Thursday, January 5, 2017

Our opinion of reality.

This is a good point, but I disagree.

I mean, what is reality anyway?

It's our brain's best approximation of the world around us based on its limited ability to interpret the data it receives from our limited physical senses.

Bear in mind also, that our brain literally ignores the existence of data it can't catagorize or understand.

My point is not to say that everyone's opinion is equally valid. It's that opinions are still opinions, and not facts.

The starting point for the two characters in the above cartoon should not be to assert their own opinion as fact in the first place.

And I wouldn't even go so far as to say that one of them must be correct.

Maybe they're both wrong.

Maybe it's a lower-case g.

And if figuring out the identity of a single alphanumeric character is this complicated once you account for the fact that your own perspective is limiting the data you receive, how much more likely is it that your interpretation of politics, the economy, and the nature of the universe is anything close to the actual truth?

We are all fond of saying to other people, "you just don't understand how the world works." But if they are reasonably functional adults, they probably understand pretty well how the world works. Their world. And if you can't see the world from their prospective because you're too intrenched in your own, that doesn't really make you the expert.

A young mother on foodstamps taking the bus to three part-time jobs shouldn't be expected to understand international trade. A father laid off from his third factory job this year doesn't know how Wall Street shareholders manipulate quarterly earnings reports for leverage over business owners.

You can stack up as many facts and statistics as it takes to prove the specific point you're trying to make, and then you can get upset when the person you're talking to accuses you of being out of touch with how the "real" world works (their world), but how many times are you willing to chase your tail in circles before you throw your hands up in exasperation and walk away?

What a different world it would be if we could give up the notion of facts entirely.

If everyone could come to the table and say, "this is my perspective. This is the world from my point of view. These are things that I struggle with on a daily basis and would like to fix."

We could work together to build a system that truly benefits everyone, at least in the places where our worlds intersect.


Anonymous said...

Good post.

Claudia said...

Interesting thoughts about our personal worldview versus cold hard facts. But what happens when a person's own perspective is fluid? An example of this is when my husband left and suddenly rewrote the entire history of our (mostly happy) 23 year relationship to make it seem as though we had never been happy together. I believe we all utilize this type of perceptual defense to justify behavior that on some level we know is wrong because the one person we can never escape from is ourselves. Surely this means that even one's own worldview is susceptible to biases caused by the interplay between our emotions and our cognition at a given point in time. It would make meaningful dialogue very difficult if we came together to say, 'this is how I see it today, but tomorrow I might see it differently depending on my emotional state'. What do you think?

Heather Annastasia said...

A person recounting the experiences of their own lives is a bit of a different subject. I would offer that perhaps you were happy with a situation that your spouse was unhappy with.

For the most part, our perceptions do not change drastically from one moment to the next, so that's not really what I'm addressing with this post.

What I'm talking about here is resisting the inclination to state our perceptions as facts and to discount the perceptions of others as false.

And this is a dodgy premise. I was hoping for some push back from my audience on the politics of the idea.

Claudia said...

I would offer that it's entirely the same subject. We don't see things as they are, we see them as WE are. And what we are is simply the sum total of our life experiences. This is what every person brings to every conversation, whether it's political or not. You said this yourself:
"These are things that I struggle with on a daily basis and would like to fix."
This sentence of yours captured what motivates every person in politics. Those struggles are the life experiences that make up their world view and motivates them to create change.
You also said that we should resist the inclination to discount the perceptions of others as false. Yet you had no difficulty suggesting to me that my perception of my marriage was false and offering me a different explanation, presumably one that fits better with your own life experiences and how they have influenced your perception of marriage. Even when we are fully aware that our perceptions are not facts, none of us can resist behaving as though they were. Not even you.

Heather Annastasia said...

Actually, I said that it's possible your perception is different from your spouse's perception. I offered no guess as to whether either perception was factual or false, but it's interesting that you took what I said in that way.

This is the point where I must disengage from the conversation; when we start going in circles where I'm being forced to explain what I actually said, even though it's right there in print.

Arguing about the argument is a tactic I try not to get sucked into anymore, as it is a complete waste of time.

Jorge Kahwagi said...

This is a good point, the experiences of their own lives is a bit of a different subject
Jorge Kahwagi Gastine