To those of you who found this post because you were looking for Stanley Kubrick’s erotic thriller, my apologies. But, stay awhile. Though there’s no (intended) erotica here, who knows what else you may perceive?
I thought I’d use this post to toss together a few of my ideas about perspective and perceptions. These two photographs are part of the mix. I’ll come back to them a little later in the post.
Perspective and perceptions. What’s the distinction? Well, in my book, perceptions are the ways in which we interpret things, and perspective is the way we look at or approach things, thereby causing our interpretations or perceptions.
I do not intend to dwell on the necessity to expand our perspective and to share and understand perceptions. There’s ample advice of that kind all around (Would that we paid heed to it!) I’m happy just sharing some of the ideas and experiences that cause me to reflect on things (and thereby contribute to my perspective). …..Didacticism, when it happens on this blog, is only incidental.
I’ve used the phrase ‘eyes wide shut’ because it’s an effective way of indicating that there’s often a lot around us that we don’t perceive, either because we’re so caught up with ourselves (and our new body part, the smartphone) or because we refuse to see it.
Let me tell you about the lady at Dilsuknagar.
(D’nagar is a predominantly residential locality in the south-east of the city of Hyderabad. It’s the size of a large town. It’s very very crowded, and has, along its main roads, many educational institutions, restaurants, retail establishments and hospitals. Traffic is manageable between 11 pm and 5 am, but is absolutely maddening at any other time.)
Back to the lady I’m talking about. She sits at one end of a block of shops, by an autorickshaw stand, at a really busy road junction. There must be at least a hundred people that pass by her every minute (and I mean that). Yet, no one seems to see her, even though she sits in absolutely plain sight, in such a public place, and even though she’s attractive.
I was guilty of that too. I noticed her only on the tenth or eleventh time that I passed through that junction.
She sits on a square slab of stone in what looks like a saree, with its ‘pallu’ draped across her shoulder and over her head. She’s constantly looking at something to her left, and is as oblivious to passing people as they are of her.
Here are a couple of photographs:
I was, and still am, truly amazed. She’s (at least to my untrained eye) a good piece of sculpture, all from one piece of rock. Most people around haven’t seen her (and many go ‘ho hum’ when you draw their attention to her). The few who’ve seen her don’t know her name, where she belongs, or who the sculptor was. All they know is that she’s been around at least a decade or more.
(In a sense, perhaps she’s benefitted from the indifference. Maybe that’s what has actually kept her from being defaced or vandalised!!)
How many, or how much, of the obvious do we miss? What is it about us that we often fail to notice the good things that exist around us, or that people around us do? Wouldn’t it be great if the media actually spent some of their collective energy in making us aware of these things? ‘Good tidings’ doesn’t always has to be an evangelical term, does it?
Thankfully, we do see the good in things, sometimes. Hopefully, we will not lose the ability or cease to recognise its value.
Bob Thiele and George Weiss were two people who saw the good. Here’s a song they wrote – ‘What a wonderful world’ – performed by the one and only Louis Armstrong.
Then there are the things that we miss at first, but do see or realise when we look closely, or pay attention, or ask for explanations. This picture is a good example of that. It’s the Lee Conklin artwork on Santana’s first album.
You can read a little more about it at: http://www.deceptology.com/2011/09/santanas-optical-illusion-album-cover.html.
There’s the other side of the coin too, of course – perceptions some have that we often don’t, either because we’ve got ‘eyes wide shut’ or because we don’t share (consciously or otherwise) their way of looking at things (their perspective). …..But sometimes we do.
To demonstrate the idea, here’s a small extract from a book I’m currently reading – ‘The Night Ferry’ by Michael Robotham, an Australian novelist. (I trust I’ll get a tolerant nod from him for the use of his lines.)
Here we go. (The narrator is a young woman, and Cate, also a young woman, is her very close friend.)
…She (Cate) could .. make herself miserable by imagining that our friendship would be over one day.
“I have never had a friend like you and I never shall again. Never ever.”
I was embarassed.
The other thing she said was this: “I am going to have lots of babies because they will love me and never leave me.”
I don’t know why she talked like this. She treated love and frienship like a small creature trapped in a blizzard, fighting for survival. …
Interesting little piece, isn’t it? You realise there’s perspective and perception on both sides – the narrator’s and Cate’s. What I find fascinating, though, is the last sentence, and not just for the brilliant analogy it presents. With it, Robotham helps his readers understand the kind of insecurity that many people have about love and friendship – that they’re very difficult to find and very vulnerable, (easily cheated, easily led astray, easily harmed, easily lost, easily taken away), and that they need to be cherished and treasured, whatever the cost.
You see what happens once you understand this? You then begin to understand something apparently inexplicable – why some people, so self-assured and capable on their own, lock themselves into relationships where they play second fiddle, or, worse, demeaning ones where they are subjected to disregard, sometimes humiliation, even abuse.
Disconcerting territory? OK. I’ll move back to something less uncomfortable.
Here’s a song that gives us a sense of ‘there’s more in this than meets the ear’ – J J Cale’s ‘Money talks’. His song is from 1983, but this is a live version from 2001, when he was 63.
While it presents, in wry fashion, a universal perspective, it also presents a few perceptions that should be obvious, but not everyone has seen. For instance: “…you’d be surprised the friends you can buy with small change…”!!
Another one that gives you such a feeling is ‘My favourite things’, the iconic song by Rodgers and Hammerstein, made popular with the film ‘The Sound of Music’.
The lyrics seem deceptively simple, don’t they? What about “….brown paper packages tied up with string…”?
Don’t move on till you’ve heard John Coltrane’s brilliant instrumental version.
And, certainly not least, there are things others see that we don’t, and vice-versa.
If certain schools of psychologists are to be believed, such perceptions are indicative of one’s ‘psychological make-up’ or the state of one’s mind. I’m not too sure that it’s always that complex, though. I think that such perceptions could also be, very simply, indicative of one’s previous experience or exposure.
Let’s take the first image from the Roscharch test (or the ink-blot test), for instance.
Studies tell us that ‘bat’, ‘butterfly’, or ‘moth’ is how most persons tend to see this image. Well, the first thing that struck me was ‘wolf’. So, is the state of my mind really different from those who saw something else, or is my view different from those of the others simply because wolves are what I’ve read more about, and seen more images of, than bats, butterflies or moths?
To give you another example of what I mean –
At the start of this post are two photographs I’d taken in the recent past. I took them because, in both cases, something struck me about what I’d been looking at. Have a look at them. Expand them if you’d like. Think about them a bit. Does something come to mind? What do you see? When you’ve finished, scroll down to the end of this post where I’ve indicated what I saw.
I’ll close this post with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both sides now’, in which she presents her version of both sides of the ‘perception coin’.
Joni Mitchell – Clouds (artwork)
Here’s her original, from 1969, when she was 26:
Something to think about, isn’t it, this business of perspective and perceptions? Whichever ‘way you look at it’, though, I’m sure you’d agree that we’d all be far better off than we currently are, were we to keep eyes, and minds, wide open!!
So, what do you think?
State of mind?
Perhaps, merely the result of a febrile imagination?!