Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age. -C.S. Lewis, Learning in War-Time
…if your definition of “love” stresses affectionate feelings more than unselfish actions, you will cripple your ability to maintain and grow strong love relationships. On the other hand, if you stress the action of love over the feeling, you enhance and establish the feeling. That is one of the secrets of living life… Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Everyone has an internal algorithm which sorts and interprets everything in their lives. Stick with me here… Let’s first define our metaphor: the traditional understanding of an algorithm is (more or less) a set of instructions and processes which are applied to an input resulting in an output (and is mostly used when in reference to math or computer-y things).
This huge, complex, multifaceted internal algorithm is used to understand and interpret everything that a person may encounter in life, whether it be a problem faced, a new bit of information received, every interaction with others, or with nature, and even how they understand themselves. The resulting outputs of this internal algorithm are the things that are believed, the decisions made, and the actions taken (or not).
The concept of this human algorithm is kind of fuzzy, but work through it, and I think you’ll start to get the picture. The algorithm itself is made up of a number of principles: fundamental truths, rules of reasoning, and mental models. I don’t believe this is a novel concept; I have a good friend and mentor who always used to say “Get a grid!”, and I have heard it described as a ‘semantic tree,’ other metaphors that might be helpful. This human algorithm is the basis of forming one’s worldview and self-identity.
Whether aware of it or not, this algorithm is functioning (though not necessarily well) in everyone and greatly impacts the course of their lives. The most important thing to understand is that you must take an active role in designing your algorithm. Seriously. Everything depends on it.