If our thoughts aren’t our reality, what can we believe? No idea. But I know it helps to be conscious of the gap between perception and reality. A wise man knows he knows nothing, and being aware of this gap is his starting point for empathy.
We are all born in a cultural story, a network of norms and values. I am born a girl, white, Belgian, Leo, my parents are in their early twenties and we all live in Ledeberg. There are a lot of immigrants in our street. When I go and play with my Turkish girlfriend, I find it funny that there is hardly any furniture but many carpets on the floor where people sit down to talk. Her mother gives me tea instead of chocolate milk. I have to go to bed around seven while my girlfriend plays outside with her brothers on the street long after it’s dark. My girlfriend and I have the same age, live in the same street, have the same interests, but her life is already much more complicated than mine. At this point, I don’t realize that yet. Our culture has been taught to us; it’s a story about reality that we tell ourselves.
Turkish people are freeloaders, Morrocans thieves and Belgians hard workers. Turkish people eat from the ground, Belgians from a table. They are ill-mannered and we are educated. Morrocan and Turkish mothers smell bad, while Belgian mothers always smell fresh. Is that so? If you repeat it long enough, it will (see this text). At least for the brain. In our head. In our perception.
But our perception is not the same as reality.
The gap in our head
We have a very limited idea of reality. The closest for us human beings -with our little senses full of evolutionary flaws- is staying in the here and now, and this alone already asks a lot of practice.
Even the most intelligent person on Earth experiences this gap between perception and reality. Because beside our cultural story, we also have our personal story. I am a highly sensitive person but always get to hear as a kid that I am lazy, distracted and angry. For many many years, I believed myself that, each time I was overwhelmed by the music in our bar, the kids on the playground, or by François from my class who wanted to be my boyfriend, I was acting very negative and angry while in fact, I just shut down.
Okay, nothing too dramatic, but I mean that we all create these stories about ourselves and that it is a real shame to have to believe almost all your life that low self-esteem is for real. All humans are excellent storytellers, even the dumbest person on Earth.
The Queen and the Joker
The ones who understand this gap very well are magicians. They mess with our limited perception of the world and we clap in our hands because of all that incredible magic.
At one point he holds a Queen of Hearts in his hands, and next, it appears to be a Joker. But what we don’t see, blinded by our perception, are all the dots in between the Queen and the Joker. And that is how it goes each time we interact with someone. Each individual has its knowledge, past, preferences, expectations, trauma’s and things he is focused on in that particular moment. In those five minutes at a bus stand or at the bakery, thousands of dots can be connected with each time a complete other story.
There is an interesting You Tube story from the magician Yörg Alexander who explains this with a few examples: ” We all hold on to our own point of views, our own perceptions but we are all wrong simplu because we are not made to see reality.”
The thing is, that, if you are convinced of your own perception, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities. Because those Turkish mothers make the best desserts, those stealing Morrocans know what hospitality means, and those Senegaleze down the street (who are actually from Nigeria) are really funny and have a lot of style.
We all hold on to our own point of views, our own perceptions but we are all wrong simply because people are not built to see reality.
Life is like a game of cards, a game of chance between what is real and what is not. And it’s about time that we realize this instead of seeking validations in our personal truths (‘It’s the principle that counts!’ Uh, puke emoji) and stick with it. That is how we can move on and become good neighbours for each other.
Other cultures or people who think differently are an opportunity to learn and see our own culture’s flaws (fearful, money-driven, prudish?) and become resilient.
We don’t fight against reality; we fight against our own perception. Not realizing this is what Buddhists call ‘Ignorance’. Our primitive brain, with all its evolutionary emotions, reduces reality to our personal dogma in which we are the hero, and the other is the villain.
Ignorance is dangerous because the biggest magicians of all are polarizing politicians who, with a lot of prior knowledge, take advantage of that gap between perception and reality to create the biggest illusions we take truthfully.
Only if we become aware of our innate ignorance can we start to understand that we are all ordinary people with funny flaws and a big desire for safety and unity. It’s in that gap where we realize we are the joker making a fool of himself, that we can find humility and empathy to shake each other’s hand and keep our streets from Lederberg up to Timbuktu more resilient than ever.
There are many ways to become aware of our own ignorance, the gap between what we think we think and what is real. I already explained some of those techniques in previous posts like knowing your true Identity instead of playing a role that is put upon you by family or society. Or how to build your routines and change your lifestyle. But these are very rational/ brainy ways to deal with ignorance or a true life. From now on, in the next posts I will go inside the body to deal with things we can’t really see: our emotions, our soul and the spiritual path.