts frames of reference to only what the book burner or policy maker want it to be. Which perpetuates biases and extends the chain of willful ignorance.

And here we all thought we’d transcended our biases.

It’s never been easier to acquire information, and never easier to acquire misinformation. We all must sift through the garbage to find a measure of truth that resonates for us. Shah, in this same podcast, points out that our minds are so fatigued with the information overload that we’re actually more susceptible to following people who state things with conviction. This explains the feverish followers of politicians, Bible-bangers and toxic faux news personalities. If you sip enough of any one flavor of poison, you develop a taste for it and tend to order it again next time you belly up to the information bar. We may be stuck in a world where we have to wade through the bullshit, but we don’t have to consume it.

Our world is full of alternate realities, so why do we keep ordering vanilla? We must deliberately expand our pallet. We must challenge ourselves to read diversely, travel broadly, and listen more intently when others are speaking for a grain of truth we might have missed otherwise. We’re all figuring this sh*t out as we skate through life. We don’t have to listen to those who would have us skate in circles.

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