A while back someone on Facebook posted a link to the Cracked article by David Wong titled “What Is the Monkeysphere?” Wong informs us that, given the size of their brains, monkeys can recognize and interact sociably with about 50 other monkeys and that, not surprisingly, is the normal size for their troupes. Any animal not in the group is outside the “monkeysphere” of those particular animals and thus can be ignored or abused with equanimity by all the “in crowd” monkeys.
Human beings have a little bit larger brain so our “monkeysphere” expands to about 150 people (which seems like way too many to me since I often can’t remember who the bleary-eyed person in the mirror is every day). Still, this is a limitation, one that “allows” us, Wong observes, to do things that harm other people, often unthinkingly, because they are outside of our monkeysphere. On the “front page” of The Washington Post web site on May 6th was a story titled “3 Shot Near Ballou High in the Southeast.” Do most people even notice or care? No, the two 17-year-olds and the one 20-year-old are outside our monkeysphere.
Wong describes this situation as “the one single reason society doesn’t work.” He notes that 99.999% of the world’s population is outside our personal monkeysphere and provides many examples of what this means, writing with wit and humor. I’ll let his words speak for themselves. However, I will repeat the words of wisdom he offers to help us break out of the monkeysphere.
Remember that you are a total moron. “We all are. That really annoying person you know, the one who’s always spouting bullshit, the person who always thinks they’re right? Well, the odds are that for somebody else, you’re that person.”
“Understand that there are no Supermonkeys. Just monkeys. We’re all members of varying species of hypocrite.”
“Don’t let anybody simplify it for you. The world cannot be made simple.”
Unfortunately, Wong doesn’t explain how adopting this mindset will expand our monkeysphere from 150 to just over 7 billion. (At least not in the article. He probably does, I’m thinking, in his book Monkey Momentum: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical, and Financial Destiny!)
So how do we become one human family? Einstein described our sense of individual uniqueness as “a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.” So maybe I (or we) can start this way. When I look in the mirror in the morning, I should not think “Hey, that’s me!” in surprise but “Hey, that’s someone no better or worse (with some notable individual exceptions, of course) than everyone else in the world.” It may be a stretch but I think we can handle it. We do, after all, have the bigger brains.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings