WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Tall Winky Leprechauns & Random Bits of Information

My eldest returned from camp with a great tan, serious laundry, and a knee injury.  The orthopedic receptionist booked us with a doctor “everyone loves.”  She warned, however, this doctor is quite tall; she didn’t want us to be surprised.

My family is okay with height.  My petite brother-in-law is 6’7” and my 6’6” and 6’9” nephews got his shorty genes, too.  The doctor gave us other surprises, though, and we would have welcomed a sensitive heads-up about them. My daughter ogled her doctor’s 20” necklace, framed by his scantily buttoned shirt.  I couldn’t decide if he had a tic or if I should be flattered when he repeatedly raised his eyebrows at me and winked. 

But the receptionist didn’t deem his ornaments or winks necessary of warning.  Maybe she’s sees a world of bejeweled, flirty leprechauns, so his height her shocker.  It’s possible.

We are only aware of about 40 of the 11 million – 11 million! – bits of information our brains process every second.  With our brains registering just a fraction of all this information, each of us likely experiences very different parts of the same world.

This explains a lot.  I asked a friend once why her mother didn’t wear her teeth to parties.  She responded, “Mama doesn’t wear her teeth to parties? Hmm.”   She hadn’t noticed.  It wasn’t in her 40 bits.  (Lucky duck.)  No wonder we can have such trouble extending understanding and kindness to others.  We aren’t always processing the same bits.

It’s probably a miracle we find any commonality.  Yet we do.  Full theatres crack up at the same line in a movie or play.  Entire communities are called to action when one member is in pain.  Whole movements are created out of shared purpose.

Still, we miss too many opportunities to laugh, cry, and create with one another.  Fear not:  Studies in neuroplasticity show capabilities in brain adaptation we never thought possible.  Upping our bit awareness should be a cinch.  If we can find connection through our measly 40 bits, think what we could do with 50.

I’m officially upping my bits.  At our next appointment, I’ll wonder what it was like for my daughter’s tall doctor living among the leprechauns.  And when I see you, I’ll appreciate the very different worlds we see in this same one, incredibly thankful we find ways to share the view.

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Whitney Cain