Nearly 2,000 years ago, in an extraordinary feat of scientific exploration, Claudius Ptolemy developed a geo-centric notion of the universe that accounted for the motion of stars and planets in the skies, while placing EARTH firmly at the center of it all.
He was, of course, colossally wrong, but it took another 1,400 years before Nicolaus Copernicus demonstrated conclusively just how wrong.
The history is well-known, but may offer lessons for our polarized times.
The center of every individual’s universe is themselves – a kind of homo-centric parallel to Ptolemy and Copernicus. People naturally view the world as revolving around them. The only perspective they physically own is their own, centered in self and watching the rest of humanity revolve around them.
But even Copernicus didn’t get it quite right. It took the likes of Einstein to reveal that, universe-wise, everything is in constant motion, with every asteroid, planet, star and galaxy tugging on its galactic neighbors near and far, a galactic ballet operating on a scale that defies human understanding.
That, it turns out, is an apt model for considering human relationships. The primary human instincts – reproduction and survival, competition and greed – led us to gather into tribes, primarily because building communities offered the best chance of both sex and survival, while providing vast opportunities to exercise our less-desirable traits.
Just as the planets depend for their survival on the motions of other objects, humans depend for their survival on the actions of others. As we coalesce into like-minded tribes, we are unknowingly disturbing the delicate balance that keeps the world afloat!
The challenge then, is to figure out realistic ways to encourage more individual people to find and use their instincts of sex, love and friendship to balance their instincts of greedy competition?
First, see ‘new’ people as windows into exciting new opportunities that can enhance positive instincts and needs.
Second, try to see competitors as potential partners and enhancers.
Third, belonging to diverse groups often open eyes and ideas for more opportunities.
Finally, remember that, in the whole great continuing human experiment, we really, truly need each other.
Can you imagine 7 billion people pulling together on the oars of Earth to find our way to the nearest planet?
I want to be on that boat!
It cannot be far away.