Posts Tagged ‘Porter Square’

What we see

October 16, 2011

I was at the Porter Square T stop in Cambridge, MA earlier today, and it was windy enough for the mobile sculpture above the station to catch my attention as I waited for the light to change.  I suspect that the structures are supposed to represent hot air balloons, but they’ve always looked to me like ice cream cones.

There was a song I used to hear on a children’s show years ago that had a verse, “‘Look there, Daddy.’  ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see a horse in striped pajamas.’  ‘No, that’s not what it is at all; people call that a zebra.’ ‘I see.  But it still looks like a horse in striped pajamas to me.'”

I can see the balloons, I can see the zebra, I can agree that the other interpretation is outside of the consensus.  But I’m not sure I’m willing to give up that other, alternative interpretation, either.

I think there is a distinction between one’s own idiosyncratic interpretation (in which I might put my ice cream cone interpretation) and participating in other ways of seeing that we don’t include in consensus reality.  A mild example in this second category might be interpreting a situation in which a self-help group insists on keeping a lot of old books in the bag members take turns carrying to the meetings, just in case they are needed, as representing that members carry around “old baggage” that probably should be jettisoned, too.

Spending time in non-consensus reality has its risks, both personal and social.  But I’m not so sure that our current version of consensus reality is so “accurate” itself that paying undue deference to it at all costs is the answer, either.  I sometimes wonder whether that wasn’t what Socrates was getting at.  I like to think that if instead of trying to get others to agree to see things in other ways, we just help other people develop themselves, eventually something will willingly shift, and we’ll get where we need to go with less risk in the process to the messengers.