As the Coronavirus spreads and threatens the normalcy of our lives, it can sometimes feel like we are living in some twisted apocalyptic “Black Mirror” episode. In many ways, this pandemic is unchartered territory. And when we enter unchartered territory, it is easy to think “this is not how life is supposed to be”. But as soon as one starts using words like “should” and “supposed to”, one realizes the absurdity of it all. There is no template to life, and there was never any agreement we had with the world. The order of the universe is and always has been inherently chaotic.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a preconception is defined as:
An idea or opinion formed before enough information is available to form it correctly.
During the past year, I launched Preconceived, a podcast that examines the preconceptions that shape how we view the world and the paradigms by which we live our lives. I have interviewed people from vastly different walks of life – yogis, wildlife filmmakers, doctors, Hiroshima survivors, and sommeliers. From seemingly mundane questions like “how does someone decide to cover their whole body in tattoos” to more widespread questions regarding the decisions to have children and falling in love, I have been amazed by the diversity and dynamism of the viewpoints I have encountered.
Eye-opening conversations have caused me to question why I live the way I do. Wise souls have challenged me to live a life dictated by my own values, not one directed by convention. I remember when a leukemia survivor expressed his anger in himself for having wasted so much precious time on earth, a feeling he still carries to this day. I recall the young man who bravely spoke about his intellectual disability and how tasks that many of us view as menial represent huge achievements for him. Or the words of former Toronto Mayor David Crombie, “Live simply, so that others may simply live”.
In a world changing so rapidly, it is easy to wonder how things have so quickly gone awry and how life has gone into fast forward mode before we even clicked the remote. But it is in these times of change and instability when we realize that the notion of a world as it should be was always just a preconception based on our own experiences and our conditioning. Humanity has never been static, society has never stopped evolving and the earth has drastically transformed innumerable times over millions of years.
So how do we reconcile our very real feeling life experiences with a rate of change we are not used to? It is by acknowledging the preconceptions of the world and widening those conceptions to make room for new perspectives. Does this sound scary? It shouldn’t. Open-mindedness breeds personal growth, new outlooks lead to empathy, and the challenge of change can unleash a capacity for self-reflection, love and ultimately, progress, in ways we never thought imaginable.