Thursday, September 28, 2006

Perceptions

I had a really interesting experience yesterday, and it has me thinking a lot about how we think. This is not a new phenomenon for me, I have spent a lot of time thinking about thinking, but this particular preception issue is going to take some more time to process.

If you don't know me (and I can only hope that eventually someone who doesn't know me reads this blog), I am 6' 4" tall, and I weight about 205 pounds. I swim and lift weights for exercise, so I'm not a small guy. So I'm in the store yesterday with another very tall man, and the clerk (who I would have killed had I been required to spend any more time with him, but that's another story) says to me, "You've got big guns. I can see you work out." Later, I related this to a friend, who said, effectively "Duh! You are a big guy." I don't see it this way, so I ask him to compare my arms to another man in the room. He says "There is no comparison. You're arms are way bigger."

Now, you have to believe me when I say that I do not care one way or the other. But the deal is, I look at this other guy, and I think he is built larger than I am. Really, I do. And no matter how much this friend tries to convince me otherwise, I just don't see it.

Now, having spent so much time thinking about thought, I am not at all surprised when people's perceptions of their behavior, or their attitudes, or other subjective things don't line up with reality. But this is an objective fact. Light rays bounce off my "guns" the same as every other guy's, and yet when I look at my body, I do not see what everyone else sees. It just strikes me that the filters we place between information and our brains are remarkable. And I wonder how any person can trust themselves to exist alone. This is perhaps one of the most significant purposes for society -- it provides each of us with a different set of filters. Even if I do not accept your conclusion, understanding how you arrived at your conclusion can help me to see the information through your filters, and maybe to get closer to the raw information.

Or maybe there is no such thing as "raw" information. If every one of us perceives the world through a collection of filters, then there is only one perspective that s filter-free. I wonder, is this part of what He meant when He said that His thoughts are not our thoughts? We cannot think like Him, not only because we are finite, but because we see nothing as it really is.

There are a lot of implications for this for me. Maybe I will revisit this again. But I have lost some of my confidence in the default "rightness" of my perceptions. If I cannot see my arms accurately, I might want to be less strident in some more subjective areas.

2 comments:

the-unintentional-blogger said...

I have nothing to add except you misspelled a word in the first sentence. I think it's God's way of punishing you for being snarky about my misspellings. Or maybe it's God's reward for me being such a swell guy. Hard to tell.

ps. I proofread this comment 4 times and typed "misspelled" into Word just to make sure it was spelled correctly! : )

Andy said...

You didn't really mean to suggest that there might not be any raw data, so I'll pretend you didn't say that.

Allow me to apply your ideas to mine about salvation.

I think you've highlighted the biggest problem of "truth-based" salvation: while God objectively exists in absolute reality, mankind's perception of Him is necessarily flawed. Given God's gift to all, even those who are afflicted with particularly poignant perceptual difficulties (i.e. hallucinations, mental retardation, etc.) must be able to receive it. For example, how can someone who does not have the mental capacity to understand words receive salvation? The answer is that salvation must be free of perceptual paramaters and therefore dependent upon an innate, perception-free knowledge. (And not someone getting someone to pray a prayer.)

Granted, the truth is that Jesus did come and die and was raised again and I commune with Him daily, but these wonderful things fall in the realm of sanctifaction, not justification.