Today’s photo was taken with my Nexus tablet. I do like the tablet, but a camera it is not. Photo quality is grainy which prompted me to play with the image to see if there was anything I could do to make it somewhat interesting and worth keeping. I used various effects and textures to create a strange looking photo that appears to be water-stained and from the early days of colour photography. What was the point? If anything, it was simply to say, that what we see is only a filtered version of reality.
Since each of us has unique physical characteristics from our DNA to fingerprints and voice prints, it should come as no surprise that we all see and hear differently. Of course, it is all about waves of energy, clusters of energy and our body sensory organs which unpack the data from these clusters of energy to come up with an image or sound. Without much thought, we then are certain that what we heard or saw is exactly what was in the information.
It is that certainty that gets us into trouble. We react to the sensory data as if that data contained the truth and nothing but the truth. Yet in our childhood games such as the whispering game where we say something into each others’ ears, what emerges at the end of the group of individuals playing the game is often far from what was originally said. Another example is to present a scene where everyone has an opportunity to witness the scene and then have these witnesses tell what they witnessed. Police do this all the time and rarely get the same scene described by witnesses. In spite of that, these witnesses would have no difficulty standing in a court of law to give their evidence as gospel truth.
It is as though we abhor uncertainty. We want a crisp and clean world where everything is either A or B with no shades of possibility in between. We carry this need for clarity into all of our relationships and all of our values. It’s “I’m right and your wrong” thinking that does so much damage to our relationship with others who come from different cultures, different philosophies and often something as simple as different towns not so distant from each other. To let go of certainty and learn to live with ambiguity is hard work.
What makes the work worth the effort? One learns to be gentler with oneself, for we are our greatest challenge when it comes to clarity, to certainty. We are often a greater stranger to ourselves than the person we have never met.