Thursday, December 15, 2005

What if we forgot the word "problem"?

I have been reading about the brain and language. Babies are born with the ability to distinguish all the phonemes used in human languages. The synapses that correspond to the language they hear in their first six months or so become stronger, and those that correspond to other languages can disappear all together.

What would happen if we all suddenly lost the ability to see or hear the word "problem?" We would not cease to encounter difficulty, but we would have to find another way to express it. The only solutions we would have would be the ones where one substance is dissolved in another.

Think about a particular problem. Now describe it to yourself without using the word "problem" in any of its forms. What difference do you notice when you have to choose different words to characterize the situation. What difference will that difference make as you take action in that situation?

Now switch your perspective. Think about what motivates people to make changes. If you start to say they want to solve problems, reword your thought. Do you know someone who likes to problem-solve? What would that person do if the word problem vanished from the language?

For many of us who celebrate Christmas, preparation is a series of problems to be solved: who will we visit or invite? What will we buy or cook or decorate? How much can we get done in one week? Is it really the desire to solve problems that movitates these activities or is something else at work? Without the word "problem" to provide an easy characterization, how would we describe the multiple, multi-layered activity that moves us through a celebration of Christmas?

1 comment:

Michael Murray said...

I was listening to Wayne Dyer recently, and he told the story of an Indian spiritual guru who was asked about all of the horrible things in the world. The woman who was quesioning him kept making the questions more and more frustrating trying to prove that she was right, while not hearing the answers.

Finally, as a response to the woman who was questioning him so ardently, the guru responded:

"In my world, everything is perfect."

I thought of this story while reading your post - that sometimes, what we think of as problems are simply the universe showing us its perfection in a different way.

I'm not trying to get too "spiritual" or "new age" here - what I am suggesting is that sometimes what we call "problems" are best reframed into something different - an opportunity to be more of who we really are.