If you asked my middle school science teacher how long a meter was, he’d hold out his hands a meter apart and say “about this long.”
His point was that he didn’t believe in learning the metric system of measurement by comparing it to the imperial system that we used in the United States. He wanted us to learn it as an independent system. We should feel the weight of a kilogram, measure with rulers in centimeters, and weigh a cubic centimeter of water and see that it was one gram.
He wanted us to get a fresh sense of the world directly measured in the metric system, rather than converting everything from our past experience, which would result in an approximation.
It’s natural for us to compare and contrast new experiences and acquaintances with those we’ve had in the past. This person’s voice reminds us of someone from a previous job, or this restaurant is noisier than that other one. When we compare and contrast it helps us to make sense of our experience of the world — for it to feel coherent and whole.
The downside is that it also colors how we experience the present moment by putting more attention on the things that relate to our past experience.
As an experiment, try noticing what happens when you describe a situation or person without comparing or contrasting, just as-is. What aspects seem most important?
For instance, notice how it feels to say, “This food feels comforting,” without giving a reason. To describe how it tastes without saying what else it tastes like, or what it reminds you of.
It can be the same when enjoying a sunset with someone, or a concert, the satisfaction of finishing a project. How might it feel to simply fully experience this moment as it is, without comparing it to any other time, person, place, or thing?
Comparing and contrasting is a very useful skill. But so is our ability to come to each moment with a beginner’s mind, and sense everything fresh.
What do you feel or sense in this moment, when you bring your attention to it, as if for the first time?19 June 2022