As much as we love to plan almost everything, and know exactly what it is that we can expect in life, the element of surprise should be cherished more, even if the surprise isn’t always beautiful in and of itself.
Inspired by two documentaries, one about the power of technology and silicon valley moguls, the other an interview with Ricardo Semler about the importance of wisdom, I started to see the value of surprise again, or more specifically, the way surprise is becoming so under-valued in todays’ world. In a small sense, such as what movie to watch or what food to eat, but also in a bigger sense, such as when you will meet the one, have a baby (duh), or when you breathe your last breath. With technology, we try to predict as much as possible and map human behavior, health and interaction. From my point of view, this is a dangerous development. Humans are not only defined by what they have already done or how they behave in general. The uniqueness comes from our ability to make sudden changes, to come up with unexpected behavior, and to see the beauty in surprises. Some examples to further illustrate this:
Holiday planning, GPS signals and guides everywhere. But when I think of the most beautiful discoveries while on holiday, they are usually the unexpected ones. The real hidden treasures. To walk the roads that you didn’t even knew existed (ok because you were lost, but once you see the fun in this, you can start to embrace this new found path). And isn’t it just great that when you are on a holiday on your own, you can decide to change your schedule last-minute, when you just don’t feel like taking that boat tour or hike? You have the ability to surprise even yourself by the decisions you take.
Total body scans, genetic profiling and endless medical checks. Of course it is important to stay healthy, an important condition for enjoying life. But do we really want to know all the diseases that we embody and could make us drop dead? Or take it one step further, would you want to know what causes your death and the exact moment that this is going to happen? I am sure that with modern technology medical professionals will become more and more skilled at predicting this accurately. But I would not want to know. Because how frightning would it be to see that day coming closer, what difference does it make? It makes you feel a lot more free when you don’t know the exact moment of your own passing away. Because it is a ‘surprise’. You don’t have to worry about when it will happen because you simply don’t know. And then there is also the aspect of being able to dream your wildest dreams. Wouldn’t that just be taken away once you know that you have ‘only’ a mere xx years to live, or when turned around, that you have so many years ahead of you? In my opinion, not knowing how and when you will pass away is maybe the most important thing to be kept a ‘surprise’.
Targeted adds, dedicated newsletters and marketeers that harass you because ‘when you liked this, you will for sure love this!’. The whole (online) shopping experience, for goods as well as for services, is starting to be mapped out for you. With cookies everywhere, or information on previous shopping behavior that companies have bought, they feel they can predict exactly what you like and dislike. But wait. Tastes do change. Opinions change. People change. And we like small surprises. I’m sick of the targeted adds telling me what books I would want to read next because the last book I read was about feminism, so I will for sure want to read more about… Only that subject. These marketing machines are pushing us in boxes never to let us out again. Very un-cool and un-creative if you ask me. Please, can we all start to see the value of surprise here as well, and stop seeing human beings as beings with pre-determined tastes that will never change, just because we feel we could make more money if we do so? The same actually holds true for online dating. It might just be that you fancy brown-haired guys, but end up with your prince with a blonde coupe. That is, if the app doesn’t filter them out immediately… Get the point?
The element of surprise in our lives should be cherished more and not willingly be eliminated as much as possible. If life is but a series of personal adventures, we should continue to push ourselves to embrace surprise, not plan everything and not predict everything. We don’t know what we are put on earth for, and we will most likely never find out. We don’t know when our days will be numbered or how our personalities will change over time. And that is exactly what makes life so exciting. The beauty of surprise.