The Question of Perception

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People only know how to see with their eyes, not with their minds. But almost nothing has obvious boundaries. What about all the stuff you can’t see with your eyes? Are you just going to ignore that?

– The Arkon

What you look at is far more complicated than what you end up seeing.

– The Arkon

 


 

 

 

Once during an Indian coconut harvest, a farmer, tired from his day’s work of chopping down fruit, slumped down in the shade of a tree to enjoy a coconut. Upon splitting it open, he found inside a message from God. The writing was plainly visible for anyone to see, spelt out in the two halves of oily white meat. The implications of such an experience could only have been one of the following: the first is that the Supreme Being has no qualms about revealing his Divine Will in the contents of mere palm fruit, any more than in a whirlwind or through an oracle. The second is that the farmer’s senses produced an inaccurate image of what he saw in the fruit lining. It’s anybody’s guess as to which it really was. But regardless of whatever information was contained in the coconut, the moral of the story is that whilst miracles are known to happen, it can also be said that people regularly see things which are not there.

 

That we end up being misled by our senses is a widely-accepted truism, as most humans mistake the limits of their perception for the limits of the world itself. It’s not uncommon for people to push forward in their endeavors with a premature understanding of things, using inadequate standards to measure what they see in the world around them. Such errors in judgement range from being mild, such as mistakenly purchasing a rotten apple because you didn’t inspect its underside, to being detrimental, such as presuming that the oasis in the middle of the desert is real when it’s only a hallucination. Hence, there are times when people are not so much moved by external objects as by their perception of those objects; what they claim to “know” is in fact only known conditionally since human knowledge is always limited, thanks in part to our limited perceptual systems. Rare are those whose conception of reality is not exclusively dependent on their perception of it, who understand that there are things which you know and things which you don’t know, and in between are several doorways of which one is called “Perception”; this door must be entered with prudence.

 

 

It’s something of a universal pre-condition that human beings are attached to nothing so much as to their perception of the world. This perception can be described as the passageway through which the mind connects with the external world, functioning as a thoroughfare between sensory experience and our thoughts. Because of this, reality will always look a distinct way to each person, with a certain composition that is biased towards their values, prejudices, weaknesses and strengths. So even though multiple people may look at the same scene, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they would all see an identical picture. In the same gardenthe farmer may notice the vegetable patch, the botanist the flowers, the painter the coloring of the plants, and the entomologist the insects crawling around in the grass.

 

All people are enclosed within the limits of their own consciousness, and cannot directly step outside those limits any more than they can step outside of their own skin. From within the confines of this consciousness, people interact with what is called “reality”, but it should be noted that without the perceptions that we bring to bear on the world, there would be no reality as we understand it. Reality itself depends on the existence of an observer within a framed perspective. Outside of this frame of sensual perception exists what could be termed an “absolute”, a vast aggregate that eludes human apprehension, much like what transpires in the far reaches of space is invisible to the naked eye. Contemplating the idea of an absolute as the sum total of all tangible and intangible material in the universe is a first step towards conceptualizing the infinite number of things that exist outside of your frame of awareness. It then follows that what we call “reality” is simply the result of an interaction between something limited, like our perceptions, and the absolute that stands outside it. Without that frame, all of life would be the same experience to all living things. The direct experience of a human being would be the same as that of a cat. Yet a man and a cat, even when inhabiting a shared physical space, live in completely different worlds. Hence, reality may have multiple levels of existence, but it is the perceptual frame that someone stands within that creates their outlook on it. We look at the world through a narrowing lens, seeing only slices of it at any one time, and even then we have to narrow our lens even further down to the things relevant to us at any given moment. As a result, many aspects of human experience are not direct. They are a kind of virtual reality, created by our senses and given substance by expectations, explanations and past impressions. The way a person steers, or is steered by these influences is what creates his perceptions of the world, which in turn acts as the centerpiece of his critical faculties.

 

 

It is a common presumption that people see the world primarily with their eyes, but in fact, that is only true when they look at the objects that they recognize; things they have seen before and have categorized in their mind. In a case like that, they would have already built up the necessary perceptual tools that allow them to properly identify what they’re looking at. But when they look at something that they don’t recognize, something alien or new to them, the imagination takes over the function of the eyes and becomes their primary tool of orientation. Whilst our physical senses may reveal to us the physical world, it is our imagination that allows us to project ourselves beyond finite time and space into the realm of possibilities, abstracts and narratives. Here, however, is where many people suffer for their lack of imagination. Because a particular kind of perspective about what’s considered normal and possible has been deposited into the minds of the world’s populace, their imaginations have become ill-equipped to grapple with problems whose answers lie outside conventional boundaries. After all, the human mind processes new information largely based on its previous intake of facts and images. So if this previous intake is erroneous or insufficient, then the imagination, working either through educated guesswork at best or fiat opinion at worst, will simply attempt to wring answers from its inability to conceive of them, much like groping in the dark for something that may not be there.

 

In terms of perceptual experience, the dominant line of thought is that the world is primarily made up of objects. This may seem fairly straightforward, since you presumably see these objects all around you: buildings, vehicles, telephones, animals, humans, etc. As a consequence of seeing these objects, you generate thoughts about how to interact with them, and after completing your thought process, you proceed to act. As self-evident as this might appear, it begs further reflection. Let’s imagine a scenario where you’re sitting in a cafe and you happen to catch a glimpse of an attractive individual at a nearby table. On one level, you perceive them as an object of interest – an intriguing material thing to be observed. Captivated by their appearance, you immediately start to draft assumptions about what kind of person they are and how you might approach them to initiate a relationship. But in your enamored state, what you failed to consider was that there are other levels of this person’s existence which are invisible, yet equally defining for them. In terms of the biological, that person exists as a collection of billions of cells that perform numerous functions uninterruptedlyAt a higher level of organization, the cells form tissues that perform specific bodily functions, and those tissues collectively form organs, and so on until we finally get to what the person looks like in front of you in their total embodied form. None of these other levels of biological existence are less relevant than the person’s overall appearance to you as an object. If it turns out that he or she is a cancer patient, battling a tumor, then the import of their unseen cellular reality becomes quite relevant. And there are yet other level of analysis: this person will have inextricable social ties that define them, such as friends and family who may come from different backgrounds, cultures and other group categories based on their ethnicity, level of education, income bracket, etc. And even those groups are connected to yet other groupings, until who this person is can be expanded to encompass virtually anything. But when you blissfully observe them from your nearby table, you don’t see any of that reflected in them as a mere object. You can only see them at a certain level of resolution, as mediated by your ideas and impressions, yet all of the other details that escape your attention are equally relevant for defining who they are.

 

The idea of the world being more than just a collection of objects can be seen not only in social relationships or biological matter, but also in how we interact with inanimate devices. A computer is viewed as an object, but when you interact with it, you’re not really interacting with the computer itself, which is essentially a motherboard and other internal electric components. A keyboard, mouse and a graphical user interface have been provided for you to use, and those tools will interact with the computer for you. But if the computer were to unexpectedly crash, then you would be forced to interact with the machine itself, which most people find frustrating, as they realize that they know very little about how computers actually work. Similarly, when you interact with the world, your desire is mainly to produce a favorable result for yourself, for which a technical understanding of how things work is often unnecessary. This is why we’re often met by a friendly, uncomplicated user interface or control surface when interacting with the infrastructure around us, from public transport to consumer technology, which hides the complex configurations that more accurately would define those object. What this means is that people’s perceptions are ultimately framed by the things they want or have been trained to see, and not an actual understanding of the world or its technical workings. So in terms of perceptual experience, the world is not primarily made up of the innumerable objects that you see around you; it’s made up of information. More practically speaking, it’s made up of tools and obstacles; things that you can use for your purposes and things that get in your way. An illustration of this can be seen in how babies relate to the world: it takes years for them to build up an object-based view of their environment, as they have little to no comprehension of what their surroundings actually are, yet they still manage to orient themselves, albeit somewhat clumsily. So even though people may look at the world and think they only see objects, there are in fact multiple processes that influence them to make that judgement, such as their pre-conceptions, desires, and past experiences. It is only because people have such a limited perception of things that they fail to realize that an object always transcends the manner in which they frame it.

 

 

Though human beings may live together in the same society where they influence and interact with one another, there is a very true sense in which each man is ultimately an island unto himself; he alone stands at the center of his own experiences. No-one else has access to the world each of us carries around within ourselves. We may be able to communicate information about our feelings and insights, or even create shared moments where we partake in the same activity, but each person’s experience remains unique to their own consciousness and bounded by their frame of perception. As a consequence of this, it follows that the most essential thing for any individual, far more important than one’s circumstances, is the constitution of this consciousness. The ability to not only observe the world as a collection of information-filled objects, but to also view oneself as an object to be parsed, by extending your awareness and contemplation to include yourself, is what constitutes sophisticated self-concept. It is this kind of perspective which will prevent a person from being tossed about or misdirected by every unexpected development, news report or personal whim, as it equips them with a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

 

Human beings are instrumental in shaping their own frames of perception by selecting and managing what is important to them. So it naturally follows that the level of a person’s understanding of the world is inseparable from the nature of their desires, objectives and the stories they believe in. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, where we would like to be, and how we’re going to get there. It’s these stories which determine the significance of the things we encounter and steer our responses to them. That which furthers our progress in these stories is considered positive, whilst the things that impede our progress are viewed as negative. But with the hyper-modernization of the late 20th century and the spread of very particular stories about what it means to be human and what we ought to value most, courtesy of the mass media and Hollywood, the ultimate goal that has been placed into the hearts of many people is the pursuit of happiness; a happiness that consists merely in the frequent repetition of pleasure and aversion from pain, using oneself as the primary measure of everything. The reason why the current state of widespread censorship and ignorance can be so effective is because people’s awareness of both the world and themselves have become inextricably tied to their personal preferences, such that any whiff of displeasure or dissonance is off-putting. Their sensibilities have become so geared towards the pursuit of a narrowly-defined form of self-interest that their perception remains reliably limited – sufficiently so to allow for their control through marketing, advertising and propaganda. The resulting dilemma is that not only are people blind to the obvious, they are also blind to their blindness. In a world where your fate is inseparably tied to the quality of the choices you make, one of the reasons some people are so content to make poor decisions at the cost of their well-being is that they treat life like a video game, where you have multiple lives and different options to choose from if you get stuck. They don’t contemplate their moves as if they were the only moves they could ever make, even though this is what life usually is. With their perceptual systems having been downgraded to such a poor resolution, a game-like virtual reality is perhaps the best representation such people have to work with. They continue to gaze at the world through a pixelated lens, even as it grows increasingly dull in their eyes, unaware or uninterested in the things which transcend that frame of perception. Simply put, they are happy when people and events conform to those perceptions and unhappy when they don’t, thus demonstrating that what you see and hear depends not only on where you are standing or what you previously know; it also depends on what sort of person you are and what you value.

 

 

 

greekspeek for thought

 

There are 3 perceptions to be mindful of: the way you see yourself, the way you think others see you, and the way they really see you.


Perception creates an environment within an environment. After all, how can one guy be happy with his messy house, and another guy needs it to be spotless?


It’s understandable that people want more details about particular subjects, but the truth is that the details are already in front of them, just not in the way that they’re used to seeing them, which is why they gloss over things.


The things people say are problematic are actually not. It’s the things they don’t even know exist that are the real problems; the things they can’t or won’t acknowledge.


Can you blame people for following their perception?


There’s going to be certain critical points where your perception and reality cross, and you have be cognizant enough to grab a hold of those points and use them as your reference. But how can you do that if your sense of perception is so far gone?


Are you wondering why can’t you find the information that’s relevant to what you’re pursuing? Well, your eyes and ears register new information based on previous intake, so if you haven’t taken in anything of importance previously, how do you expect to see more of it now? It’s kind of like an anti-conditioning that makes you ignore the obvious. I say “anti-conditioning” because “conditioning” implies that there’s a tailored impulse to something prevalent in your mind. This is the opposite, where your mind is lacking the relevant impulse to begin with, and so no progress can be made.


Can you be like Sherlock Holmes about the truth by looking at all the obvious details that give you the real meaning of what’s going on? You could have 100 investigators look at a crime scene, yet come up with nothing. But when Sherlock Holmes steps in, he sees what everyone’s missing, and not by using a microscope or computer, but just with his eyes. So why isn’t anyone paying attention to what’s right in front of them? At best they acknowledge it only after you bring it up to them, but even then they can’t expand on it or go any deeper on the subject.

About the author

The Arkon

Just a person trying to make their conception of reality as sophisticated as possible.

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