It Makes Sense That Nothing Makes Sense

Our priorities are shifting, because they should.

Deepti Kannapan

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Illustration by the author

Does everything seem different to you? When did that happen? The world has been changing continuously but we hadn’t updated our picture of it. Like that baby-faced ID photo that looks nothing like us now.

Everything is confusing, but that didn’t just happen. It had been getting more confusing over time. The changes were just under the threshold of being noticeable. Today it crossed the threshold; we noticed.

And when I say the world looks different, I mean us, too. We’re in it, and changed as well.

That’s where the trail starts. To solve the mystery, we follow the breadcrumb trail back in time. Sifting through memories, looking for clues.

When was the last memory where things made sense?

Oh. Really? Then why did we think they did? Were we crazy then or now?

A few changes stand out in the whirl of memories. Oh, that’s where our old system first started showing cracks. And here’s when it fell apart. Oh, that’s what we were missing.

It makes sense that nothing makes sense.

Time to to build a new map. It’ll still be fractured in places, but good enough to see us through — enough to rebuild the illusion of making sense. As much as anything can make sense, just enough to make decisions and believe in them. A heuristic good enough to survive on.

We survive well on heuristics. We don’t need certainty — and we’ve certainly never had it. What we had was a model good enough to feel safe with. Our meter for safety was honed for millennia over changing environm­ents, and it never asked for certainty that it couldn’t get.

Like all instruments, it fails when circumstances exceed its limits. when it doesn’t have the fuel or data it needs. And sometimes it fails at random. But it’s the best instrument we’ve got.

Our model continued to work even as reality deviated from the picture — straining to keep us going, puffing steam and putting up warning messages. It’s finally at the point where you can’t dismiss the warnings — it won’t let you. All you can do is listen, let the old picture dissolve, and build it back up.

The new picture is different from the old one, but not as different as it feels. It feels like we were wrong about everything and nothing was real. We pull the old picture apart, bit by bit, and remove the elements that were misconceived.

Finally, the remaining elements settle back into an image we recognize — but truer, cleaner, and a bit more tested.

Author’s note: This story isn’t about anything in particular — just all of it. I’m going through some personal changes. The news is crazy and my priorities are shifting, mainly toward more civic engagement.

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Deepti Kannapan

Painter, occasional cartoonist, aerospace engineer. Writes about sustainable technology, creativity, and journaling.