by Patrick O'Brien


White tea cup


Beware unanimous decisions . . .

We humans often feel threatened by opinions and perspectives that differ from our own. On a rational level this doesn’t make sense — for surely our differences are a useful characteristic in furthering our development as a species.

Please allow my simple analogy to make the point . . .

A crowd of people gather around a tea-cup (just an ordinary, kitchen tea-cup) for the purpose of sharing their perspectives and points-of-view:

Those on the sides will describe our tea-cup as being a solid U shaped object — and will be laughed at immediately by those from above who see a hollow O shaped object. People underneath will call them all idiots because, obviously, from where they sit, the cup is a flat o shaped disc.

There will also be disagreement amongst those who might other wise share a similar perspective. People on the sides will argue about the handle, for example. Viewed from one side, the handle extends to the left, while for those with the opposite perspective, the handle extends to the right. Others will say (duh!) that the handle protrudes from the front — while their opposites are convinced that everyone must be hallucinating for there is no handle to be seen.

Obviously, everyone’s perspective is valid … though incomplete and not the full “truth”. Were we to stop arguing and actually listen to what others are saying (their perspective) everyone’s understanding of the cup would be enriched.

But, it gets worse:

As social animals, we tend to gather with (or “friend” or “circle”) only those who share and reinforce our own opinions or points-of-view, to the effect that our tea-cup, for example, may well be perceived as being nothing more than a flat, solid object without a handle. It must be — “we all agree”.