“What If” is one of my favourite games of the imagination, and gives plenty of food for thought, so I hope you enjoy this as an exercise in enhancing your creative skills – and possibly even changing the way you see the world.
You might be aware that for some time I have been fascinated by the nature of reality. I wrote this blog post on Courage and Truth while I was teaching at Yale last year. And my favourite books of 2017 also threw up several volumes on the subject. The long and short of it is, I’m not at all sure that what our dominant western culture tells us is real is really as real as it pretends to be. (My friend Ellen Leanse writes compellingly on this subject over at Medium.com – check out this one on The Myth We Build Together.)
So if reality isn’t real, then what is?
Well, I’m not going to tell you. Even if I claimed to know (which I don’t, although I feel I’m getting closer), that would defeat the point of the game, which is to pretend to yourself for a few days that things are not as you have been told. So you ask yourself, “What if this belief were not true?” or “What if this were so?”
And decide for yourself if the alternative makes you feel happier, worse, or about the same.
To keep this manageable, I’d recommend you pick one “fact” – or let’s call it a “belief” – at a time. Else you may completely lose your bearings, and/or your head may explode.
Here are some beliefs you might want to play with – or at least these examples will help get the ball rolling as you come up with your own ideas… And please remember, this is just a thought experiment. These questions are intended to get you thinking more flexibly and curiously. It’s meant to be fun, not cause existential angst!
What if every person in your life was conjured up by you to help you learn the things you need to learn?
What if everybody really did/is doing their best (even if it’s not very good)?
What if nobody is judging you half as much as you think they’re judging you?
What if everything really does happen for a reason?
What if you allowed yourself to get bored, rather than checking your phone 100 times a day?
What if you didn’t compare yourself with other people all the time – your salary, your looks, your weight, your clothes – and just concentrated on being you?
What if money actually doesn’t make the world go round?
What if that self-limiting belief isn’t true?
What if you really do create your own reality?
What if everything is exactly as it is supposed to be?
What if you are divinely blessed?
What if you are, in fact, divine?
I hope you enjoy giving this a try. Maybe you’ll find some new beliefs that work a lot better for you than the ones you used to hold. My philosophy is: so long as my belief system doesn’t impinge on anybody else’s liberty to believe what they want, we are free to choose the beliefs that work best for us. I used to play this game on the boat – all alone in the middle of an ocean, I had a lot of freedom to try out “what ifs”, and found that some ways of looking at the world, and my role in it, definitely worked better than others.
Having a wonderful time in Mexico City. Last night I spoke at a very enjoyable gathering of the Young Presidents Organisation and their families. Many thanks to Gabriela, Arturo, Gabriel, and all the other people who helped make it happen and made the evening itself so much fun.
Howard and I have also had the chance to explore San Miguel de Allende, the pyramids at Teotihuacan, the Museum of Anthropology, and this weekend I’m off to Tepoztlan.