Welcome! Thank you for coming by. This article was inspired by some analysis I’ve been doing on the perception vs. reality conversation that seems to stem around spirituality.
As each of you read this post, you’re actually completing a complex mental process to do so. Light is bouncing off of the computer or device you are reading on. Those photons are landing on the back of your eye and generating chemical and electrical signals for your brain. Millions and millions of these are happening. You mind is then capturing all of this data and converting it into a mental image. From that image you are then interpreting the words from the screen into concepts, ideas, and meaning. All of this is happening in such a small amount of time relative to our lives that it seems almost instantaneous. But it’s not.
If it took you 12 seconds to read the first paragraph there was enough time for one of those photons to reach the moon and back 5 times. That’s a fast little bugger, that photon. But what is amazing is how much conceptual information is passed in such small tiny packages. On the back of photons is carried all of what we see, what it means, and all that we have written. The photon carries the works of Shakespeare, the history of World War II, and all of the blog posts in the world. One could say that the internet is made possible only by the photon (or, analogously, the electron, for sightless readers).
So with all of that information conveyed over photons landing in eyeballs, why over thousands of years, has it not learned to stop making me mad, sad, or scared. Why is the photon so insensitive to the will of God? How can they not just stop with the merciless bouncing already?
The answer is they cannot, because none of my feelings are the result of a will other than my own. It is my perception, judgement, and story that create those reactions. Photons are not telling me a story. They are just giving me data. My Mind’s Eye is not showing me just their small packages of data, but drawing me a picture. It is creating an image of reality clouded by my mental processes, leaving me with an internal state of “knowing” that at times has nothing to do with what is actually happening.
For example, I can live out a fearful story when I look down from a balcony. The vertigo I feel is my mind trying to get me to get back from the edge. I am confused by all the mental processes about what is actually happening. I can think that I am seeing something scary when in fact I am as safe as ever I could be.
My brain is telling me a story by showing me something more than actually exists. What I think I’m seeing is not “truth”, it is a version of reality made from my thoughts, feelings, actions, and attitudes overlayed on what my eyes perceive.
Ok, but let’s not go off the deep end here. Let’s get back to basics.
Let’s consider a few things:
- Where my brain connects to my eye, at the optic nerve, there is a blind spot that I do not see in my Mind’s Eye image. What I think I see is filled in by overlaying versions of the image with each other so that I see a cohesive image in my mind.
- My eyes and brain update my Mind’s Eye image at most 1000 times per second. A photon of light travels 186,000 miles in that time. Since my brain updates my image of reality based on all the photons received in the last 1000th of second at the same time, I “see” everything up to 186 miles away at the same relative time. All of the world in this 186 mile radius is of the same age.
- I can believe that objects farther away are smaller or bigger based on my perspective. I believe that I can see the distance and thus predict actual size of an item. The problem is that my eye doesn’t see distance. The photon doesn’t tell me how far it traveled. I determine distance using my mental analysis of the scene painted in my mind. Thus I can be fooled by optical illusions etc. The optical illusion is a reminder that all that I “see” is the image I’m producing in my mind. What I’m seeing are small tiny particles of light combined into an image to which I apply analysis, determinations, logic, and historical experience.
So I can conclude that what I see is not what my eyes actually perceive. Everything is clouded by my mind. Judgments and conceptualizations are just the last layer of mental process to be applied. Everything I “see” is my mind’s work.
This leads me to question all of it. I now believe that my mental image, or Mind’s Eye, is to reality as is a dream I awaken from in the night. Everything I think I see must be questioned so I can learn new ways of thinking that better serve me in this life.
The thing is, I can never eliminate the interpretations as they are necessary part of this human experience. My mental determinations will be with me as long as I am on the planet. Because no matter how much I change my beliefs about the meaning of things at the lowest level, my mind is still “making up reality” from all that data. As I consider this, I’m drawn to a quote I heard last year from Gandhi:
“It is not given to man to know the whole Truth. His duty lies in living up to the truth as he sees it, and in doing so, to resort to the purest means, i.e., to non-violence. God alone knows absolute truth. Therefore, I have often said, Truth is God. It follows that man, a finite being, cannot know absolute truth. Nobody in this world possesses absolute truth. This is God’s attribute alone. Relative truth is all we know. Therefore, we can only follow the truth as we see it. Such pursuit of truth cannot lead anyone astray.”
Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
As I consider what it is to be human, I am often caught in the realization that I am much more in charge of my destiny than I once believed. Through my considerations, observations, realizations, interpretations, and conclusions, I drive so much of my creativity in a direction. The question I find myself asking more and more is this:
What interpretation of reality will I create for myself today that will help me be the most humble, wonderful, caring, inspirational, helpful, and courageous person I can be? What will I create from this place? What is my world and exploration of reality going to teach me today?
What will you tell yourself about you today? What will you choose to redefine that will enable you to live happier?