The Bigger Picture

Trying to understand our role in today’s problems through a picture.

Children on “The Death Train” a network of Mexican freight trains that are utilized by U.S.- bound migrants to more quickly traverse the length of México

Just as a system built with components following atomic design principles, where everything begins with the smallest addressable element, our life’s story, which is written and composed of moments, can also be broken down. This makes it easier to visualize and understand its context, both the part and the whole. The pieces of our lives are merely built through actions taking place in physical spaces over time. These pieces contain all the physical activities we’ve ever done and all the mental activities we’ve ever had, and they can be considered the building blocks of our life’s puzzle. This analogy can be compared to a picture, which is built with pixels, the smallest component of a digital image. The pixels form a digitalized image, just like the moments form our life.

Life´s picture built on moments (pixels) / inspired by

If we then, are designing the ‘picture of our life’ with every moment and action taken, we need to know that we will never see the complete picture, because the last piece of the puzzle will be added onto that picture when our last moment in this life has perished. So then, every moment we have lived is already printed on that picture, but it is incomplete, waiting to be filled with future actions, thoughts and moments. The whole is slowly being shaped by every passing moment. We all have one life, one shot at the print run; some are in the middle of that printing process, some have just started, and for others, that photo is getting close to completion, but all of us are in the process of printing our life’s photo.

Printing process

No image will be the same, the composition and color will vary, as will the resolution. But what will really make a picture pertain and inspire coming generations over time, will be its content. What story does the picture tell? Did the story change the lives of others? How much does the story in the picture impact the lives of those that outlive us?

The coming generations are the only ones that will get to see our complete picture, getting a sense of the kind of life we had and the capacity of positively changing our picture’s settings. Are we leaving the world behind in a better state than we found it?

Scene from Mary Poppins (1964) where Bert paints a picture, which becomes the setting for the following movie scenes. This can compare to the way we are `painting´the picture for those in the near future, slowly laying out the setting of the systems they will be forced to live and built on.

Zooming out in a power of ten kind of way, I want you to imagine that the picture of your life now becomes a pixel in a picture of a bigger system

Your whole life now becomes a part, a pixel of a bigger picture

and all the other pixels stand for the other implicated parts, anyone with a role in this system has its own pixel printed on it.

Following the atomic scalable view, our whole lives are now the components of this grander picture, a system larger than, but shaped by us and If we want to undertand our role in today’s problem we need to identify ourselves as pieces in the various complex systems we are part of.

In a social system, we all play a part in the network of relationships, which constitute a whole created between individuals, groups, and institutions. These interconnecting network of parts give shape to geographical structures, countries, which comprise and form the world. The interactions happening across all levels of these systems, are composing images of political, economic, and ecological development and the conflicts that arise because of them. Images that are currently depicting amateur-like, badly composed, blurry pictures that are representative of today’s problems. Our role in them may vary, but the final outcome of these pictures have our pixel imprinted on it, and what we do or don’t do is influencing the composition of these images.

In order to create more promising systems that we can scale across all levels, we need to work collectively with all of those shaping them. In order to figure out a way to create a better whole and more meaningful, valuable systems we need to start with us, the smallest element. When we visualize the holistic picture at pixel level and identify key catalysts that are having bigger impact at a higher scale, we will start to see the picture change.

Applying a pixel-view perspective of our own lives and taking it all the way up the systems, will help us understand that problems are multi-component, and when we take these components apart, we can slowly start solving them at pixel level. Acting on behalf of a better and more bigger picture will slowly erase the parts pertaining inequality, rigid hierarchical societies, bullying, obsolete education systems, car-ruled cities and refugee situations. If we start doing this, then the vote we give, will constitute the transformation of a country, the day we decide not to be a bystander, will become part of a picture of depression being tackled successfully, saying no to a bribe will become part of an image of a country building its way back up from corruption.

We all play a role, and we can all do something to improve and to challenge today’s and tomorrow’s problems. Extrapolating the actions born out of altruistic thought will create a more promising future for us, and for those that follow us. It just takes one pixel at a time.