Photo by Almos Bechtold

Events, projections and the human mind

At the time of this writing I am at the Domain Driven Design Europe conference. Modeling, event-sourcing, complexity and refactoring are terms you here a lot here. At the same time at work we were having an issue with a projection in our own event-sourced system. A projection that is trying to represent a certain view on our domain by processing streams of events using event handlers. All of a sudden I saw an interesting analogy with the human mind, and how we perceive the world.

This blog post is going to be a bit more geeky than usual, because of the jargon. But hey, my blog was called “The art of mindful programming” for a reason, right 😉

We are living in a world of impressions. Of data. All day long we are receiving a constant stream of thoughts, our own thoughts and the thoughts of other people, through what we read, talk about, hear and see. What if we compare this continuous flow of data that is going through our minds with events. Like in programming. And let’s imagine our mind consists of event handlers. What if we are only aware of the data for which we have an event handler? All the other events will go by unnoticed. Not because they aren’t there, but because we have no handlers for it.

Let’s say we have an event handler for fear of violence. We will then become aware of all the thoughts that match this handler. We will notice all the Facebook posts that talk about rape and theft and terrorism. And that particular event handler may respond by warning others for violence and by trying to protect you from getting hurt. It may even emit new events related to violence, new thoughts or experiences for other people’s event handlers to pick up. For instance, it will retweet or repost these social media messages. Or it will react in anger and create more violence.

What if most of your event handlers are for negative thoughts/data? Then you literally cannot see the positive events. You are blind for it. Even though they are right there in front of you.

Event handlers are programmed into our mind by what we focus our attention on and as a child the focus of our attention is largly influenced and directed by our parents, teachers etc. What we repeatedly focus our attention on will form our belief system. When we grow up, we become aware that there is more data lying around that we can also become aware of. Our curiosity and our intention to learn help us to generate new event handlers. Once a handler is present, you begin to ‘see’ the data. You become receptive for it.

Our mind is like the projection I was talking about. Based on all the events, all the impressions it receives and has received in the past, the event handlers distill a state of the world. But it is not an acurate picture. The picture is very dependent on the event handlers that are present in our mind. On our beliefs. We are literally seeing our beliefs. Another person may receive the same input, the same events. But if that person has different event handlers, different beliefs, then the world will be perceived very differently by that person.

The good thing is, we are the programmers. Yes, we ourselves are able to refactor our handlers. We can make sure that we add handlers that are receptive for positive events. Events that we enjoy. But, you might say, how do we know which events are available? We can’t ‘see’ them yet, because we have no event handlers.

We can reprogram our mind by our intention and our curiosity. First of all, we can set our intention to keep our minds open for new data. Say for instance it is your intention to feel worthy, when you have issues with self-worth. You want to become receptive for events, evidence that you are good enough. That you are loved and respected. And by setting that intention, you have created an event handler for events that confirm self-worth. That feels very different than the handler that was very receptive for events that prove your unworthiness, right?

But what do we do with that negative event handler? Can we refactor that too? We could let that handler call the positive event handler. So whenever I receive an event ‘proving’ my unworthiness, I can call the positive event handler. And that will say something like: ‘Look at all the data proving your worthiness! Nobody is unworthy. See how many events I receive that prove the opposite!’

Our mindfulness can do that. We program our mind with mindfulness, curiosity and intention. Intention, so that we know in what direction we want to steer our projection. Curiosity, so that we are open to events we are not aware of yet, because we have no handlers yet. And mindfulness, so that we will notice that we have been using a negative event handler, a negative belief, so that we can redirect our attention to the positive events.

Eventually the negative event handlers will automatically start calling the positive event handlers instead of contributing to the projection. And your perception of reality will change.

You are the programmer. You can write your handlers in a better way. Have fun, be creative and stay open and curious for new data!

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