Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Power of Perception

Maven Darcy BurkeHappy Thursday Mavenland. I'm veering into unchartered territory here. I spent all day Tuesday in a legal proceeding (my husband is an attorney) and found myself thinking about truth.

What is the truth? I looked it up in my ginormous Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary. I won't bore you with all of the definitions. But number 6 is interesting: an obvious or accepted fact, as is number 9: agreement with a standard or original. Now, what is obvious? Obvious to me or obvious to you? Obvious in the way that Speedos are completely unflattering? (Wha? That's not obvious to you?) And, what is "accepted?" Accepted by all or by a majority? Accepted by a five-year old or accepted by a Harvard professor? It is generally accepted that necessity is the mother of invention. Do you suppose whoever invented ice cream had some urgent need for something sweet and cold and creamy? Hmm, I think I digress…

We talked several weeks ago about the senses. We use our senses to perceive the world around us. Our world is our truth. And not all of us will deduce the same truth based on those senses. Maybe you have a pair of socks you swear are black (and they probably were once - don't you hate when they go navy on you?), but someone else says they are blue. Or you say the wine tastes like licorice and cherry and someone else says currant and tobacco. To you, your color or your taste is the absolute truth.

Are there some things that are indisputable facts? (Another of the definitions.) Absolutely, but even they are debatable by some (ask anyone willing to engage in a discussion of evolution - I'm so not doing that here). My point is, everyone has truths for better or for worse, for right or for wrong. We can't help the filter by which we perceive everything around us. In fact, it is what makes us.

Now what does my rantgent (that's a rant-tangent and yes, a new Mavenism) have to do with writing? We talked last week about point of view and perception plays into that big time of course. Perception is also why one person loves a book and another hates it - perhaps even for the same reasons.

So, how do we reconcile the truth with so many perceptions out there? That's my question to you. Oh, and while you're at it, give us the truth about Speedos.


Bill Clark said...

I'm with you on the Speedos!

As far as the perception/reality dichotomy, Pirandello's play Cosi e (Se Vi Pare) - It Is So if You Think It Is So - is one of the best expositions of how perceptions can differ. Scene by scene, you think you know what's happening on stage, only to find out a scene later that now you're thinking something else.

The problem, as I perceive it, is that I have hold of the Truth Absolute, and almost everybody else is wrong. Jousting with all the wrong-headed windmills has been the story of my life. :-)

Darcy Burke said...

Bill, your Truth Absolute must be somewhat like my Wrath of the Righteous (how I love to be right, but then who doesn't?). I think we're all jousting. How boring if we all saw everything the same (but sometimes, much, much easier, sigh).

Erica Ridley said...

I think the Speedo situation depends on the man wearing them. ;-)

I haven't seen Cosi e (Se Vi Pare), but IIRC Waking Life is a movie that also deals with perception. (Been a while since I saw that one, though.)

Oh, and my dictionary home page quote today meshes perfectly:

I don't think necessity is the mother of invention--invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.

--Agatha Christie

Maybe the icecream maker was simply procrastinating some other task? *g

Bill Clark said...

Erica, in my perception (the Truth Absolute, of course), even Michelangelo's David would look ugly in a Speedo.

Er, make that especially Michelangelo's David. :-)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I think how people perceive reality doesn't make it any less reality. The truth is the truth. *shrug*

And the truth is... Ever since I witnessed this one guy wearing a speedo at the beach when I was sixteen, I'll never think they look good on anyone. :shudder: I'm still trying to repress that reality. Some things are better left to the imagination.

Jackie Barbosa said...

I'm sure I could wax philosophical on the topic of truth vs. perception for hours and hours. But I won't bore you with that.

I will say that, like Erica, I'm a relativist on the subject of Speedos :).

J Perry Stone said...

Darcy, when I went on your website, I clicked on "contact Darcy" and my microsoft outlook doesn't work.

I have some questions about sensory integration dysfunction, and I need your help.

What's your email?

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