How to Avoid the Streetlight Effect

by Michael Maciel

There’s a joke about a man looking for his car keys under a streetlight. 

A cop comes up and asks him what he’s doing. He says, “I’m looking for my car keys.” 

The cop asks him, “Is this where you dropped them?”

The man answers, “No, but this is the only place I can see.”

When you contemplate God, are you doing it solely within the framework of your current understanding? Are you looking in the only place you can see?

Maybe your streetlight is the religion you grew up in. Maybe it’s the experiences you had while in a spiritual group. Or maybe it’s your assumptions about what’s going on in the world. 

How can any of these limited strategies possibly work?

Diversity of thought. Spirituality is not the sole property of religion. Nor does it necessarily fall under the category of “spirituality.”

Because, what’s the goal? The goal is to know what’s the most real thing. Religion and spirituality, at their best, are the quest for ultimate reality. 

What other ways are there for looking for what’s real? 

  • Science
  • Literature
  • Art
  • Economics
  • Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • And all other forms of pattern recognition

Wisdom is the principal thing;

Therefore get wisdom.

And in all your getting, get understanding. 

– Proverbs 4:7

What is wisdom? Wisdom is recognizing patterns that span multiple domains of meaning. That’s what we do. That’s what higher brain function does. It makes sense of the world by cross-referencing everything it sees. 

So, what are you seeing? It depends on where you’re looking, right? 

Stop looking where you’ve already looked. Get a flashlight and start exploring. Learn to think like a detective and start looking for patterns—patterns of meaning, patterns of function, patterns of reality.

Be a mystic, yes. But be a thoughtful mystic. 

About Michael Maciel

Michael Maciel has studied the Ancient Wisdom Teachings and symbolism since the early 1970’s. He was ordained a priest in the Holy Order of MANS in 1972. Check out Michael’s YouTube channel The Mystical Christ with Michael Maciel, along with The Mystical Christ Academy on Patreon.
This entry was posted in Christian Transformation, Lessons. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How to Avoid the Streetlight Effect

  1. doug gemmell says:

    Excellent point. The clear and simple analogy that makes the point.
    Look into the unknown and trust….God will guide if we ask.
    Thank you Bright Soul.
    I hope al is well!

    Doug Gemmell in LV

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