David Amerland
There are no instructions for life


When it comes to instructions IKEA furniture, apparently, deserves a special mention and special articles and has helped spawn a mini-industry of professional IKEA assemblers.

Whether we admit it or not we all like instructions. We crave them because our brains are hardwired to avoid uncertainty and instructions, whether they are for a piece of IKEA furniture, happiness or for life instructions remove the sense that we don’t know what we are doing and we don’t know where we are going and they help give us a sense of direction.

Traditionally, when it has come to living the good life we’ve turned towards religion as a form of higher authority that could, somehow, provide all the elusive answers we crave. And when that hasn’t worked we’ve turned towards atheism or science.

Every decision we make is emotional which means that our need to look for guidance is not going to go away and science and rationality will not destroy it. Behaviorists have long known that we are feeling machines whose ‘programming’ has evolutionarily evolved to help them navigate the complexity of the world.

The psychology of religious beliefs, our need to believe actually, often transcends the simplicity of just looking for a father figure and reflects a much deeper drive whose complexity better represents who we are, as a species.

While organized religion is certainly suffering we continue to ask “big questions” and search for their answers. We are driven, in part, by our curiosity and in part by the hope that somehow, somewhere there will be answers that will tell us exactly how we should live our lives.

We are an interesting mix of emotions driven by a modern hunger to be better, happier and more fulfilled, to be creatures that strive forward into the great unknown and our more ancient past that tells us instinctively to hold back, keep our head down, go for the safest option possible.

We rage because we feel caught in this in-between world where the questions we ask only raise more questions instead of giving us answers. We pull back even more angrily when we feel there is little else we can do and secretly resenting ourselves for doing so, we move forward and the fear we feel hardly makes things better.

It sounds like we are always acting out in some way. The sign of a species that’s young still in its development with bipedalism appearing just four million years ago and anything recognizable as a modern human being probably no more than 200 – 300,000 years old despite the fact that our ancestors appeared long before that.

The point here is that it’s taken IKEA 75 years to get to the stage where the instructions for its furniture enrage us less and we have some solutions other than what we can do should things hit that crunch point where we need someone to help. In a frighteningly short time we’ve come a long way. We are changing still and there are no instructions. We can learn to deal with the uncertainty and fear this inspires, lashing out to compensate or we can stride into the perceived unknown, as a species, knowing that what has brought us this far in our evolution is the social instinct.

The choice, now, really lies within us to make.

I know you need no instructions each week yet here I am feeling compelled to give them. Coffee, as always, and donuts (at the very least). Some cookies, croissants and plenty of chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

© 2019 David Amerland. All rights reserved