This is one of my favorite quotes, and one that I think requires deep consideration from anyone wishing to lead an examined life. It’s pretty obvious that we all see things differently. Differing world views, education, life experiences, and fleeting emotional states all contribute to unique perspectives that fluctuate even among the individual. The way that we interpret any given event is largely determined by our interpretations and analysis of the events that preceded it. Sometimes this is beneficial, but it can also be damaging. In going through the motions of daily life, we often become entangled in the chain of thoughts and perceptions that the mind has woven throughout the day and forget that we are not trapped by any particular perspective.
Even when considered in a very literal and physical sense, Nin’s statement holds. Humans interact with the world through the limited scope of five fine-tuned senses. Our eyes only allow us to directly observe a small fraction of the light spectrum, our ears can detect only particular frequencies, and the same goes for each of our tools for perceiving the world. We do not see the world in its natural state, but at some intersection where its attributes collide with our abilities to perceive.
Science has attempted to apply a lens of objectivity to the world, and has had substantial success in determining things that could not otherwise be known, but like all human endeavors, it is limited by our capacity to think, imagine, create, and reason. Scientific findings are still subject to interpretation (and misinterpretation, as history has shown us through numerous corrections). Still, we have gradually progressed in our understanding, and some believe that we are gradually beginning to see things as they really are. This may be so, but it leads me to wonder if logic, reason, and science are really adequate tools for determining reality, or are these just limited extensions of our physical perceptions?
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Its important to remember that our thoughts, our minds, determine perspective but not reality. No matter how sure we are of anything, there will always be contributing factors that exceed our awareness. Might it be that our true selves (souls???) are one of these things that we perceive only marginally? Is it possible that some form of god is lurking there, just beyond perception?