We see very little of the reality that surrounds us – at least, most sane people do. Had the brain not been selective in what we register – whether through our eyes or our nose or our ears – we’d all be sitting huddled in a corner of a dark room, our brain cells permanently fried due to an information overload.
So, based on what we deem interesting – or our brain decides is necessary – we perceive selected fragments of the multifaceted, constantly changing environment in which we live. Some things we see because we have to. No matter how interested we are in the design of the bridge rather than the flow of traffic on it, our brain will screech a WATCH OUT if a car approaches us at speed while we’re gawking at the suspension cables.
Nowadays, I drive an Audi. Prior to driving one, I never really noticed them (well, with the exception of them being R8’s, but they’re sort of rare). Of corse I didn’t; I was driving a Saab turbo, and it was like floating on a speeding silk cushion. Yeez, I miss that car… I don’t think the sales of Audi have rocketed since I bought mine, but boy do I see that particular brand of cars crawling out of the woodwork these days. (I wonder if this would apply should I ever upgrade to an Aston Martin DB9 – somehow I think not…)
When I became pregnant, there were a couple of months where I was quite convinced I’d landed in the Fertility Mecca of the world, what with the number of rounded bellies I encountered whereever I went. I had never been that interested in expecting mothers previously – I was at an age where my attention tended to focus far more often on the other sex than on my own gender. Once the baby was born, I was amazed by the baby-boom my little town was living through, because seriously, there were babies everywhere.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a man who was researching love. As a job that sounds far more fun than mine.
“What do you do professionally?”
“Oh, I research the emotional aspects of love, you know, why some relationships survive decades, while others don’t. And you?”
“Umm… I do numbers and stuff.” Blech.
This gentleman had decided some years ago that he was going to study love in older couples – this as a consequence of suddenly seeing an elderly couple smooching the daylights out of each other on a park bench. What struck him at the time was that he had never actually seen older people hold hands, or kiss, or hug or do very much more than walk side by side. But once he began looking for these elderly lovers, they began popping up everywhere, and at one point he was quite convinced there were more +70-year-olds holding hands than there were teens. Probably not, what with the hormones raging through adolescent bodies – but the teens had become invisible to him.
So what does all this mean? Well, first of all it means all of us walk around in our own very individual perceived reality. People close to us have realities that overlap with ours – this is where she sees a well-planned shopping mall where he sees a labyrinth, or she sees a yummy salad where he sees a depressing heap of green stuff – but there is never a total match. There can’t be, as we view life based on our own biases/experiences.
Secondly, this just goes to show we know very little about what is going on around us. We think we do, of course. The control freaks among us will probably do everything in their power to shape the reality as they see it to the map by which they lead their lives. Ha! Good luck to them (well, us, if I’m going to be honest). The more relaxed – the people who are wise enough to realise they are but a grain of sand in an infinite desert and there’s nothing the grain can do to shift the dunes – will go with the flow and decide not to overanalyse life, but to enjoy it.
Those old people kissing each other breathless on a bench seem to have grasped the right end of the stick. Whatever the case, it is far more appetising to look forward to future involving heated dates on a park bench than it is to imagine oneself in a dark cell somewhere, totally wiped out by the effort of attempting to grasp the whole reality. Which is why I am happy with my little shard of the truth, hoping to now and then place it side by side with someone else’s little piece and see an entire new reality appear. That’s called broadening your horizons, right?
3 thoughts on “It’s all in the eye of the beholder”
Beautifully expressed, Anna.
Reality is a very personal thing. Two people can’t normally decide what shade of red a postbox is, so it’s a miracle we get through life with as few arguments as we do!
Thanks Alison – and you’e right; the issue re the right shade of red could potentially be quite inflammatory 🙂
This reminded me of when I was learning to drive. It seemed that every second driver had the “L” on the back of their car too. And apart from that year or two… I am totally unaware of learner drivers (unless they are very slow!).