Perceive your world as positive, and watch it become so…
Before I begin, I feel as if I should disclose a bias of mine: I confess that I am what most people might call a “post-modernist.” To put it simply, I don’t believe in absolute truth. Of course, it would be ironic to say, “There is absolutely no such thing as absolute truth!” So I’ll give you a quick history of modernity.
Philosophers and historians often refer to the history of civilization up until the Enlightenment (though, some may say as early as the Renaissance) and the birth of empirical science as a pre-modern era. Up until that point, beliefs were determined by the influential powers, like the Catholic Church, and it was frowned upon to challenge them (as you would learn from the history of any early scientist). So during the days of pre-modernity, the dominant belief was what was true. The Enlightenment gave birth to what we now know as the scientific method, and from the Enlightenment until about the 20th century, the theory that reflected the status quo was the one that you could test and prove with some certainty. Civilization shifted from faith to reason, and we call this means of thought “modernism.”
During the 19th century, it became popular to deconstruct the rules we were told to follow in regards to art, philosophy, and science, so that by the mid-20th century it was commonly seen as necessary to challenge everything we thought we could know so far. What we have noticed through this post-modern era is that facts often change depending on what information we can access and even from what angle we can look at that information.
To illustrate this point, I like to reference the park bench scene in Men in Black. Will Smith’s character has just found out that there are extra terrestrials on earth, and he wants an explanation for why people can’t know about their presence. Tommy Lee Jones’ character responds by saying, “Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that people were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” Smith’s character’s point is basically that people have a right to know, and Jones’ character basically says, “What makes you so sure you really know anything?”
A few weeks ago, this idea became pretty clear when a picture of a certain dress broke the Internet. You may remember a picture of a certain black and blue dress that through the use of backlighting, probably some filter, and your own eyes and imagination may or may not have looked white and gold. Now I’m not an optometrist or neurologist, so I’m not going to address why you may have seen the dress a certain way. However, what I would like to talk about is how quickly people fought to the death (or as seriously as you can fight on social media) to defend their own perception. Regardless of what you saw, you probably didn’t enjoy the feeling of someone challenging your perception. In challenging your perception of something that seems obvious to your eyes, your unconscious’s entire perception of reality may come into question.
You may by now be thinking, “I see what you’re saying, but you’re talking about a dress,” so I’ll try to offer you a better example. It seems as if every holiday season, Fox News scrambles to find evidence of what they like to call “the war on Christmas.” In 2013 Megyn Kelly felt the need to announce that Santa and Jesus were both white to stay consistent with this agenda. Now, depending on your perception, she’s not wrong. The symbolic Jesus and Santa Clause have been represented by Caucasians for a long time. However, the earliest renderings we have of Jesus were made to look like Constantine for pretty obvious political purposes, and Americans may owe their depiction of Santa to Coca-Cola more than anyone. The historic figures (as Kelly refers to both of them) that these depictions were based off were both from the Middle East. Now, ultimately I don’t care what is literally true (if such truth exists) for either person’s race. The point is Kelly’s perception was being challenged, and she felt that to defend her position would be to support her agenda.
What we know today could always be proven wrong or incomplete tomorrow. We are limited to perceiving the world through our 5 senses and in 3 dimensions. Our since of smell is nothing compared to a dogs, we are virtually deaf compared to elephants, and our eyes can only detect color on a spectrum between infrared and ultraviolet light, and that’s assuming that human sensory perception is even moderately consistent. If you were to tell me that the sky was blue, it wouldn’t do me any good to argue with you, but it would likely be a false assumption to state with any certainty that my definition of blue was the exact same as yours. Furthermore, all reliable “truths” are dependent on presuppositions. When you say “The sky is blue,” what you are really saying is “The atmosphere within the first few miles of earth, during a clear day, under ideal environmental conditions typically appears blue to the human eye.” If any one of those variables change, so could the validity of the statement “The sky is blue.”
If your perceptions create your reality, we should start by allowing that “Truth” to keep us humble. Everything you think you know could be proven wrong tomorrow, and if you don’t entertain that notion, you may be doomed to never learn anything new. You could save yourself a lot of embarrassment by learning from Megyn Kelly’s mistakes, understanding that everyone has a reason for seeing the world how they do (it doesn’t always have to be a good reason), and refraining from speaking in absolutes when possible because they’ll change depending on presuppositions.
Finally (and this may be the most important thing to take from all of this), if your perceptions create your reality, practice looking at your world in the most positive ways possible. Always look on the bright side, and find the goodness and fascination that life has to offer in everything and everyone you encounter. Perceive your world as positive, and watch it become so.