The Shape And Color Of Our Perceptions

Lately, I’ve been delving into neuro-lingistic programming, the fractal-holographic universe, philosophy on consciousness, poetry, psychedelics (a la Michael Pollan), and the relativity of our perceptions against reality. While there is so much to take in, chew on and analyze to pieces, here are some bits of the puzzle that I’m currently and deeply intrigued by.

Our perceptions shape our reality

The world is filled with facts and figures, concocted by reputable and respected subject matter experts. Much of the observable world has been classified into categories. Formulas have been constructed to explain the invincible forces that rule our lives. Both the natural world and the conceptual world shaped by human hands have been tailored and trimmed to fit into the neat little box we call objectivity.  

The problem with this is that each individual sees the world through a different lens. An imaginative, color-blind child with religious parents will view the world–both literally and figuratively–through an entirely different frame than a pragmatic, old philosopher with perfect vision. Each of us instinctively clings tightly to our own unique perception of our surroundings, and this perspective is what shapes our vision of reality, however subjective our range of sight may be.

“What was once called the objective world is a sort of Rorschach inkblot, into which each culture, each system of science and religion, each type of personality, reads a meaning only remotely derived from the shape and color of the blot itself.” — Lewis Mumford

My experience is what I agree to attend to

Furthermore, our deeply-held beliefs and understanding of the world guide our perceptions. If you have been abused and manipulated, your experience may inform your perception that humans are inherently evil. You may move through life with protective armor and miss out on the joy of meaningful human relationships. On the other hand, if you have thrived in loving and supportive environments, believing that everyone is trustworthy, you may fearlessly open yourself up to the possibility of connection, not even considering the risk of ill-will. Neither understanding is good nor bad, but simply based on the experiences and beliefs of the person having the experience.

Each of is us born, raised, and trained to embody certain biases. It takes a brave  and intentional effort to step out of the box that has been built around us and closely examine what we think we believe, where the idea originated, and whether it truly aligns with the life we strive to live. We are shaped by the content we consume, the conversations we engage in, and the places that we frequent. By limiting our exposure to the uncomfortable, we reinforce our existing beliefs. This echo chamber causes us to miss out on opportunities to discover new ideas, interests and perspectives. However, in a world rife with stimulants and chaos, we must learn to walk the tightrope between curious attentiveness and silencing our senses. We must foster an approach of mindful, intentional consumption.

“Millions of items of the outward order are present to my senses which never properly enter into my experience. Why? Because they have no interest for me. My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind — without selective interest, experience is an utter chaos. Interest alone gives accent and emphasis, light and shade, background and foreground intelligible perspective, in a word. It varies in every creature, but without it the consciousness of every creature would be a gray chaotic indiscriminateness, impossible for us even to conceive.” — William James

The Three Selves

Each of us contain three unique selves. There is the person you think you are, the person others think you are, and the person you really are. Do you view yourself as beautiful or ugly; intelligent or dumb; good or bad? How do those around you perceive your beliefs, actions, and traits; and are these traits socially acceptable? Finally, who are you when you strip away all the preconceptions and elaborate facades?

Each of are vessels of soft clay, continually worked and reworked by own own calloused hands. As we choose to expose ourselves to pressures and textures–both familiar and novel–we shape ourselves. We are the sum of our sweet tooth, mindless scrolling, and disengagement; we are the sum of our kindness, our habits, and our ambitions. The first step in molding our future selves, it seems, would be to make peace with the proof that we are our own creator.

“Human freedom involves our capacity to pause between the stimulus and response and, in that pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight. The capacity to create ourselves, based upon this freedom, is inseparable from consciousness or self-awareness.” ― Rollo May

The Continuity of All Life

We are distinct but not different. You and I exist in the same field of energy, our frequency resonating to influence everything and everyone around us. There is a theory in physics which states that all that exists is before us–the person across the table is solid; however, what lies beyond our periphery does not exist. Atoms float freely until we set our gaze upon them, at which time they take whatever form we project upon them.

Throughout our existence, we have been fed the myth that were are merely parts of the whole. We have been hypnotized by social convention into feeling that we exist only within our own bodies, and we thus fail to recognize that our existence is continuous with the total energy system of the cosmos.

“You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.” — Alan W. Watts

Your perception is your reality

Consciousness is specialized form of awareness. When you look around a room, you are conscious of as much as you can take in, yet you also see many things which you do not notice. When you label an experience, you are mapping your own perspective onto a universal experience and calling it “reality.” Each of us has the power to reframe our perspective, thereby realigning our individual psychological reality.

Perception equates to what is perceived as real until something changes that perception. The fatigue of a pulling an all-nighter is different than the chronic sleep deprivation following a stressful life event. Everything is relative. And the beauty of that statement is that we can actively choose to view our current circumstances through a new lens; we can change the relationship to convince ourselves that the current situation is, in fact, favorable.

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.” — Terence McKenna

The first duty of man is to think for himself

Humans have the innate ability to adapt, blend in and not make a scene. However, the successful individual is he who tries to shape the world around himself, inviting meaningful change and progress. When we become tired and distracted, we lose grip on the things that we know and are once more bombarded by a barrage the mundane, stealing our attention from the big, unanswered questions deserving of our attention.

The decision to think for oneself can be freighting, and sharing one’s ideas ever more so. But yet, everything we release out into the world can be considered art, as every worldly creation draws upon own own personal experience and is conveyed in a manner unique to our particular perspective on reality. You and are are both, if we so choose, free thinkers and artists; we are free to bring to fruition any idea that crosses our mind.

“The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible.” – William S. Burroughs

2 thoughts on “The Shape And Color Of Our Perceptions

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  1. What an inspiring piece! 🙂 I especially love when you write about perception and shifting the lens through which we view our circumstances. Depending on our state, we can see the same circumstance in completely different ways. Thank you for this post.

    Like

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