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Putting a label on reality

A huge lunchtime conversation erupted in my house. 

My son was telling me a joke about this kid who asked his Dad who it was who decided five should come after four.

His Dad says it’s God.

A spoiler that I am sometimes, I tell them, but that’s not true, humankind invented the numbering system, even the names of each number.

“So are you saying we could have called the number four or five anything we wanted?” my daughter asks. 

“Of course, absolutely yes,” I tell them to their astonishment.

To be sure, numbers, like language, help us to approximate the reality around us. But often we make the labels that we have given our reality as if they are the THE reality, when they in fact just mere common reference cognitive constructs of our approximate understanding of reality, I tell them.

The problem with this is that our reality is often far more complex and nuanced than the labels we give it, like God for example. What then happens is that we fail to see beyond the confines of the labels we have assigned and we become slaves to the confines of those labels. 

Worse still, our education system has locked us into this perpetual dependence on the labels that gave us understanding of these realities. Sometimes these labels were created by mindsets from centuries ago.

They look at me with bewilderment in their eyes and my son asks, “What are you saying exactly?”

I am saying humankind is in many ways trapped in the cognitive constructs of whoever designed them, and if you never invest time in understanding how anything came to be and the mindsets that were prevalent at the time, you will never transcend the challenges of your time.

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