The unexamined life is not worth living.

 — Socrates (in Plato’s Apology)

In the software world there’s a handy utility called diff, which gives you the ability to take two similar files or groups of files, and find out how they differ.

This type of comparison can make small changes stand out. If a roll-out of some new software caused an unexpected behavior, examining a diff of the old and new versions can help highlight which code is likely the trigger for the new issue.

A difference in a sea of same stands out.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of 1ight, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

 — Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities”

What is wrong with the above quote? It shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Output of the diff command

Compare it to the original, and you’ll be drawn right to the offending line, where I replaced the letter l with the number 1.

I’ve been trying to build my own understanding of Truth, and I’ve found much more value in finding the differences there than finding two similarities.

You can live your entire life with a belief based upon assumptions that you accepted without consideration or a different perspective earlier in your life, and haven’t reconsidered since. Then, one day, the belief is challenged.

These days I spend a fair amount of time attempting to find these differences between what I “know” and what other people “know”. Those differences identify the places where I should focus my time on understanding. To find the places where I can learn what I am missing, what I may be able to explain to others, or at the very least better understand people who see things different.

Finding the difference is just the first step though. Some ideas feel so core that challenging them triggers defensive reactions. We can also be so tied to our own understanding that even understanding another perspective can be challenging.

It’s easier to point out flaws in others than to work on our own.

Our own minds and actions are the only things within our control though.

Real change comes from within.