Subjectivity Perceives, It Does Not Create
Tell me a story. A short one. A simple one. One where you go about your normal day. A reflective narrative if you will, but one that is told as if it is happening to another person, despite it being entirely about you. When done, notice for a moment what the content of that process involved. Was there anything unnatural or out of the ordinary? Did something pop into the story that had no connection to the context in which the person was living? Were words used that had no meaning or were unrecognizable?
Now tell the same story again, but this time add in something fantastical, something that didn’t happen and has no immediate connection to the context. A dragon soars in. Secret agents burst onto the scene. A hole in the ground opens up and swallows oncoming traffic. When finished now ask whether you’ve ever seen such a thing before in some other media, whether a movie, television or book. If nothing comes to mind, then ask whether the thing that happened is completely unrelated to anything else you’ve ever heard of. Notice that everything that happened was in some way related to something else, either directly or as some form of conglomeration or melding of multiple qualities.
The Biblical character Solomon is is said to have written in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “So there is nothing new under the sun.” This was the summation of a great deal of wallowing in pathos, but is not far off in itself. Every invention, every discovery, every idea and imagined future, rests squarely within the reciprocally interactive universe. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts…” Each basket of being rests within another until the whole is held. Nothing stands alone. While this can be cause for celebration, this singularity of existence, the downside of it can promote despair if one defines creation as something wholly new.
This need to make something new, to create, is at the heart of how people often speak of their experiences. We express our stories and they feel new, or usually they do, contributing to the creation of our lives as if wholly brought into existence by the power of our imagination. This may be more easily understood if we shift perspective. When we go about our lives, quite often we do so without conscious engagement. We do our tasks, drive our cars, do our work and rarely trouble ourselves with active involvement. Some even jokingly take pride in “zoning out” and to do so is at times seen as a way of relaxation. Notice that when above you were telling your story, it was told as a projection of yourself, a completely different perspective than when it was occurring. When happening, the subject or “you” disappears into the background, only to re-emerge later when re-creating the experience. In other words, the subject perceives, it does not create.
If we created from nothing the stories of our lives, there’d never be anything missed, nothing ever new. Let’s go back again to the personal story. When asked to recall, there are any number of things that may be remembered that at the time were not noticed. These things didn’t just pop into existence, they were there all along, they simply didn’t register within the trajectory of the experience. How often have you been going along in life when someone else points out something that had been missed? There’s a pause, a hesitation, then if one is open to it, a revelatory feeling.
Here is the power of expanded awareness. When we intitially consider reality as a singularity, everything that is capable of being perceived is available. Due to various restrictions from the biological to the cognitive to the cultural, however, there are any number of items that simply do not fall into consciousness. While this can be distressing when staring at a school test or having an item suddenly “appear” from seemingly nowhere, like when driving, there is in fact a great deal of freedom to be found.
Every shift in perspective opens up new vistas of experience, making the resting potential in the singularity of existence actualized in ways that may be shocking and appear brand new. And they certainly are new, in so far as our perception is concerned, but their potential was always there, waiting to be pieced together. There is found the joy of discovery, the exuberance in exploration. There is also found the compassion of acknowledging the limitations of ourselves and others, of not judging when someone doesn’t see what we see.
From politics to religion, humanity seems determined to be adversarial. If we switch from creation to perception, then we shift from different realities smashing into one another to a need for a broader awareness of what is open to all. When we dwell in singularity and consider all perceptions as parts of that whole, then dialogue and mutual expansion are possible.
© David Teachout