Much of our adult lives – especially in this age of social media – relies heavily on familiarity. I’ll friend you if you’re friends with someone I already know. If you’re a complete stranger – probably not. Even in employment it’s rare to find a job without being referred by someone who already works at the company or who knows someone who does. They just don’t take chances on “unknowns.” (I wish they would, it’s a large part of the reason I’m still unemployed).
There is safety in familiarity, but it also encapsulates society in a sterile bubble that is largely bereft of imaginative creative force and impervious to change. Admittedly it’s rare that anything truly negative enters your space and if it does you just “ban” it. Of course it also is dependent on what you consider to be negative. For some, ok most, it is an opinion that is different to their own. But there is a great example in Mikhail Epstein’s new book, “The Irony of the Ideal” in which he talks about how Adam and Eve always had the gift of sight. It’s only when they gave into the temptation of the apple from that unfamiliar snake that they truly saw things for what they really were – i.e. their nakedness. And of course what happened? They got kicked out of the paradise bubble.
Watch small children playing in a park sometime. They talk to all the other kids around them – known or not. They are curious about everything from the ant on a stick to the clouds in the sky and they’ll ask you endlessly about all of it. Everything is new and unfamiliar – a mystery. With each day comes a plethora of new stimulations to their intellects coming non-stop through all of their senses and demanding verbalization and explanation at every turn. So why does it stop? At what point do we close down and what propels us to that end? It’s like hitting the emergency button on the elevator that is going up. Why don’t you want to reach the top floor?