I was introduced last week to the limitations of our ability to see, reminded that looking is one thing; perception quite another. A group of us was shown a picture containing a number of pens and we were asked to count them in 2 seconds. We were then given 4 seconds, the result? Our perceptions were off both times.
This reminded me of the warnings in both Buddhism and Taoism about judgement, my understanding is that this is because our reality is shaped by our perceptions. As my recent group experience proved, those perceptions are woefully inadequate. On further reflection, our abilities as observers are very flawed. Clearly, time pressure takes a terrible cost; but in a constantly changing world, how can our observations ever be complete?
It gets worse, we are limited in what’s available to be seen by both time and location. Our nature means that we can’t see or hear everything, we’re bound by the limits of our senses and the limits of our ability to perceive the sense data; we can be overloaded by the world. At the last, everything we see is interpreted in light of our preconceptions and biases, which returns to the chapter above. We might well see, but lack the background to understand what we’re seeing.
I found myself realising that the main message of where I was, which was to slow down, is applicable in so many other places. Can we improve the above situation? I think we can. Be slower to judge, wait for evidence, take time to observe more fully. This comes back to my own long standing view that the world we’re in is too rushed. The question I’m left reflecting on is how best to combat this?