It’s 11 am here in KL, and I’m sitting down in a small cafe with a lovely cup of coffee and some soft boiled eggs. I thought this would be a great time to write down a little reflection about life, in a really Dvij-esque post. I’m hoping some of my thoughts here resonate with you, so sit back and enjoy this philosophical ride.
So recently I’ve been thinking a lot about apes. More specifically chimpanzees. You might be thinking, wait Verrel, what does this have to do with anything? Well don’t worry, I’ll get to it. You may know that chimpanzees have some similarities with us humans. After all, the science world classifies them as primates, just like us. They can communicate with each other, work and play together, and even fight in clans against each other to claim territory. There is however, a fundamental difference between their mental capabilities and ours.
It is perfectly demonstrated in this youtube video:
In short, chimpanzees have absolutely incredible, pretty much photographic, short-term memory. As a human reading this, I’m sure you know that we (or at least the majority of us) don’t. It was theorised that chimpanzees possess these abilities because it helps them survive in the wild. Just think about it. They have to map out their territory, find food, and avoid being eaten. They make quick short-term decisions everyday in order to survive.
Let’s talk humans. We don’t have amazing short-term memory, or quick decision making abilities. We do however, have amazing, long-term memory which can go as far back as when we were children, as well as unique, higher level thinking concepts. We can talk about what we did 5 years ago, or what we were like when we were a child. We can also discuss what we are going to do next year, or in 10 years time, or even what we aspire to be. We can imagine and discuss things that don’t exist, or events that haven’t happened. Chimpanzees just don’t seem to do that.
The idea that we (through evolution) traded off short-term thinking for longer-term thinking abilities was hypothesised by Tetsuro Matsuzawa, and is known as the cognitive trade-off hypothesis.
Living in the moment
Thinking like a human is most definitely a blessing and a burden. Our imagination can take us to places of endless learning, creativity and innovation. And yet, it can also bring us a lot of worry and anxiety. Unfortunately, we often regret things in our past or worry so much about the future, that we forget to live in the present.
I’ll give you an example: there were parts of my life where I questioned whether I was doing enough at the time. Was I really doing all the things necessary for my future? To one day become who I wanted to be? In fact, I was so worried about things that had not happened yet that I wasn’t actually living. Day after day, life would just pass me by. Things that I was supposed to be enjoying along the ride simply happened, and I just seemed to be a passenger. I look back on those times regretfully, wondering why I wasn’t living in the moment.
Journey, not the destination
You see, we have this amazing ability to imagine only our destination, and completely forget about the journey we are on. We sometimes force this idea that if we don’t reach our intended destination, we have completely failed, and the journey we went through was all in vain.
You’re smart enough to know that’s not the case. It is in fact the journey which we should care more about, rather than the destination. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have any goals or dreams in life. This is about balance, and sometimes, for a brief moment, it’s nice to just think like a chimpanzee – in the present, here and now.
Here’s something I like to do: ask yourself, what are you going to do today? Aim to enjoy whatever it is you will do. You’ll certainly be happy you did tomorrow.
Before I end, I’d like to share this quote:
Today, there are many 20 year olds that wish they were already millionaires. There are also many millionaires that wish they were still 20 years old.From one of Ali’s videos 🙂
We humans really love to think about what we could be or could have been. And while it is sometimes useful to think that way, it is definitely equally as useful to enjoy what we are.
Featured Image by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash