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 gathering fruit, slumped down in the shade of a tree to enjoy a coconut. Upon splitting it open, he found inside a message from his Hindu god, Vishnu. The Brahmic writing was clear for anyone to see, plainly spelt out in the two halves of white meat. But the implications of this experience can only be one of the following: either the Supreme Being has no qualms about revealing his Divine Will in the contents of mere palm fruit, or the farmer’s senses produced an inaccurate image of what he saw in the coconut. It’s anyone’s guess as to which it really was, but in any case, the moral of the story is that whilst miracles are known to happen, it can also be said that people regularly see things which aren’t there.

That we end up being misled by our senses is a widely-accepted truism. Most humans mistake the limits of their perception for the limits of the world itself, and push forward in their endeavors with a premature understanding of things. Such errors in judgement could be mild, like purchasing a rotten apple because you didn’t inspect its underside,
or they could be detrimental, like presuming a desert oasis to be real when it’s only a hallucination. Hence, 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, thanks in part to their limited senses. It’s rare to find people whose conception of reality isn’t exclusively dependent on their senses, who understand that there are things which you know and things which you don’t know, and in-between are several doorways one must walk through. One of them is called “Perception”, and it bears a sign that says “Enter With Caution”.

 

 

It’s something of a universal pre-condition that humans are attached to nothing so much as 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 our senses and our thoughts. Because of this, reality will always look a distinct way to each person, with a certain composition that’s 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 in the grass.

All people are enclosed within the limits of their consciousness, and can’t step outside them any more than they can step outside their own skin. From within the confines of this consciousness people are said to interact with “reality”, but without our perceptual systems, there wouldn’t even be a reality as we understand it. “Reality” depends on the existence of an observer within a framed perspective. Outside of this frame of perception exists what could be termed an “absolute” – a vast aggregate that eludes human apprehension, much like how events in the far reaches of space are invisible to the naked eye. To ponder the idea of the absolute is a first step towards conceptualizing the infinite number of things that exist outside your 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 live in completely different worlds, even when sharing the same physical space. Hence, reality may have multiple levels of existence, but it’s the perceptual frame that someone stands in 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 further to focus on the things relevant to us. 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 our past impressions, and the way a person is steered by these influences is what ultimately governs his critical faculties and perceptions.

 

 

It’s a common presumption that people see the world primarily with their eyes,
but in fact, that’s only true when they look at objects they recognize; things they’ve seen before and already have categorized in their mind. But when looking at something foreign that they don’t recognize, the imagination takes over the function of the eyes and becomes their primary tool of orientation. Whilst our physical senses reveal to us the physical world, it’s 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” has been put 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 insufficient, then the imagination, working either through guesswork or opinion, 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.

 

 

The dominant line of thought regarding perceptual experience is that the world is made up of objects. As a consequence of seeing these objects – buildings, vehicles, people – you generate thoughts about how to interact with them, and then proceed to action.
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 glimpse 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 start to draft assumptions about what kind of person they are and how you might approach them. But in your enamored state, you failed to consider the other levels of this person’s existence that are invisible, yet remain equally defining for them. In terms of the biological, that person exists as billions of cells that perform numerous functions uninterruptedlyAt a higher level of organization, the cells form tissues, which collectively form organs and so on until we finally arrive at what the person looks like in front of you. None of these other levels of 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 other level of analysis: this person will have inextricable social ties that define them, such as friends and family who come from different backgrounds, cultures, income brackets, etc. And even those groups are connected to yet other groupings, until who the person is can be expanded to encompass virtually anything. But when you blissfully observe them as an object from your nearby table, you don’t see any of that. 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, 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 components.
A keyboard, mouse and a GUI have been provided for you to use, and they interact with the computer for you. But if the computer were to unexpectedly crash, then you’d be forced to interact with the machine itself, which most people find frustrating since 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 things is often unnecessary. It’s why everything from vehicles to consumer technology is masked by a simple user interface that hides its complex inner workings. So people’s perceptions are framed by what they’ve been conditioned see,
and as a result, the world is not primarily made up of the objects – it’s made up of information. More practically speaking, it’s made up of tools and obstacles; things 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: due to their lack of comprehension, it takes years for them to build up an object-based view of their environment, 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 multiple processes that influence them to make that judgement. It’s only because of a limited perception of things that people fail to realize that an object always transcends the manner in which they frame it.

 

 

Though human beings live together in the same society, there’s a very true sense in which each man is an island unto himself. We stand alone at the center of our own experiences, and no-one else has access to the world we carry around within ourselves. We might communicate our feelings and insights, or even create shared moments around the same activity, but each person’s experience remains unique to their own consciousness.
So it follows that the most essential thing for any individual, far more than one’s circumstances, is the constitution of this consciousness. The ability to not only observe the world as a collection of information, but to also view oneself as an object to be parsed is what makes for a sophisticated self-concept. By extending your awareness and contemplation to include yourself, you develop a mindset that prevents you from being tossed about by every unexpected development or whim, as it equips you with a better understanding of yourself and your place in the world.

Human beings are instrumental in shaping their own frames of perception by selecting what’s 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 and the stories they believe in. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, where we’d like to be, and how we’re going to get there. It’s these stories which determine the significance of the things we encounter. 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 current spread of 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 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. People’s sensibilities have become so geared towards the pursuit of a narrowly-defined self-interest that their perception remains reliably limited – sufficiently so to allow for their control through marketing 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 choices you make, one of the reasons people are so content to make poor decisions at the cost of their well-being is that they treat life like a video game –
one 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, which is what life actually 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 their perceptions. Simply put, they’re happy when people and events conform to those perceptions and are unhappy when they don’t, thus demonstrating that what you see and hear depends not only on where you’re standing or what you 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 his 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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