Cultivating Joy and Connection

In Search of the Lost Word

Alan Tabor
6 min readJun 22, 2022


Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

I have an odd love of harmonizing minor human interactions.

Here’s an example. Rather than thinking about how to get through an intersection first, it feels best to maximize throughput (an information systems term that should be self-explanatory.)

I know this sounds kind of goofy, but if everyone did it, shit would work a whole lot better and we’d all get there faster.

The main point of interest for me, though, is why does this feel good?

Abstract Harmonization?

One explanation might be an inherited cognitive bias for harmonizing complexity.

It has been hypothesized that a variety of different phenomena — beauty, attractive mathematical and scientific theories, organizational structure — are examples of this.

Stated more precisely, a theory generates emotions based upon order-within-complexity: It feels good when many items come together in a simple manner.

This is not a new suggestion but can be seen in classic definitions of beauty.

Lorin Friesen in Theories Generate Emotions

Abstract harmonization doesn’t seem adequate. A different possible explanation is more interesting, as well.

Or Baked in Bias?

Traffic harmonization might be a tiny example of a part of our emotional makeup. A part that’s poorly expressed in English.

I get a similar buzz from other similar experiences: family DIY projects, Boy Scout Troop log and rope engineering feats back in my youth, solid play in coop board games, great team efforts at work, etc. (The main financial backer of our startup, Mountain Hardwear, said we executed with “near military precision” and, as a result, I experienced enough well-coordinated group effort to develop a whole theory of optimal organizational structure.)

We’re a prosocial, cooperative, and even altruistic, species. For that to happen, there has to be an emotional component. Cooperative ‘tribal’ action has to somehow feel good.

Further evidence: when someone fails to play nicely in my mentally orchestrated scenario…



Alan Tabor

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at