— on one planet.

Want to visit a strange new world? Talk to a human.

Though largely unaware of this fact, each one of us lives in our own little world. (Wait a minute; I guess that’s pretty obvious these days.) Ours is the world constructed by our brain, our own idiosyncratic representation of reality. We’re as unique on the inside as we are on the outside.

We “live in our heads” most of the time. If you are in a familiar place, you don’t have to look around to know what’s around you. Having an internal representation of the outside world is efficient and adaptive. Our brains do it because, like every other human trait, it helped our distant ancestors survive long enough to reproduce. (Traits that weren’t helpful with this way died out. Yea, natural selection.)

As we learn about the world around us, we learn to identify things by sight, sound, smell, touch, etc. Our brains automatically build mental models of these things. Now we can remember and think about them even when they are not present. We can imagine them.

Over time, we build elaborate maps and models of the whole world this way. Our maps and models may match those that others have internally built, or they may not. Everyone has a unique perspective and learns from their own unique experiences. Two people can look at the same thing and perceive, on deeper levels, quite different things.

The bottom line is, each of us lives in a unique world. There may be large areas of overlap, but there will always be discrepancies.

As social primates, we tend to feel safer when we are following the crowd, but we are each unique, with our own inborn biases and preferences. It is the height of folly to expect everyone else to see things the way we do. Some will, and that’s always reassuring. But to demand agreement from everyone is aggressively authoritarian.

The kindest thing we can do is to accept and tolerate the differences between us.

Embrace your uniqueness and, as long as they are doing no harm, let others embrace theirs.

Here’s what I’d love to know. Which fictional character have you most admired for their bold acceptance of being different? Or for their acceptance of differences in others?