A Case of Boiling Frog Syndrome

If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately try to jump out.
Yet, if you place a frog in room temperature water, and gradually turn up the temperature, something very interesting occurs:
Instead of jumping out, once the water gets too hot, the frog will do nothing as the temperature rises from 70 to 80, to 90 degrees.
In fact, the frog will show every sign of enjoying himself.
As the temperature gradually increases, the frog becomes groggier and groggier, until he is unable to climb out of the pot – though there is nothing restraining him.
The frog will simply continue to sit there and boil (Watch here)

At times, it feels like our culture is in a similar pot.
The temperature gradually increasing, both literally and figuratively.
Yet, we continue to sit here, as if nothing were happening.
We too, pretending that we are enjoying ourselves.

Why does this happen?

Frogs internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared toward sudden and drastic changes in their environment.
Our culture is influenced by a similar system: the primary threats to our survival come not from sudden events but from slow gradual processes:

the arms race
environmental decay
the erosion of public education
chronic health ailments

Yet, we sit in the pot and act as if these things aren’t occurring and refuse to dedicate the attention and resources needed to find solutions to the complex challenges we face.

This is driven by our fixation on events and the influence of the well-worn narrative.
We get distracted by the “news” or events that are short-term in nature.
This is largely a result of our evolutionary programming.
In our caveman days, it wasn’t vital for our survival to have the ability to contemplate the cosmos.
Instead, it was more important to see the saber-toothed tiger over our left shoulder and react quickly.

However, our paradigm has shifted – today, contemplating the cosmos, our impact on the environment, inequality, access and the affordability of health care are each vital to the survival of our culture.
Unfortunately, currently, we often fail to focus on the big picture.
Instead, we are more interested in events – just as when we were cavemen and cave-women.
The news we consume.
Our social media habits.
Our unhealthy TV consumption.
And many others, work together to reinforce our short-term, event-driven focus.

If we don’t shift our perspective we will never possess the ability to solve the chronic problems our culture faces.
Thinking that is dominated by the short term, can only merely, at best, predict an event before it occurs allowing one to merely react optimally.
Without long-term thinking, we will never cultivate the ability to create.
The ability to create long-term solutions or the infrastructure to address obesity, global warming, or inequality.

Focusing on events and solving the problems of the day is easy and it gives us the illusion of feeling accomplished.
However, it is just that – an illusion.
To create the world we want to live in, a world with a little less suffering, a little less destruction, and a little less evil will take a long-term perspective.
We must learn to see.

Learn to slow down our frantic pace, step back from our social media activity and the news of the day and start to pay attention to the subtle as well as the dramatic.
The path is harder but the rewards are real.