How often do we take stock of exactly what is going on around us?
We seem to take so much for granted, the beauty of the sun and the cool of the glorious night. The smells that set our stomachs aching and the cold ice that seizes upon our hands. The wind blowing through the trees and the taste of lavender.
All of things are a part of the grand philosophical concept of Perception. The Oxford Dictionary defines Perception as “The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.” Any time we use any of our five senses, which include hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste, we are tapping into the power of perception. Perception, depending on which philosopher or era you’re looking at, is either subjective, or changing depending on the viewer, or objective, or firmly planted in reality, almost like seeing the world in definite terms of black and white.
According to The Intellectual Devotional, “The Presocratic [Philosophers] believed that the ultimate nature of reality was vastly different from the way it ordinarily appeared to them. For instance, one philosopher named Thales held that appearances notwithstanding, all reality was ultimately composed of water; Heraclitus through the world was built from fire. Further, Heraclitus maintained that everything was constantly in motion. Another thinker, Parmenides, insisted that nothing actually moved and that all apparent motion was an illusion.” (Kidder 6)
This illustrates how different our personal powers of perception (how’s that for alliteration?) truly are. We can all look at different things and, based on our powers of perception, see everyday objects in a completely different way than our neighbors. This explains why aesthetics, such as physical attraction and taste in music, are so vast and varied. We all perceive reality according to our senses.
I’m not going to make a value judgment as to which, of objective and subjective reality, is the correct ideal. The point of this blog is not to debate a philosophical ideal, but to examine it for the layman.
To illustrate this idea, I want to speak about the concept of Peace, more specifically the idea of World Peace. Since the beginning of time there have been innumerable opinions of the idea of Peace. As John Lennon said, “Give peace a chance.” But is true Peace really possible? I believe that World Peace, If we all hold a different perception of the world, and thus hold a different code of what’s important, how can there be true Peace? We all need and want different things and we all see the world in different shades of colours. We can most certainly attain Peace within ourselves, by espousing a philosophy that informs us and helps us to obtain our goals. But we certainly can’t expect a world that is as vast in the differing amounts of ideals as this one to be able to co-habitate with people who threaten our sense of life. It’s not that I’m being pessimistic, I’m being realistic.
Perception is also very controversial when it comes to race, because all racism comes from perception. Racism is a form of judging a man, not based on the content of his character, but the colour of his skin. The entire concept of racism is built on an argument of selective perception. Some people honestly don’t see colour and some people see nothing but colour. All rational people know that basing negative ideas on a stranger, just because he’s black or Chinese or Indian, has no root in reality. It is an idea that is learned and passed through the generations like a cancer that can’t be fed. If we are taught to perceive something as evil then we will always see it as evil.
That’s exactly why we need to be aware of the power of perception. Perception can evoke things of great beauty, but also generate ideas of pure cruelty and feed vice. How we see the world is how we live. We count on our senses to inform us as to what is detrimental and what we need to embrace. Some senses are automatic, such as smell, but others are more dangerous, the most dangerous of all being the sense of sight. What we see in this world can be glorious, beautiful and inspiring. But if we see race, gender and sexuality as the defining factor of our perception of sight, we will never rise above the cavemen that still roam our Earth.
So, in closing, I ask you to fully open your eyes, taste the life your living, hear the music of the world, smell the exquisite flowers in the garden and touch your true self.
Kidder, David S, and Noah D. Oppenheim. The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class. New York: Rodale, 2006. Print.