In times of political and social upheaval and attacks on commonly-held ways of thinking, it’s easy to hit the panic button and explode into Nostradamus-like predictions of worldly destruction. That kind of thinking does not lead to change, answers, or progress, however. It’s better to take your misunderstanding by the horns and lead it to new places of self-discovery, skepticism, and eventual insights that could help shape the future.
I recently picked up Yuval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” and, like a canary in a coal mine, its loud tweets have been a wake up call to my own way of thinking. The following passage, on which this article will be based, spoke to me in such a way that it’s helping me realize my own internal panic and has inspired me to try to guide it toward someplace different:
“We are still in the nihilist movement of disillusionment and anger, after people have lost faith in the old stories but before they have embraced a new one. So what next? The first step is to tone down the prophecies of doom and switch from panic mode to bewilderment. Panic is a form of hubris. It comes from the smug feeling that one knows exactly where the world is heading: down. Bewilderment is more humble and therefore more clear-sighted. Do you feel like running down the street crying ‘The apocalypse is upon us’? Try telling yourself, ‘No, it’s not that. Truth is, I just don’t understand what’s going on in the world’”