Archive for the 'perception' Category

Changing words

December 25, 2015

I hadn’t heard of Eva Cassidy until fairly recently, and I’ve been listening to the singing she left behind ever since.  Many of the recordings are covers, and sometimes I prefer her rendition, sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes it seems she has changed the lyrics or left some out, and I liked the original version better.  Other times I am waiting for a particular vocal flourish that doesn’t come, or I find I am just too used to the original recording I heard.

While I’ve bought a couple of CDs of Eva Cassidy’s music, and tried to buy another (as yet without success), I’ve been listening to some of her work on YouTube, and there, the people posting a song aren’t always clear about who actually wrote it.

So eventually I looked into who wrote “I Know You By Heart.”  Diane Scanlon wrote the lyrics, Eve Nelson the music.

And I also learned that Eva Cassidy changed the lyric in the first verse from “I see your profile” to “I see your sweet smile.”  I learned that from the interviews on :

I love Eva Cassidy’s singing of the song “I Know You By Part.”  As Diane Scanlon says in those interview answers, Eva Cassidy “understood what I [Diane Scanlon] was trying to say.”  That comes through.  But the “profile” version of the lyrics resonates even better for me.

It’s clear to me that our guidance for others is limited because of our inability to see things exactly from where that other person actually is.  We look up, or down, from where we are and try to discern what they should do, but that’s not the same as actually being in their skin and hearing the guidance for them.

I guess I see the substitution of “sweet smile” for “profile” as a revelation of this Achilles’ heel from even such a consummate singer of songs.

It strikes me because I struggle with the issue of collaboration, of putting together the development of material with its dissemination.  I think there are trade-offs in terms of the skill sets needed for each, so a collaboration would seem to be optimal in a sense.  But maybe it’s the case that something is too often lost in the process, whatever the gains.  Maybe that’s okay, maybe the creator’s version and the covers all have their place.  But my sense stubbornly persists that changes in transmission of the original, as in the children’s game of Telephone, can make a difference and that we may end up “on a frolic and a detour” if we are unaware of the original.  I relate this hazard to the need for communication between human beings (I will forego yet another reference to the story of the blind men and the elephant), and that the resolution of the issue of collaboration lies somewhere in improving communication between creator and disseminator.

Different translations

June 30, 2015

I wrote a comment this morning, to a David Brooks column about how Christian social conservatives could change their mission from advocating about sexual mores to helping the poor, and noticed that someone else had made a similar point to mine in their comment posted about a minute before mine was posted.   They call themselves HDNY and they are “verified,” so their comments post immediately, without moderation, so it is likely that HDNY and I were writing at the same time.

I talked about “some other strand” in Christian socially conservative thinking, HDNY talked about “bigots” and “self-righteousness.”  We were both talking about how there seems to be something more going on than just a matter of choosing what part of a Christian message to emphasize.

I’ve seen overlap in comments before, my mother, long before the days of online commenting, used to say, when she had an idea for a letter to the editor, that she was confident that somebody else would write the same thing and she would read it in publication.  What interested me this time was the differing treatments two people gave the same basic theme.

Applying labels to this other thing apparently going on with Christian social conservatives I suspect gets the back up of the people so labeled, unless they like to wear such labels proudly.  Translating the same concept of something else going on into broader and less judgmental terms I think opens up the possibility of seeing some of the attitudes and behaviors as being rooted in self-protective maladaptive coping devices, and that, in turn, could allow people to deal with what ails them that lies behind this perceived need to protect the self.

I admit that my approach is the less popular one, outside of certain circles, but I think it has the virtue of getting us to stop playing a game in which we exchange damaging words with one another.  If it is the case that a lot of difficulty arises from self-protective but maladaptive coping devices, why would increasing the sense that self-protection is needed improve the situation?

I have no real conclusion, only the observation that it is interesting in own right to observe how different people express, or translate, the same basic concept.  I think how we express concepts has a lot to do with which of our own issues we have effectively addressed.  Maybe it also has to do with how deep our perceptions go, how much of the iceberg we can see with the apparatus we have developed, I don’t know.  I do know that one doesn’t buy a well-developed apparatus off the shelf, that the way of thinking it allows can’t be successfully imitated, and that it “costs” plenty.  So maybe it is not surprising that more people don’t use one.

Something confected, or just reality?

May 24, 2015

I confess that I have not been keeping up with reading Father Rohr’s Daily Meditations, but today’s I read, and it reminded me of something I thought was an interesting shift in my own perspective.

It has to do with not seeing things as created for a purpose so much as perceiving them as just existing as they are, interlocking.

The issue comes up in the Daily Meditation with regard to “God … mak[ing] the problem itself part of the solution” (italics omitted).

I don’t see God devising such a plan, I see our recognition that the pieces fit together like that.  I think the reality of living in a dualistic world is that there is pain and there is beauty, and if there’s one, there is also the other.

We humans seem to spend most of our time trying to collect as much beauty as we can for ourselves and shift the pain part to someone else (including to other species, and by exploiting natural resources on the planet, as well).

God isn’t doing this for me in the audience, I am in my spot viewing the cosmos and thinking it is being done for me, because, let’s face it, I have an ego; once I get that ego out of the way sufficiently, what I am viewing just “is,” it just exists, and intention on the part of God is just an artifact of my processing of the situation.

Some of this difference in interpretation may be a difference in semantics or a difference in one’s taxonomy of the spiritual world, but I do see the ultimate force in the universe as impersonal.

On the other hand, I agree that “problems” should not be dismissed as not being an integral part of the whole.


March 1, 2015

I was wondering the other day whether some atheism has roots in the person’s sensitivity to feeling controlled, that their concept of a divine force gets mixed up with a perception that greater power is (necessarily) about controlling others.

I can also imagine some people having a similar problem with what we call “surrender:”  it could get confused with something humiliating or unpleasant, since when humans do it with each other that seems to be a part of what’s involved.

My point is that talking about divinity or surrender won’t make any headway with someone who perceives those things in a negative way, even if that negativity is a product of their own outlook — the point at which the speaker and the audience diverge occurred at point much prior to the discussion of divinity or surrender.

Selection bias

September 8, 2014

I was reading about this in the context of precognition — as an alternative explanation for what some people interpret as precognition.

It got me wondering why the subset of what we could notice that we do notice — what we select with bias — isn’t significant.  It seems to me the selection bias argument is only a refutation of precognition if the process of selection is seen as being driven by something random or meaningless or self-referential.

It doesn’t seem to me that the selection process necessarily is random or meaningless, or not driven by something significant.

Then the argument seems to me to go back to the issue of the earlier stage, of what drives us to notice one thing and not another.

More on mosaics

July 23, 2014

When I was watching the co-owner of the mosaic studio begin to cut the broken cup pieces in preparation for reconfiguring them (see previous post), one of the things she showed me was how by cutting a curved piece, she could in effect flatten it.  (I think it was that by cutting the curved piece along one plane and making it smaller, the contrast producing the curve became reduced in each of the smaller pieces, and so they were flatter.)

Now that suggests to me a spiritual parallel, because I think we human beings are faced with trying to perceive more dimensions of the universe than our everyday world deals with.  So when we perceive something from another realm, maybe we hear it as music, maybe we channel it into poetry or a visual art;  but some of us plug into a small fragment of the much larger thing with many dimensions and try to translate it into linear rational thought and language.  When we try to do that, I think it’s only by limiting the attempt to bringing only a small piece of it into this world that we are able to bring it into this world at all.  It can feel as if we are flattening the idea in breaking it into smaller pieces while we are still remaining consistent with the curves of the original idea as a whole.

The blind men feeling the elephant in the traditional telling of the tale generalize from their personal understanding, and my usual understanding of the tale is that we all need to communicate and share our understandings in order to get at a more profound understanding and peaceful relations with each other.  But today I got to thinking more along the lines of the difficulty of bringing the whole (understanding) into the world at all, no matter the method employed.  With the arts, something of the multidimensional experience I think is being reproduced, but it doesn’t usually become understood in rational thought and integrated into our mundane activities.  So it seems to me there is a trade-off even there, and that it is difficult if not impossible to bring the curved surface completely intact into a realm of flatness:  the universe is curved but our material world is in a sense flat.  When we as inhabitants of this material world poke our perception into, or permit our perception to take in, other realms, we perceive the curves of things.  Bringing them back into this world to share with others here is a whole other project.

Forced visitation

June 8, 2014

Years ago we encountered this notion among social workers charged with the care and protection of children:  if one had molested another, the social workers might still insist on visitation between the perpetrator and victim, if the workers had any reason to believe the children might be biologically related, even if the victim and their parents did not want the contact.  It was an eye-opener for me, the idea of forced social intercourse.

There’s another context in which I’ve seen this:  someone who insists on contact with another even though it’s pretty clear to the other that the person who wants the contact doesn’t like them;  why would I want to have social intercourse with someone who doesn’t like me?  I wouldn’t.  That situation I can simply leave behind and move on.  What makes it tricky, in my experience, is when the other person insists that they like you when they clearly don’t.  Then it’s more difficult, especially because when this happens, it seems to happen with a person who is so disconnected from their true self that they may not even perceive that they don’t like the other person.  And if they’re structured within themselves in a way that we commonly label as narcissistic, they may even see the other person as not liking them instead.

It’s tough, because people who are incapable of treating others reasonably may themselves incur great hurt from the responses they get from the people they unreasonably treat.

In any event, in these cases, I react to my sense from the behavior and underlying self, not the person’s words, about whether they like me, and I don’t want forced social intercourse in those contexts either.  Whether the person doesn’t like me because they feel intimidated by me or because they see me as intolerable competition or they just don’t happen to like the person I happen to be, or for any other reason, I don’t want an interaction that is predicated on pretending that something is the case when it isn’t.

In the context of social intercourse with people who claim to but don’t actually like me, they are usually wanting something from me (and too much from me, as it turns out), whether or not they are aware of it, and what comes across to me is that I am being asked to enter into their distorted view in order for them to draw a benefit to themselves from me, at my expense.  In a word, as my younger son puts it, they are needy, and they want me to meet their extremely large needs.  And the fact of the matter is that I can’t, whether or not I want to try, and I would harm myself if I did what they want.  And I’ve learned that by having tried.


March 19, 2014

I think we all have flaws as we live in the material world.  Just as Willy used to chide me that when we have nothing on our “administrative matters” to-do list it’s because we are dead, when we have no flaws, I think we are just spirit.

But some flaws are more of impediments to navigating in the world and developing our potential than others.  So we try to reduce the big impediments, in order to reduce distortion to our perception and in order to reduce damage to others and to ourselves.

As to the rest of our flaws, I think we adjust for them through collaboration with others — like blind men feeling parts of the elephant, if we pool our perceptions, we might make up for one another’s limitations.

How it feels from different perspectives

January 4, 2014

My “day job” interfered with my responding to some of the replies I got to my comment on how people without faith sometimes deride the perspective of people who do have faith, which I wrote in response to Charles Blow’s column today.

I can see from other people’s perspectives.  Being capable of having empathetic experiences is a gift, but it also comes with its difficulties.  One of them is keeping one’s bearings while experiencing another’s perspective.  I would say the most challenging instance of this is when the other person has no religious faith — I experience the world as they do, and it is quite flat — quite flattened in comparison with what I usually see.  I have learned that I just (!) need to be aware that I am (temporarily) seeing the world as somebody without faith sees it.  Eventually their perspective dissipates for me, and I go back to my usual perspective.  Similar to what happens when I am having an empathetic experience with a shopkeeper trying to sell me something — I can see it their way, temporarily, too;  there, I have learned not to make decisions while that is going on.  (This may sound similar to good shopping habits for everybody, and to some extent it is.)

So, I can see the world both with faith and without.

If I lose my bearings, though, I “lose my legs”  — like a dancer who forgets to “spot” when she executes turns.

Holding two perspectives

December 29, 2013

Last night my cousin let me know his perspective on my putting a statue of the Buddha in my home.  Not only could I read his words and understand their content, but after I replied to his comment, I could actually see how the statue could look like an idol.

I can’t know whether what I perceived was actually what my cousin sees, but it certainly was a version of seeing the statue as an idol and not seeing the statue as I usually do.

I was reading Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today, about holding in tension what we know and what we don’t.

For me, a big lesson and challenge has been to recognize what is my perspective and what is someone else’s, instead of just getting swamped by someone else’s, which I am perfectly capable of doing, just as we are somewhat susceptible to effective sales techniques even when we don’t realize it.  And that’s just it; just as savvy shoppers are aware of advertizing manipulation or sales associates’ techniques, I can become aware of when I am picking up someone else’s perspective.

For me, in my context, what can be difficult is when the other person is completely dismissive of my own point of view, when there is no room in their perspective for mine.  It can happen when I interact with people who hold their atheism strongly, for example, or even with people who judge my family members or my life in strongly negative terms.  It can leave me, in a way, gasping for air; maybe it’s like a guitar player hearing from someone that a guitar is just a wooden box with strings with which they are making noise.

But there is something helpful about this experience.  It shows me how a perspective is just that, a perspective, my own included.  That helps me with detachment and with understanding our world and how we see it.

But with all due respect to feedback from others and from visiting their perspectives, in the end I have to find the view that supports my greatest good, not adopt one that suits somebody else out of people-pleasing or trying to reach some other social goal.

So I go back to seeing my statue as an encouraging reminder of how, while we may go from dust to dust, we also go from enlightenment to enlightenment — we have been enlightened before, we will be so again.  And that is a source of joy, that we can be reborn into that consciousness.  This stream of thought for me gets collapsed into just being thrilled when I see my Buddha statue.  I don’t see it as an idol but as a concrete reminder of an ethereal process in which we each can become a buddha.

I come by my joy not easily, whether that’s intrinsic to me or a result of my experiences.  But when I do encounter joy, the deep, child-like kind, it feels like a blessing.  And part of the ability to encounter it seems to come from having found the perspective that allows me access to it, so I am not in a hurry to give that up in favor of the perspective that allows someone else access to it.  It’s not de gustibus non disputandum est (tastes cannot be argued about) exactly, but that is the phrase that keeps bubbling up in my mind, and I think the concept is something similar.