Ways We’re Not ‘At Home’ 1: Seeing and Seeking Only the Outstanding

Sure, we all have places we’re familiar with, life situations we don’t think much about, circumstances in which we feel comfortable.
Even (if not especially) in such familiar circumstances, however, we often remain on the surface, skimming over things like tourists rather than delving deeply and making ourselves at home.

One way this is happening, especially now that we could learn more and go deeply, but are driven to the extreme and superficial, is by only noticing the extraordinary and seeing only the outstanding.

Case in point for the power of the non-familiar sight to excite - and remain superficial: Views from the plane, here over the United Arab Emirates
Case in point for the power of the non-familiar sight to excite – and remain superficial: Views from the plane, here over the United Arab Emirates

It is only natural that we should react to novel things more strongly than to things we are used to.

Adaptation to the familiar keeps us from expending too much energy on that which we already know; novelty-seeking makes us aware of that which has changed and could present a danger or an opportunity.

No animal needs to see every individual tree in a forest anew every day, but the one that has started fruiting or been marked by a potential mate or competitor is interesting. Likewise, we don’t have to notice every single thing around us.

Our problem, however, is that we will often notice only the novel even when it would do us good to see what we have.

We notice the new functional food making great promises but overlook the real food we have always seen but never learned to appreciate and prefer (even as there would still be a hundred new ways we could prepare it).
We notice the new gadget we hadn’t seen before (and don’t have), but overlook the gadgets we have, feel familiar with, but don’t much play around with anymore just because they feel old (even as they would still offer many more functions we never learned to use to their full potential).

Even, and perhaps most obviously, in places we have grown up and lived all our lives, we often notice only those things that obviously change, but never deviate from our habitual routes, never stop to look anew and learn more about these places, and never notice how much we actually don’t know about them.

Ask yourself this:

Do you know all the fruits and vegetables in the market you usually go to? Do you know how to prepare them well?
Where you often go, have you ever taken *this* road rather than that road you usually take?
When was the last time you picked up a book to learn more about the world that surrounds you, or picked up a tool/toy you own and looked at more of its functions or possible uses?


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  2. […] as so often before, I want to praise the return to familiar circumstances that others so love to decry as […]

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