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kleinbl00  ·  323 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: A question regarding perception.

Okay. I understand. You do not perceive the world as I do.

One of my shameful pastimes is searching the internet for a quote from someone famous - someone with credibility - who has said something similar to a view of my own. A quotable isn't a quotable if the attribution is you. And one of my great white whales - one of the "kleinbl00isms" that I've been unable to foist upon someone more prestigious than myself - is you can have perspective or focus, you can't have both.

That is how I perceive the world: I have a choice between detail view and context view. Fortunately for me I can switch between the two at will. Not always without difficulty but always without fail. I am each blind man in turn until I see the elephant... and until I am blind again.

Take your oak tree. The oak tree of semiotics is there, I suppose, but when I see an oak tree I see the negative space of the oak tree. I see that which the oak tree has displaced by being an oak tree. If I am tasked with describing the oak tree I will start by defining the space that contains the oak tree. I will explain its colors and movement as it relates to the color and movement surrounding the oak tree. The age of the oak tree, its history and future, for me, relate only to the interactions with the oak tree - it is old enough that it doesn't matter that it blocks the view of the mountains, for example, and the lightning strike I see evidence of is only partially relevant because clearly it has healed well.

New information - an oak tree can consume hundreds of gallons of water per hour - can cause an immediate flash to perspective. Suddenly the tree becomes a geyser for a hidden ocean, the grass and bushes being mere pond scum floating on a vast aquifer few of us have ever contemplated. The ebb and flow of humanity and its need to shape our world to fit does not extend to oaks in Arizona. I know that an "oak tree" is this to you:

But to me, an oak tree is a ratty thing that never grows over four feet tall despite what Wikipedia thinks. This is because you grew up in a place where plants can afford to fling a hundred gallons a minute into the air while I grew up in a place where the ten inches of volcanic topsoil can't successfully contain eight inches of rain a year without flash floods that drown tourists who camp in arroyos.

Synthesis continues and I know that an oak tree - life - is a permanent presence for you while for me it's a temporary victory against the inevitability of death because the desert has not taken your childhood while mine has burned to the ground twice. This may explain why you view the valuable period of perception as an ephemeral flicker of insight before the universe settles into an artificially ordered state while I view it as a fluid blend of objective and subjective truths.

I can see the oak tree. I can see how it holds the light, how its branches bifurcate, how its bark feels. But "That Oak Tree" is a probability fan of contexts whose current attitude depends heavily upon its interactions.

That flash of 'gut' or 'instinct' comes to me when I am shown another perspective on the oak tree. The Great Plains Shelterbelt as a bunch of well-meaning Easterners attempted to keep the Great American Desert from blowing away, then cut them down to clobber the Soviet Union with food surpluses. The non-zero cost of a tree as it relates to man's unquenchable need for water. The recognition that the world is currently run by those who know your oak tree at the expense of those more familiar with my oak tree, the recognition that the world is currently being warped to fit the perception of your oak tree but is ultimately unable to stave off the return of my oak tree. You see an oak tree, I see Ozymandias, king of kings but I also know that your oak tree will grow where your oak tree will grow and no amount of terraforming will change that. Tucson can't burn a hundred gallons a minute into an oak tree no matter how badly it might want to so in the end, I'm projecting a remarkable amount of ballast onto what is ultimately a beautiful example of the life I longed for growing up and am currently spiteful of because I've denied it to myself for another three months as I schlep my ass across dry, dusty, inhospitable "forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

It may simply be that you are not comfortable holding many perspectives at once. I'm currently reading Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt and a phrase he puts on a character's lips is "a child is grown when he can hold the viewpoint of others."

It is only "That Oak Tree" because you are too busy looking at it to see it. The perceptual naïveté you seek is available the minute it ceases to be your oak tree.