The BMW and the Wheel - How we've ruined a perfect design

Throughout all domains of existence, things work together in perfect and beautiful harmony. The sun’s relationship with our planet and the moon is a good place to start -- tinker with that and we’d all be dead pretty quick.

A spider building a web on a tree. A crab taking residence in an empty shell. Dogs and humans. Microorganisms and humans. Goby fish and shrimp. The list is pretty extensive.

The point is that if you disrupt these relationships, both parties will be affected negatively.

And one relationship that modernity has not slightly disrupted but HORRIBLY AND MASSIVELY disrupted is humans and our entire living environment.

According to Nassim Taleb (best-selling author of The Black Swan and Antifragile), modernity is

human’s large scale domination of the environment, the systematic smoothing of the world’s jaggedness, and the stifling of volatility and stressors.

In other words, the more we try and “control” our surroundings and make our lives more predictable, the farther away we get from how we were designed to function. Stability and comfort and convenience is completely ruining our health and our environment by making us susceptible to randomness, chaos and stress. 

We were designed to live in symbiosis with the environment. Fear, hunger, desire and other natural stimuli we faced on a daily basis was what prompted us to do things: move, hunt, reproduce, run, fight, etc. The only light we were designed to be exposed to after sunset was a cyclical pattern of star and moon light which kept us in a healthy state of a regular circadian rhythm. We were designed to squat when we poop. To eat things that grew or lived in the area we lived in. To swing from things and climb stuff. To play and crawl.

Our environment, for lack of a better term, forced us to be fit and healthy and well. And us being fit and healthy and well allowed us to thrive in our environment and benefited the environment around us. It was a two way street. Perfect harmony (and violently being killed by a bear is included in “perfect harmony” -- it happens).

Kind of like a BMW and a wheel. The BMW is a powerful machine and the wheel is designed to travel a long time with a smooth, comfortable ride. The engine scratches the itch of the wheel which just wants to be in motion while the wheel allows the engine to match its highest potential for speed. Perfect harmony.

If Point A is the moment in which the two things are connected and Point B is the moment that the tire finally falls off from natural wear and tear, the distance between those points is roughly 50,000 miles. That’s a nice, long way.

But what if instead of the two front wheels being attached to the BMW parallel with the automobile and the road, we put it on perpendicular to the road. How would that work out in the relationship?

Point A would be the same, and you could technically still get to Point B, but it wouldn’t be the same Point B. It wouldn’t be 50,000 miles. It might be 1 mile before the wheel would have to completely change its tire and after a while you’d have to do some repairs to the shocks and the differential and the axis and the brake pad would get all screwed up and before you know it the BMW and wheel are spending nearly all of their time at the garage getting fixed rather than out on the road doing what they were designed to do in the first place.

Seeing the connections here?

If our environment is the BMW and we are the wheel, modernity has put us on facing the wrong direction. We can still get around, but it’s much harder than it has to be and we’re spending way too much time getting repaired than out on the highway with petal to the metal. And Point B (the end of the tire’s life) is going to arrive much faster than it was intended to arrive.

Saying “well, degenerative disease is just part of getting old” is like looking at a tire that’s put on completely wrong and saying “well, the tire’s going to wear out eventually, it’s just part of life”. No. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Long work hours. Sitting for hours and hours a day. Lack of general, slow movement. Fast food. Processed foods. Artificial light. Chronic stressors. Have all had negative effects on humans across the globe.

Trying to make things predictable and comfortable by eliminating randomness and uncertainty is not a good thing.

Look at the 2008 banking collapse. Everything was hunky dory. Nobody was losing. Everyone was winning. There were no risks.

But no. There were risks. There are ALWAYS risks when rewards are realized. In a “modern” world, risks are, in large part, swept under the rug and allowed to accumulate. Then when they’re too numerous to hide anymore they come pouring out in a cascading avalanche of disaster and catastrophe. Like what happened to the banks in 2008.

Basically, removing uncertainty from a system, any system, makes it more fragile and more likely that when it is faced with a stress or something unexpected, it will be catastrophic.

As opposed to a system which is designed to tolerate change and chaos which rolls with the punches and stress becomes INFORMATION and something to learn from instead of pain and disaster.

So the next time you’re faced with a decision between being comfortable and being slightly uncomfortable, ask yourself what you will ultimately gain or lose from your decision. Instead of mistakes and randomness having massive impacts on your life, think about ways to domesticate stress and mistakes so that you can learn from them and become stronger.

And you can do that by trying to eliminate order and stability from you life in any way possible. Don’t be tied to the status quo or to doing things the same way because that’s the way you’ve always done them.

Learn to think bigger than convenience and stability and become stronger for it.

Get tuned back in to your environment. Get back in harmony with that powerful BMW engine and face the right direction so that you can go fast and go long and not have to spend too much time in the garage.

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