A child can get upset at what seem the smallest things. Food not arriving quickly enough; a bump on the knee; a possession suddenly being taken away.
Until they have had time to build it up, that child does not have a mental map of the universe that they can trust. Something disappears, and it is hard to have an independent assurance that it will return in due course. A parent or guardian can give comfort and reassurance. This in some way replaces the inner comfort the child cannot generate. But, sooner or later, it is good if the child can comfort and reassure itself.
DEVELOPING A BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Slowly, but surely, as we grow up, we become able to generate, in our imagination, a picture of our universe. We learm how the sun rises and sets; how meal times come and go; how loved ones leave and come back. All these things form the landscape of our minds.
Eventually, if we are lucky, we develop the ability to fly above any situation we are in, and see how it relates to the generalities of time and space. We may suffer a loss or a change of plan, but we can look down on our own life and see how the rhythms of life will take care of us. We can see the whole sea, not just the wave we are riding on; we can see the whole journey, not just the phase we are going through.
Wisdom, in part, is learning this wider perspective. Those who are unlucky enough to have an unpredictable upbringing, with dishonest or uninformative carers, may find it hard to develop a clear, reliable map of their universe. Those who grew up in sympathetic surroundings, under the care of congruent and informative educators, may find it easier to take a calm, wide, wise view.
This mental map of the universe can then be like a good friend which we consult in order to find our feet in any new situation.
As adults, we have a chance to rebuild, correct, and modify our mental map of the universe.
We may decide that some perceptions we grew up with are worth discarding in favour of new perceptions. We may choose to read more widely, weighing against each other different philosophical perspectives. When something we read or hear seems to fit, then we might try it out. We analyse each philosophy, try it on for size, experience whether it enhances our perspective or not.
Sometimes we have to go through a difficult process of re-investigation, such as in counselling, where we might enlist a therapist’s help to explore and test our own view of life. It may be that our old ways of seeing are causing us distress. If so, we can develop or adopt new ways of seeing that bring a happier, wiser approach to our lives.
Take some time to review your own mental map of the universe. Perhaps ask the following questions:
Did you inherit your views from carers in your past? Do those views still serve you well?
What new perspectives have you encountered in recent years that seem to add to, or improve, your sense of personal wisdom?
Where will you go next to find more and greater insights?
When we are very young, we can be easily distressed by change, because we do not understand its wider context.
As we grow, with the help of carers and guides, we develop a mental map of the universe, a picture of how things are which can sustain us, whatever our individual circumstances at a point in time.
Through our lives, we can continue to review and revise our mental map, or bird’s eye view. We might discard some philosophies we no longer need. We may learn new thinking patterns which can help us in new ways. Developing wisdom becomes a lifelong journey, bringing us comfort and mental flexibility.