Living in a banana peel world

We study, analyze, organize, strategize, plan, anticipate, and calculate probabilities, but life constantly upends us. We enlist computers, algorithms, software programs, collected metrics, trend-spotting, forecast modeling and plain old intuition, yet fail to accurately predict much more than tomorrow’s weather. Despite insight, hindsight, or foresight things happen we never expect.

From the smallest scale to the biggest, micro to macro, complexity dictates that our ability to influence outcomes is deficient. Nonetheless, we continue to behave under the delusion that if we just “do things right” predictable outcomes will result. From time to time this is true enough that the delusion continues.

What we call “accidents” appear to us that way because of the ignorance of our perspective. Traveling at a safe speed towards an intersection, attention focused on driving carefully, we have no inkling that a drunken driver is also approaching the intersection at an unsafe speed. With a video camera positioned above the intersection and the computerized ability to calculate trajectory, speed, and braking distance, the impending “accident” is entirely predictable. Yet even the most powerful computer cannot monitor all and everything occurring at once. Thus life seems to be a series of banana peel moments, upending our expectations and shocking us completely.

At larger scale, the banana peel world manifests as stock market collapse, burst real estate bubbles, bank failures and events that lead to war. With hindsight the factors contributing to such events become clear, but our unavoidable ignorance usually blocks advance understanding.

From quantum to cosmic levels, reality manifests chaos and entropy, within which occasional patterns of stability emerge. Chaos and entropy, like stability, are themselves a human concept; we invent such names to explain why things happen in our attempt to rationalize and control a wordless reality. Despite such efforts, banana peels keep appearing and we keep right on slipping. Aggressively attempting to control events – how things happen and how people think or feel – actually contributes to chaos. If we are convinced we are right and attempt to impose our certainty on others, it’s their world that is upended, and we become the banana peel. In a banana peel world we are either slippor or slippee.

The illusion of control is seductive because it meets the needs of our emotional attachments. The shock we feel at banana peel moments is the shock of pure awareness, the sudden realization that we have completely missed something. Our minds go blank, and in that instant we simultaneously witness our ignorance and wisdom.

Of course, we are always missing many things. Attachment habituates and conditions us to see what we want to see, and this is the trick behind a magician’s sleight of hand; so accustomed are we to looking for what we expect that when something we do not expect happens, we miss it.

The banana peel can be as simple as shocking words or gestures made by others. The shock points to our desire for predictable outcomes. Emotions emerge when outcomes do not match expectations; we call this emotional dissonance comedy or tragedy and find it very entertaining.

And here’s a fascinating truth: cultivating openness and acceptance – abandoning habitual fixation and attachment to outcomes – dissolves the banana peel world. With acceptance, resting in oceanic information and living fully in each moment, we can experience infinite freedom.

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