The Trap of Comparative Thought



The world is what I like to call "The Land of Opposites". There are things, people and places, individual of each other, yet there is always some distinction made between them. Everything has an opposite, and there are opposites because we attribute opposites. Definitions are outlined by qualifying and disqualifying things into some category of being. Humanity sees things relative to other things - by qualifying or disqualifying by measuring difference.

Comparative thought is unique because it is distinctly human. Perhaps it is the basis of critical thinking, great literature and art, science and research, and so on. At the very least it is critical in human experience and how we interact with the world and others. However comparative thought has developed so much that it has the ability to seriously cripple the psyche and is the root of discontent and unhappiness.

Capitalist agendas are part of our psychological makeup. We are trained to think about difference - better versus worse - more than ever. Brands, companies, houses, cars, families, friends and significant others seem to be compared on a daily basis; the competition of you vs. me is on going and it causes great upset between the interactions of people and things.

The oppositional stance is dangerous. Here's why:

Last week I was going 110 km/h on the 401 West Collectors. I had the music on full blast, and was singing to my hearts content, much to the amusement of other cars on the road. I was going at least 10 km/h faster than other cars. Then all of a sudden I heard a rumble of an engine, and saw a red Porsche zoom pass me on my right hand side. All of a sudden I felt like I was going too slow, and felt the impulse to go faster, to meet or even beat that Porsche. This is dangerous. Comparative thought put me in a position where I could put myself and others at risk; it had the potential to seriously effect my well-being.

I think that comparative thought serves a purpose of organization; we make sense of ourselves by relating ourselves to the outer world. This is important. However, I think that the comparisons made between two objects - objects being any material thing, including individuals - must not be compared in isolation, but in relation to their environments and particular contexts. That being said, there is no inherently better or worse thing or person. The situational circumstances decide who or what is the better candidate. Yes, the Porsche was going faster than me, but contextually: It wasn't a race, and the rules of the road were in effect. There's no reason to think comparatively here; just because he's going faster than me, does not make him better than me, it just means that he happens to be going faster (it does however, make him an asshole...just saying). The point is, that I've gotten used to comparing myself to others, even in uncompetitive situations. I don't think there is such thing as life without comparative thought, but I do think it can and should be moderated. I think life would be more tolerable and enjoyable if we learned to let go of our manic interpretive framework.

AFT2011
Arianne TongComment