As I mentioned in my first post on “dissensus,” it can be better for society when people don’t reach consensus, and, as a result, people try many different things. The world becomes a vast laboratory in which (we hope) the odds of someone hitting on something that works are increased. And once something works, others can imitate it.
That’s all well and good for society or civilization. But what about for the individual? In his book Green Wizardry, John Michael Greer brings up the example of deciding where to live. If I knew for sure this place would be erased by rising sea levels in a few years, I might not have chosen to buy a house here. But I don’t know that, and I love living by the ocean, and houses here cost a fraction of what they’d cost in Austin or D.C. or Tokyo or any other place I’ve lived.
If my decision turns out to be wrong, I could become a climate refugee. And even if the sea doesn’t swallow up our houses, something else could force me to leave here, and my life plan which is enabled largely by a low cost of living could totally collapse. Where would I be then? A casualty of my “wrong” decision?
When I thought about it, I realized that “dissensus” applies on an individual level too. I know people who are so afraid to make a wrong decision that they never commit to anything; they just spend their lives in a holding pattern. Always living life with one foot out rather than both feet in.
At some point even a choice that turns out to be the wrong choice is better than no choice, because the experience contains information, and because recovering from it makes a person more resilient; builds skills and courage.
Sometimes I practice imagining that I have lost everything (material). After awhile, it just stopped fazing me. One time I got a vision of just me sitting on top of a giant notebook, riding it over the rising waters like a kayak, with a pen for a paddle. Somehow that made me feel very confident of being able to handle anything that might come up.
There are many kinds of “rising waters” in life. Illness, natural disaster, economic recession, loss of relationships. Add to that bad financial investments, dead-end career decisions, and other personal wrong turns, and a person could really get overwhelmed trying to pick a course of action.
But I’ve realized that even if I make some decision that turns out to be really wrong, I will manage. I’ve tried so many different things in my life, and made just enough decisions in my life that had hard outcomes, that I’ve lost my fear of making some big “wrong” decision. My tentative conclusion is that “dissensus” works on an individual level as well as collective.
In closing, I’m making yet another plug for Green Wizardry. If you like the spirit of my blog, you will love Greer’s book.