I spent the last weekend with my 5 year old daughter Bianca, at my new place. Yes, I moved downtown, I’m not a suburb guy anymore. This apartment I rented is very close to a place where I used to have my company office for a few years. It’s very close to a few parks also and that was one of the most important criteria when I moved out. First, because I still want to run, and second, because going to the park is one of my favorite things every time I spent time with my daughter.
On our way to this new (for Bianca) park, we stopped by a little store and bought some water and a small bag of Skittles. It happens that Bianca kinda dig Skittles. Not much of a fan, but hey, it’s not about me here. We explored this new venue, we played, we made new friends and, all in all, we had a blast. At the end of the day, we were both tired but happy, and with no water of Skittles left.
The next day we took a different road. We stopped by a different store and bought the same things. One bottle of water and one bag of Skittles. Same color, even the same lot (why is this important, you will see in a minute). It happened that this second road was a little bit longer than the first one. And not as interesting as the first one. And a little bit boring. We eventually made it to the park, but, while we were still relaxed, we were not even remotely as energetic as we were the other day.
She started to play and, at some point, she came towards me telling: “We should have buy Skittles from the other store. These ones are not as tasty as the first ones.”. First, I thought the Skittles bag was expired. I checked the expiration date and even the lot. It was the same as yesterday’s. “Are you sure they’re not as tasty as the other ones?” I asked. “Yes, I am, check them out!”.
I took a little pink pill and chewed it carefully. It surely tasted the same to me. The same Skittles taste. “I’m pretty sure they’re the same pills, Bia”. “No, they aren’t” she replied almost angry and she left. We went on and off with this Skittles thing for almost the entire day. Sometimes it was like: “let’s go back to the first store and buy another Skittles”, and sometimes it was like: “you eat them all, I don’t need them, because the other ones tasted better”.
At some point, I managed to direct her attention to something else and we ended the day on the same positive note. But after she went to sleep, I started to think. Yes, I do this from time to time :).
It’s Coming From The Inside
The first time, there was a strong positive connotation between the happy road to the park and the taste of the pills. The second time, although the pills were the same, the road to the park was boring. So, in a very subtle way, she changed the taste of the pills to reflect the current reality. Yes, she really did it. We all do this. As a matter of fact, it’s amazing how often we do this.
Our life events are just events. But, based on our previous experiences, we extend our current state of mind towards our environment. If something bores us, everything tends to become boring. If something is not as good as expected, everything borrows a sense of disappointment. But on the outside, things are just things.
It’s on the inside that everything is taking place. The world in itself is tasteless. It’s us who give sense, and smell and taste to our events. We project our definition of happiness, of good and of bad to what’s outside. We make things look prettier when we’re happy and we put a veil of sadness when we’re depressed.
The good news is that we have more power than we think we do. To make the world taste bad or good, well, that’s a pretty big thing.
The bad news is that we’re not always aware of this power. And, as such, we tend to give to the outside events more power than they really have.
For instance, we tend to blame the pills for tasting bad, when, in fact, we just have a small issue with the boring road to the park. Or we think people are ugly when we’re alone (yes, this is from a song). Or we feel bad when we didn’t win the lottery. Or we think everything is going to collapse around us when someone we trust is betraying us.
It’s coming from the inside. Everything it’s really coming from the inside.
The Red Pill And The Blue Pill
As I was thinking to all the stuff I wrote above, a sudden image popped into my head. It was a scene from The Matrix. Morpheus was holding two pills in his right hand and he was asking Neo: “Which one do you choose? The red pill or the blue pill?”
In a sudden revelation I understood that it didn’t really matter. Morpheus was tricking Neo. The color of the pill was never an issue. It was always the internal choice that mattered.
In my mental representation of the movie scene, the camera started to rotate around the still images of the two characters. I was looking at a frozen image of Morpheus with the right hand holding the two pills, Neo looking at them hypnotized and, as the camera approached this statue-like group from behind, I could clearly see Morpheus’s left hand, squeezing, and barely refraining himself from exploding into a giant laugh, a small, red bag of multi-colored Skittles.