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comment by mk
mk  ·  232 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: A question regarding perception.

For you and everyone else here, I'll try.

I'd say that it has something to do with what we refer to as 'gut' or 'instinct', that we draw upon to tip the scales in decision-making. However, I'd describe it only as the starting place for gut and instinct, a very naive state before the waters of consciousness run in.

I mean both visual and opinion, and more, tacocat.

As an example, say I am in a field, looking at an oak tree. Quickly, there gathers in my mind'e eye an ideal or symbolic oak tree, which is what pollutes my ability if I try to draw it. There is the tree as I see it, as different levels of light, tone, colors, and degrees of focus. There is my distance from it, and it's size in relation to me. There is my assumption of it's age and its history and future. There are countless other ways that the oak tree becomes defined in my mind, and yet very quickly "That Oak Tree" is what I've got. I can then inspect elements of it and ignore others, but there is a brief period of perception in which these elements haven't yet all settled out, and maybe before they do, I can weigh them, or experience them in part without the same influence of the others.

I suppose I am talking about a moment of perceptual naivety that I value. I realized that I have been trying to expand my access to it over time, but haven't tried to put it into words. I'm not sure if doing so will aid my efforts.

kleinbl00  ·  232 days ago  ·  link  ·  

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.

mk  ·  225 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I've been thinking about how to better explain what I mean, and I haven't yet got it. Probably because it's so much less than what perhaps I've led people here to assume.

"Perceptual naivety" is about the best I can come up with.

I was just talking to a new acquaintance yesterday about Douglas Hofstadter's Copycat program, which actually might relate. The actual problem the program solves isn't very important, but there is a characteristic in it whereby competing processes run in parallel, exploring a solution space before these possible codelets anneal into a decision. I guess what I am talking about, is an effort to delay this period of competing processes, not by slowing them down outright, but maybe by expanding the possibilities of the workspace, or maybe lowering the annealing temperature.

I'm actually pretty comfortable holding many perspectives. I might go as far to say that I am uncomfortable with ideas that I cannot successfully challenge. I consider that a sign of my ignorance on a subject.

kleinbl00  ·  225 days ago  ·  link  ·  

In other words, you want to spend more time as the blind men before you figure out it's an elephant.


mk  ·  225 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Enough for horseshoes and hand grenades.

kleinbl00  ·  225 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I mean, drugs.

This is ultimately what keeps me away from cannabis: when I'm high, I absolutely experience the syncretism of concepts and experience. A couple times, though, I've made the mistake of writing down these insights and upon reviewing them sober, I see the stupidity as plain as my face.

I'm of the opinion that the individual processes of evaluation, if you will, are much less than the sum of the parts. Synthesis is the reward, not something to be postponed.

thenewgreen  ·  162 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I know you’ve scoffed at my past suggestions to read the “Power of Now,” by Tolle, but it addresses this. Read it.

rezzeJ  ·  231 days ago  ·  link  ·  

My response is a whole load of excerpts from Jiddu Krishnamurti's book Freedom from the Known. I know I've pasted quite a lot, but I think it really touches on your observations (if I'm not off the mark). It even uses the examples of watching or painting a tree.

    Have you ever noticed that when you are in a state of complete attention the observer, the thinker, the centre, the 'me', comes to an end? In that state of attention thought begins to wither away. If one wants to see a thing very clearly, one's mind must be very quiet, without all the prejudices, the chattering, the dialogue, the images, the pictures - all that must be put aside to look...

    ...But how can we be free to look and learn when our minds, from the moment we are born to the moment we die, are shaped by a particular culture in the narrow pattern of the 'me'? For centuries we have been conditioned by nationality, caste, class, tradition, religion, language, education, literature, art, custom, convention, propaganda of all kinds, economic pressure, the food we eat, the climate we live in, our family, our friends, our experiences - every influence you can think of - and therefore our responses to every problem are conditioned.

    Are you aware that you are conditioned? That is the first thing to ask yourself, not how to be free of your conditioning. You may never be free of it, and if you say, 'I must be free of it', you may fall into another trap of another form of conditioning. So are you aware that you are conditioned? Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say, 'That is an oak tree', or 'that is a banyan tree', the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come in contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it.

    It seems to me that one of our greatest difficulties is to see for ourselves really clearly, not only outward things, but inward life. When we say we see a tree or a flower or a person, do we actually see them? Or do we merely see the image that the word has created? That is, when you look at a tree or at a cloud of an evening full of light and delight, do you actually see it, not only with your eyes and intellectually, but totally, completely?

    Have you ever experimented with looking at an objective thing like a tree without any of the associations, any of the knowledge you have acquired about it, without any prejudice, any judgement, any words forming a screen between you and the tree and preventing you from seeing it as it actually is? Try it and see what actually takes place when you observe the tree with all your being, with the totality of your energy. In that intensity you will find that there is no observer at all; there is only attention. It is when there is inattention that there is the observer and the observed. When you are looking at something with complete attention there is no space for a conception, a formula or a memory. This is important to understand because we are going into something which requires very careful investigation.

    Now, when I build an image about you or about anything, I am able to watch that image, so there is the image and the observer of the image. I see someone, say, with a red shirt on and my immediate reaction is that I like it or that I don't like it. The like or dislike is the result of my culture, my training, my associations, my inclinations, my acquired and inherited characteristics. It is from that centre that I observe and make my judgement, and thus the observer is separate from the thing he observes.

    But the observer is aware of more than one image; he creates thousands of images. But is the observer different from these images? Isn't he just another image? He is always adding to and subtracting from what he is; he is a living thing all the time weighing, comparing, judging, modifying and changing as a result of pressures from outside and within - living in the field of consciousness which is his own knowledge, influence and innumerable calculations. At the same time when you look at the observer, who is yourself, you see that he is made up of memories, experiences, accidents, influences, traditions and infinite varieties of suffering, all of which are the past. So the observer is both the past and the present, and tomorrow is waiting and that is also a part of him...

    ...One image, as the observer, observes dozens of other images around himself and inside himself, and he says, 'I like this image, I'm going to keep it' or 'I don't like that image so I'll get rid of it', but the observer himself has been put together by the various images which have come into being through reaction to various other images. So we come to a point where we can say, 'The observer is also the image, only he has separated himself and observes. This observer who has come into being through various other images thinks himself permanent and between himself and the images he has created there is a division, a time interval.

    Awareness of all this, which is real meditation, has revealed that there is a central image put together by all the other images, and the central image, the observer, is the censor, the experiencer, the evaluator, the judge who wants to conquer or subjugate the other images or destroy them altogether. The other images are the result of judgements, opinions and conclusions by the observer, and the observer is the result of all the other images - therefore the observer is the observed...

    ...This awareness that the observer is the observed is not a process of identification with the observed. To identify ourselves with something is fairly easy. Most of us identify ourselves with something - with our family, our husband or wife, our nation - and that leads to great misery and great wars. We are considering something entirely different and we must understand it not verbally but in our core, right at the root of our being. In ancient China before an artist began to paint anything - a tree, for instance - he would sit down in front of it for days, months, years, it didn't matter how long, until he was the tree. He did not identify himself with the tree but he was the tree. This means that there was no space between him and the tree, no space between the observer and the observed, no experiencer experiencing the beauty, the movement, the shadow, the depth of a leaf, the quality of colour. He was totally the tree, and in that state only could he paint.

    Any movement on the part of the observer, if he has not realized that the observer is the observed, creates only another series of images and again he is caught in them. But what takes place when the observer is aware that the observer is the observed? Go slowly, go very slowly, because it is a very complex thing we are going into now. What takes place? The observer does not act at all. The observer has always said, 'I must do something about these images, I must suppress them or give them a different shape; he is always active in regard to the observed, acting and reacting passionately or casually, and this action of like and dislike on the part of the observer is called positive action - 'I like, therefore I must hold. I dislike therefore I must get rid of.' But when the observer realizes that the thing about which he is acting is himself, then there is no conflict between himself and the image. He is that. He is not separate from that. When he was separate, he did, or tried to do, something about it, but when the observer realizes that he is that, then there is no like or dislike and conflict ceases.

    For what is he to do? If something is you, what can you do? You cannot rebel against it or run away from it or even accept it. It is there. So all action that is the outcome of reaction to like-and dislike has come to an end.

    Then you will find that there is an awareness that has become tremendously alive. It is not bound to any central issue or to any image - and from that intensity of awareness there is a different quality of attention and therefore the mind - because the mind is this awareness - has become extraordinarily sensitive and highly intelligent.

mk  ·  225 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thanks for this. It is not far off the mark.

It's very interesting, because part of what brought me to post the question is my painting. I posted this after spending time in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. It doesn't only relate to my painting, but painting is one place where its effects can be seen; they take some permanence. I don't put myself into my paintings anymore or less than I put myself into anything that I say or do. I can't remove myself from them.

That being understood, the matter isn't so much the painting. The matter is myself. And, then question I have, for myself, is whether or not there is a quality to that space that I can experience, if not better understand.

oyster  ·  232 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Four years ago when I first moved to the mountains I ended up doing a short easy hike in town that had an amazing view with a few people who I met at work. It was a super easy hike so we just sat up there getting baked and chatting. One of the guys was studying geology and after a period of silence he started talking about how crazy it was that this was all covered in ice before. As he explained it it was like everything stopped being things that my eyes were seeing as if I was just looking at a picture and I started to really feel like I was in this world and started seeing everything in relation to me and the sky, the ground, the lake, the mountains, the long since melted ice. I felt so connected to everything. That was the best summer of my life and honestly it's why I came back to the mountains. I don't know if that's exactly what you're talking about but I've dedicated a significant amount of my energy to getting that feeling again. Sometimes now I look at the mountains around me and it feels like seeing a picture but sometimes I'm still able to tap into it.

steve  ·  232 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I'd describe it only as the starting place for gut and instinct, a very naive state before the waters of consciousness run in.

This sounds like a phenomenon I experience with music or film, a conversation with a friend, or a good book (although harder with a book). There’s this period of time when I can just enjoy the thing... without examining why I enjoy it. Is it that? The time of observation without evaluation?

tacocat  ·  232 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Read Simulacra and Simulation by Baudrillard?

mk  ·  232 days ago  ·  link  ·  

No. Why?

tacocat  ·  232 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I meant as in you should as a way to see if he describes what you're describing. It reminded me of his theories on hyper reality. That or Wittgenstein. Sounds like a philosophical problem