Sunday, April 14, 2013

Assembling Reality

“Reality is a construction with which we actively participate.”
                                         Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1977

Much of what we see as we move through the world is already in our heads. The degree to which what we see when we look around is built up and constructed over time is amazing. Hold up an index finger and keep your focus on it, then slowly bring the other index finger in toward it until it’s equally clear. It’s shocking to realize that so little of the visual field is in focus at any one time. The clear picture we think we see is an illusion, is not the same clear picture another person sees. It is the result of the eyes scanning and accumulating details that supply the background for what hits the retina at any given moment. This is one example of the efficiency of the brain, which only needs the general feel of the surroundings to know where to focus. It also makes our picture of reality very personal, a creation of our own mind based on the information our needs select. The central illusion in all human perception is that personal reality is the Reality.

Everything we see is represented in the brain and informs what we look for and what we expect. Though there is correspondence between our image and reality, it is never complete or without inaccuracies. Yet we trust and rely on it.  From the beginning of life we construct this picture of the world based on our own experience and use that inner image as the basis for comparison to new stimulus as it arrives. A representation of the territory is necessary to remember where we’ve been and what happened there, an inner map that enables us to find our way to what we need and be alert to signs of trouble. This internal image supports our image of the scene in the present with what we’ve already seen. The sense of recognition comes from the new matching similar situations in the past.  It’s like the pattern resonates with a similar chord in the patterns of our own experience. When a pattern unfolds over time we can anticipate what’s coming and be better prepared for it.

The demands of movement require an understanding of where we are in relation to what we need. Imagery of locations is part of most memories. Brains evolved and grew larger as more experience needed to be represented. The folds seen in pictures of the brain are always different because every life is different. The varied personal experience of each of us creates the brain, develops some parts more than others depending on what we use the most. Awareness of these differences liberates us all from absolutes seeing how the variety of contexts changes the equation. Guided by what best fits a given situation, harmony is achieved without coercion.. The better we understand our inner model the more we can learn from the rich variety of other worldviews and break down barriers to our own expansion.
Looking at art is one tool for self-awareness. When we respond to art the chord that runs beneath the surface signals deep concordance with individual emotional themes. It offers a glimpse of the personal substructure so crucial to how we understand the world. Then we may recognize them when they turn up in our relations with others.

1 comment:

B. said...

Insightful. Challenging. Healing. I love the last few sentences especially...