Seven Billion Universes
A very short note on diversity of thought
This newsletter features weekly musings about life, career, identity, and behaviour by a questioning African centennial. To get it in your inbox every week, subscribe here:
This week, I did the same thing that millions of people all over the world did. I watched Oprah’s interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
I watched it from the comfort of my living room couch with my flatmate. While watching it, we used the many advert breaks to discuss our opinions on each segment of the interview. It was interesting to see how even though we agreed on most key topics, we still disagreed on a few that I felt we shouldn’t.
Later that evening, I opened my Twitter to see what others were saying about the interview. As expected, I saw even more arguments based on many different perspectives, some of which I hadn’t even considered.
After a while on Twitter, I lost count of how many times I went: “What the f$#k is this rubbish?” after seeing an argument that, plainly, made no sense.
Taking a break to share the funniest tweet I came across ⬇️
Here’s the clip being referenced:
Back to what we were talking about.
Later that night, naturally, I journaled about divergence of thought and why people seemed to think differently about the exact same scenario. I was wondering why it’s so difficult for people to find consensus on ‘basic’ things.
Specific to Oprah’s interview, I was wondering why anyone would think the concerns about the colour of Meghan’s baby was okay, why anyone would devalue the importance of the issues Meghan raised about her mental health, or why anyone would argue for Harry to have sided with the royal family because “family before everything and everyone.” I had more questions about why there wasn’t a consensus disdain for such harmful perspectives.
I appreciate diversity of thought. It enriches conversations and sheds light on different angles in a conversation. But whenever I meet someone with whom I disagree on something that I consider to be a basic thing that deserves consensus, I’m never not shocked. But while journalling this week, I took a step towards understanding why that difference in perspective exists in the first place.
While journaling, I learn that, in reality, we’re each a universe coexisting amongst seven billion other universes, all within the larger universe. Within our unique individual universe lies a unique set of attributes that shapes what we believe, how we think, and how we act.
That unique set of attributes comprises our:
Experiences: the things we’ve lived through inform how we interpret events
Communities: our cultures and the people around us shape our beliefs
Priorities: we tend to project the things we consider important to others
The person who argued that it was okay for the royal family to question the colour of Meghan’s baby may have grown up in an elitist white family where ‘blackness’ was considered a handicap and a literal smear to their bloodline 🥴
The person who devalued Meghan’s statements about having had her mental health suffer during her time as an active member of the royal family may have grown up in a community where mental health was a laughable topic at best.
The person who argued that Harry should’ve stuck through it with his family despite his wife's struggles may be someone who saw one’s first family as more important and more permanent than the one they build with their spouse.
Do I agree with any of those thoughts? Definitely not. But I believe that one can thoroughly understand the root of a thought (aka. the attributes that formed that thought) without agreeing with either the thought or its underlying attributes.
Within each of these attributes are even more sub-attributes that further differentiate us based on how we think. When you consider the different permutations of the many attributes, sub-attributes, and their arrangements relative to one another, you’ll start to see how no two people can think exactly the same way about everything.
Some underlying difference in the experiences we’ve lived through, the communities we’re part of, or the things we prioritise will surely make us disagree on certain things.
For example, even if you and I believe that capitalism is f$#ked, we may diverge on why we believe that. But even if we don’t disagree on the why, we’re very likely to diverge on the different things we considered to form our ‘why’.
Either way, at some point, every consensus dissolves into divergent arguments. Understanding this, in addition to the fact that we are seven billion universes at the end of the day, has given me the mental toolkit to better understand why people disagree on things that are so-called ‘basic’.
Using this to improve how we think
In the same vein, this breakdown has also given me a method to improve the quality of my thoughts; and yours too.
Realising that what we think is greatly shaped by our experiences, our communities, and our priorities allows us to be intentional about designing a unique universe that improves our thinking.
To improve our experiences, we can control the quality of activities we engage in and the content we consume. In my case, a big part of that is being intentional about the kinds of books I read, as these form the foundations of my thoughts and ideas. That’s my 80/20. You’ll have to figure out what yours is.
To improve our communities, we can control the kinds of people we surround ourselves with and make sure that we’re avoiding echo chambers at all costs. In my case, a big part of that involves being more careful about who I bring into my circle because the quality of their own thoughts will either improve or soil mine.
To improve our priorities, we must simply reflect on them often and make sure that we’re prioritising the right things. In my case, a big part of that is journalling to examine my thoughts, why I think those thoughts, and revise those underlying attributes where necessary.
When we improve our experiences, our communities, and our priorities, we set ourselves up to improve the overall quality of our thoughts. That is the main lesson in this week’s piece.
Currently reading 📖
The Three-Body Problem Part 1– Cixin Liu (still reading)
A song I’ve been playing on repeat this week 🎶
Stone – Alessia Cara
An article that got me thinking 📜
The 4 Stages of Dating a Narcissist – Allison Crady