The book Sam is currently reading 'We all fall down' by Peter Barry has an interesting blurb on the front cover.
'A novel that speaks to the heart of our culture, and a gripping account of one man's fight for his soul. Both honest and compassionate it turns an unflinching gaze on the world in which we try to find meaning, at work and in love.' This post is not about the book... or even the blurb really. It's just a bit of a rant about an idea and nothing much came of it. (Oh and she said the book is pretty good if you're interested)
When Sam read the blurb to me my first response was to dismiss it as cliche' New-agey rubbish. Overloading a statement about work and love with overly heavy focus of finding meaning in the world... (I think I cringed most because sometimes when I think I've written something OK I read it and it sounds like that)
I thought about it a bit more and the first part played on my mind. Then I started to wonder...
The bit that caught my imagination was this. 'An unflinching gaze...', '...on the world in which we try to find meaning...'
I just started thinking about sight, seeing, vision, perception, reality, truth and illusions, beliefs, religion and lies.
Delirious from lack of sleep, yet again, my mind tripped across what it might mean to have an 'unflinching gaze' at anything... Recently most of my interactions with people I know regarding matters of spirituality, community, truth and the abundance of flimsy facades in their likeness etc... have lead me to consider that most people, nearly all that I have spoken with, are incapable of seeing the world in any other way than through the filters they have chosen to view it. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, actually I think that's how reality is created.
Stupidly I recently made the enormous social error of holding people to account for the ideals they espouse. What a stupid thing to do! (A bad idea considering I may be the worlds greatest hypocrite!) Of course I have discovered that there is a big difference between seeking truth and claiming to know it. I should have known that challenging the position of people who believe themselves to be right would only anger them. Rule ONE... Don't ruin people's illusions! After all reality is subjective but nobody wants to have their reality deconstructed in the vain and useless search for Truth, which may only be someone elses illusion anyway!
If we are expected to live our lives grounded in reality, and reality hinges entirely on our perception, then it only makes sense that regardless of the falseness of our beliefs we would defend these illusions with all our might! So it's no wonder my dear righteous friends would rather I left their company without explanation than have their virtuous philosophy questioned. (And I did)
Seeing is believing.
When it comes to human vision I've heard there is a phenomenon of the human mind which prioritizes and sorts the information received from the eye in terms of relevance to the needs of the viewer. Gestalt theory explains how our minds are programed to sort visual information. The kind of programing that allows us to spot friends out of a crowd or identify potential dangers at a glance, while the mind sees, assesses and then ignores other information that it deems insignificant or predictable. Another trick I've heard our minds tend to do is fill in the blanks... i.e. at a glance we may build a mental image based only on glancing part of an object like the front of a car protruding from a corner. Peripheral vision is fairly limited but I've heard that the brain fills in the edges. Cool eh.
"The hand is quicker than the eye". Magicians have learned how to exploit our selective vision and have created many tricks that still baffle their audiences, even tricks that have been used for many years continue to confound. Even though we are able to admit that a magician got one over us, most of us would prefer to believe that what we perceive is the world as it is, rather than as we choose to see it. I know I do. I can't help it! When I studied to be a Park Ranger I had to learn scientific names of a book full of local plants. Pretty soon I was seeing the world through the eyes of a botanist (I've since forgotten most of them). I exchanged my naive romantic concepts of trees shrubs and flowers for a more scientific view... But was that Truth? I like to ride my bicycle to and from work. I travel along the same roads as 100s of drivers every morning and afternoon but my experience of the journey is very different to theirs. I see the road differently and I view other cyclists differently. When I read the abusive comments made about cyclists in the newspaper I read them from my perspective as a cyclist. People will often claim to know what is real and I guess they are all correct, at least until they change their mind.
I've always liked Bruce Springsteen's twist on an Edgar Alan Poe quote. In his song Magic Springsteen wrote the lyrics: "...Trust none of what you hear
And less of what you see..."
(Now that's Magic!)
What is so interesting about this 'unflinching gaze'? Well as I thought about just the two layers of interference between the eye and the consciousness it's likely we rarely see the vaguest outline of Truth in our lives. We are so convinced by what our brain has conjured, filling in the gaps and selectively ignoring what our own eyes see that we are unable to recognize Truth when it stares us in the face! It's possible that we simply just can't do it! So as I pondered this inability to perceive without judgement or prejudice I wondered what it would be like to 'Gaze Unflinching' at the world without trying to 'find meaning'. Then it sunk in. HOLY SHIT!
Who would willingly have their heart burned out through their eye balls for the sake of finding the Truth? Better to live comfortably in our reality, complete with doubt and confusion, fed on flimsy constructions of false promises and half arsed rationalizations; clinging to the barest bones of hope and trusting our superior intellect than to face Truth. Sorry guys I should never have questioned you. Please go back to cut and pasting all the meaning you can stick together and float peacefully over the horizon into paradise... There's nothing wrong with that after all.
But I have to say as far as honesty, truth, love, beauty go I'd rather spend a week looking at a 4 year old's finger painting than listen to 5 minutes of your rationalization.