WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Random Bits & Leprechauns (a.k.a. an Indirect Tribute to St. Patrick's Day)

leprechaun.jpg

My eldest returned from camp last summer with a great tan, serious laundry, and a knee injury.  We called an orthopedic and the receptionist booked us with a doctor “everyone loves.”  She warned, however, the doctor was 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 his chunky gold 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.  Likewise, when he said I was as cute as my offspring.

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

This explains a lot.  My 40 bits highlighted the doctor’s bedazzlement and behavior; the receptionist’s didn’t.  Maybe she’s sees a world of bejeweled, flirty leprechauns, so stature is salient.  It’s possible.

No wonder there are times it’s challenging to be on the same page and understand one another.  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, but we’re not doomed to that.   Studies in neuroplasticity show capabilities in brain adaptation never known possible.  This means upping our bit awareness should be a cinch.  If we find connection through our measly 40 bits, think what we could find with 50.  We deserve more bits.

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.  (How in the world must his great big feet fit in those little pointy shoes?)  And when I see you, I’ll work harder to appreciate the very different worlds we see in this same one, incredibly thankful we find ways to share the view.

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*A version of this blog originally posted on July 18, 2017*

Whitney Cain