I heard a story recently. It went like this. When Columbus sailed in to America for the first time, the Native American Indians did not see his ship. Actually it wasn’t that they simply ‘didn’t’ see it, they could not see it. This is because, not only had they never seen a man-made structure such as a tall ship before, but the very concept or idea of a ‘ship’ was so incredibly foreign to their culture, experience and hence their brain, they physically could not perceive it. They were blind to it.
The tribe elder stared out at the ocean and noticed strange ripples on the water. He could see the effect the ship had on the ocean (the familiar patterns of currents, moving water and white-wash), but not the ship itself. The elder stared for 8 days out at the ocean and slowly, very slowly he began to see what we know as a ship. There it stood on the horizon. To him, a strange wooden vessel with giant sticks that reached up towards the sky adorned in white that flapped in the breeze like a tree. He screamed for other tribes people to come and look out at the ocean. However the tribes-people, like the elder, could not initially see the ship. It was only when the elder explained to the others what this ‘ship’ looked like – its shape, size and contour – that they too began to see it. Their brains could begin to perceive this odd shape.
I love this story and, like all good stories, it got me thinking how true this concept is and how it applies to our life, even now.
Our perception really is shaped by our experience. I’ve written in previous blogs about how, as children everything is so crisp and clear. Even our childhood memories remarkably vivid. Almost more vivid than current life itself. Yet, as we get older we form likes, dislikes, beliefs in to what we believe is true and untrue and so on. This shapes our brain, literally re-wiring neural pathways that shape the way we ‘see’ and perceive the world around us. How often have you walked by a shop in your local town and thought “I’ve never noticed that before”… This is normally when we have a moment when we are present in the now and are able to, even for a brief moment, stop our mental noise and the narrow filter dissipates or perhaps some new piece of information or way of thinking has triggered something in our brain allowing us to ‘see’ something new.
Or maybe it’s as simple as, the shop sells a product you’ve just decided you will buy and have been researching it on the internet. It really is fascinating thinking about all the stimuli, experiences, and God knows what else we are missing out on because of this limitation of only being able to see the world through our narrow lens of personal experience and (limited) knowledge. Yet, in this day and age we are constantly bombarded with stimuli. We can’t even wait for a bus for more than 2 minutes without logging on to Facebook or other social media trying to satisfy an impatient binge, craving stimuli that removes us from the present moment and connects us with others.
Our brains are constantly stimulated with all sorts of images, information and new stimuli… So, what effect is this having on our brains? Surely our neural pathways are no longer a weary, slightly trodden path through the long grass of a quiet paddock but are fast becoming super-highways, chaotic, fast and overwhelming. Studies in to Quantum physics now tell us that there can be alternate realities and that atoms and matter can even exist in two different places at once and it’s only when we focus our perception that the atoms form together to form one reality as it’s being perceived by you…. Truly amazing.
So as always, I have a theory… What if, we are evolving… Information overload, stimuli bombardment and evolution of the human race is allowing us to ‘see’ more and more. perhaps we’re even beginning to sense these alternate realities as well as matter or energy around us that we were previously not even close to being tuned in to. Does this explain why depression, anxiety and overall restlessness and frustration are on the rise in todays society? People now seem to live in constant fear of ‘missing out’; popping pills, wine, or engaging in any activities to help numb themselves so they can feel content and pause the mental noise. Perhaps we’re sensing energy around us we previously couldn’t sense and that is causing a generation of restless, anxious and impatient individuals.
50 years ago, people would stay in the same job for most of their lives, live in the same home and life, in comparison seemed fairly static. Yet people got on with life and in retrospect people often comment that simplicity is the key to happiness and our lives now are too ‘overcomplicated’. But maybe it’s just that now our perception is evolving and we’re no longer content as a surrounding noise constantly whispers to us and alluding and tempting us to ‘something more’. We are constantly searching for something, anything to fulfill this need or this longing desire for something… But what exactly? Well, I don’t think we’re really sure just yet. I think we’re all trying to dull the mental noise because we don’t quite understand it… We don’t quite see the picture. Like ‘white-snow’ static on a TV screen that’s out of tune but always picking up on some nearby signal, alluding to some unclear picture, we can’t rest, but we can’t yet tune in and see.
What’s the answer? I like to think maybe we’re in the transition phase where we can’t really ‘see’ the ship just yet, but we are beginning to see the ripples in the water and it’s making us nervous. Some days we sense the ship itself and perhaps eventually, we will see the ship and hopefully accept it. But until then, we’re all uneasy. When and if we can truly see… who knows? Maybe ignorance is bliss after all? Anyway I always find it interesting contemplating what we don’t know. Often it’s the questions that are interesting and inspire great creative thought, not necessarily the answers. So for now, I’ll keep hitting the side of the TV, adjusting the aerial as the static and white-snow struggles to tune in to something I know is there, but I can’t quite see the picture… Yet… So ponder, wonder at and appreciate the ripples in the ocean and think one day we may understand the true cause, not simply the ripple effect… Maybe…