TRAPPED IN A WORLD WE NEVER MADE

Here's the thing. We have no idea at all about the world we live in.

And that scares us.

We can make guesses, based on the evidence of our senses. But those are the same senses which lead us to mistake one person for another, make faulty assumptions about what the weather is and will be like, encourage us to eat and drink stuff that's bad for us.

So we know we're not to be trusted.

And this is where the problem starts.

Rather than accept our ignorance, we look for a more certain mapping of the world than we can provide for ourselves. So we turn to others. At which point it goes horribly wrong.

We assume as children that our parents have built up more knowledge about the world than we have. And that's true in some respects. But as we grow older we come to accept that there are occasions when the knowledge of those who have brought us into this world is lacking. Someone told me how a two year-old showed their mother how to do some stuff with a tablet device the other day. It won't be the first time that infant realises its parent doesn't have a comprehensive map of the world we live in.

If parents are dubious, school is infinitely worse. For the most part, education is very little about how to understand the world. Instead, we're offered predigested versions of it. You might be lucky enough to encounter some kind teachers along the way, but the institution itself only has an incidental relationship with the spirit of inquiry.

School prepares us for a world that none of us have much clue about by giving us some preset routines for dealing with it. The key word here is obedience. Stay within the lines that are drawn for and around you. Accept what questions can be asked, and which are inappropriate. Accept the answers to those questions since having a consensus means people think more or less the same, at least in whatever part of the world you landed in.

People thinking more or less the same supports the delusion that someone knows something. And the media reinforce that slender grasp on things through messages which reinforce the stuff which school introduced us to. If we're all thinking pretty much the same stuff, and the things we watch and listen to and read support those notions, we're probably doing something right, right?

By the time we're adults, the tentative understanding we have of the world is pretty much fixed. Without it, what is there? We get up early to travel somewhere and perform tasks that are hopefully useful to others in some way, in return for being allowed to get by in a fashion we find acceptable. And if within all that, we find a few people who are special to us, where maybe love exists, even fleetingly - that's what keeps us going. I know it does for me.

Without that sense of connection, of some kind of community, then all the explanations and excuses and dangled prizes and consolations are worthless. Which hopefully tells us something - that the deal we're presented with, in which we broadly accept what we're told and do what we're told...is bullshit.

The more love and connection I feel, the more bullshit I see. The horrors of Paris aren't explained by the idea that evil people are set on destroying our way of life. Start to explore that, and it's not long before you realise that those deaths were caused by people whose false certainties have a different flavour to our own, reacting to the aggression of oil-hungry countries resentful at having to run their bloated economies with resources they don't directly control.

The terror in terrorism isn't just about the chaos and pain it creates. It's about the terror that the stories we're forcefed by schools and government and media are just as arbitrary and nonsensical as the beliefs we mock when they're expressed by people who dress and speak differently to us.

Real terror for me is the knowledge that most of us are capable of appalling acts, just because someone requests them of us. That's the conclusion from the classic experiments in obedience that Stanley Milgram conducted. Just by asking, you can get someone to torture another if you do so while wearing a labcoat. And we've got plenty of people who aren't wearing labcoats asking us to do things that aren't torture, but which we go along with anyway.

The alternative involves experiencing the real fear of finding things out for ourselves. Start with the realisation that the best of what you know is love and connection, and you'll likely find out you're up to the challenge.