Double Take

I have highlighted some sections in bold if you want a quick read. The rest just provides some background for anyone looking a little deeper… This is a quick reflection on the importance of perception, touching on a few issues with a hint of magic for good measure.

It seems that almost all aspects of my life are connected sense experiences. Words prompt jumbles of images, sounds and such, which in turn prompt similar jumbles as a wave of ‘consciousness’. Rather than talking about myself as a thinking being, it seems more accurate to talk of myself as a sensing being, with some sensation jumbles more prominent than others.

Comparing this to Descartes’ ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’, I do not make any existential claim save that I am a sensing being. No need to justify or prove this evident phenomenology: Sensation is fundamental. No need to posit divinity or anything to justify it. Our beliefs about our sensations may well turn out to be false, but the reality of the sensations is not to be doubted.

The reason I want to emphasise this is as a counterbalance to what I see as an ‘objective terrorism’ which seems to be far stronger prevailing trend. Just as science may cite the dangers of idealism and irrationality, so can the alternative position be cited: Be careful not to ignore, disparage or undervalue the parts of our lives and experiences where subjectivity and fantasy hold sway. I use the term ‘objective terrorism’ because I see the risk as rooted in a tendency to place facts above beliefs, with the difference between the two resting with the former’s validation in a third person arena. Simply put, if we cannot point to it and agree on it, is it less important? The ‘terrorism’ part refers to Derrida’s philosophical terrorism where (if I understand adequately!) the very capacity to object to a concept is taken away, such as here when as the ‘objective’ gains approval the ‘subjective’ is ignored. It becomes impossible to support the latter when the entire metaphysical landscape supports the former.

I think that this underlying ‘objective terrorism’ is causing people to become blind to the subjective environment of their existence, and hence become lost in a forest they cannot really see. Giving a personal example: I was feeling unhappy one day, a little overwhelmed by a lot of things, and decided to visualise the problems that beset me as a swarm of vicious mites. In my head I drew a protective circle about myself, with them on the other side, and just like that all my stress and anxiety disappeared. Of course I had not solved the problems, but with a simple ‘trick of the mind’ I felt right as rain. This exercise can be described as a visualisation technique along with many ‘positive mental attitude’ approaches, but what I want to say is this: It felt like magic. By changing my own perceptions of the world I change the world.

A similar thing is happening with my Aikido at the moment. A lot of the problem with beginners to the martial art is that we see the world from positions of weakness: We see the other person as an obstacle or a threat, and by seeing them in this way we automatically change our behaviour to reinforce this relationship and make the whole process far more difficult. By contrast, when you stop ‘making’ the other person into an obstacle, and simply let your body motions flow free and unbounded, the moves become very powerful. Sometimes doing them with your eyes closed can help to appreciate the difference. In essence, the way we see the world reinforces the nature of the world we live in.

That power, that intimate relationship did not feel like a link between myself and the world – I was part of the world. To talk of ‘tricks of the mind’ immediately trivialises that. The power of perception should be respected and understood, not relegated to the status of parlour tricks or ‘touchy-feely new age nonsense’, unless you are happy to fall foul of the negatives.

Corporate standards and approaches designed to fully embrace diversity always risk forcing individual pegs into differently shaped holes when they attempt to standardise, and such standardisation is a mark of an efficient system which need not waste time with special cases. Good management gives sufficient space for individuality. Celebrate your individuality, learn your personal quirks and limitations. Impress your imagination on your surroundings. And naturally, accept responsibility for these choices, because even if you don’t you will still enjoy/suffer the consequences.

The terms subjective and objective are necessarily relative to the distinction they relate to. We can dissolve that distinction by accepting that we are bound up in existence – we are sensation – not viewing it through a lens. Then we can start to fully appreciate it rather than trying to distort it. At that point, the fallacy of the terminology is apparent – so please do not seek to burn me inside a straw man of your own making! I am not pro- or anti- Richard Dawkins for instance, but I do think he dangerously misses the point by exacerbating a needless ideological conflict. For the time being, so long as there are adherents to the self/world divide, the terminology remains a philosophical touchstone on a metaphysical mutilation of being.