Volume 16, Number 21
March 16, 2010

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This Week

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anna “I see you” [?]
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

Question: What is truth? What is beauty? What is love? What is sacred?

The eternal questions, the answers to which people have been trying to find for as long as we could think. And still we are unsuccessful.

But the answer may be much simpler than we think.

Answer: It is whatever we believe it to be.

Ever had an argument that you couldn't win? About something very simple, like the temperature? In the same room some people will feel warm, some cold, some okay. So who is right? People have a tendency to state their opinions and feelings as facts, but we take for granted the most obvious aspect of human nature: the fact that everything we know is not fact after all, but simply our perceptions of things. Everything, without exception, before we can understand it, is put through a filter of our senses and beliefs.

“Six blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: ‘It is like a column.’ This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a rope.’ This person had only touched its tail. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently.” - Hindu tale

Who is right, who is wrong? Or is the truth really the sum of the half-truths of all the men?  

The way we think depends on so many factors it seems shocking that people ever  agree on anything. It depends on our physical, sensory perceptions, to non-tangible factors such as our culture, traditions, expectations, experiences, our mood or the general context. This explains why people perceive the same things differently, starting from the very simplest levels such as color and temperature, to more complex things such as politics, religion, even love.

Through these factors we form our viewpoints and opinions, and then we form our own idea of "common sense.”

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Albert Einstein

This statement throws a clear problem into focus: our perceptions of the world, once formed and backed up by arguments and experiences, are very hard to change. But what do we do, then, if our views are, I try to stay away from the word “wrong,” but how about, “harmful”? For example, prejudices or stereotypes.

You may be surprised at how hard it is to break through these barriers, especially if they have been built up about a certain culture or a country, for long periods of time.

I believe that to be able to truly see the world we must be aware of these differences in viewpoints, be aware of our own filters and prejudices, keep an open mind. We must be respectful of past knowledge and experience and add our own to them, without taking any one viewpoint as the absolute truth, always questioning, thinking for ourselves and striving for equality and liberation of the mind in all aspects of life.


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