“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Anais Nin, who said this, was born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell, of French-Cuban ancestry. It’s apparent just from her naming that she would have a lot of problems, or at least a lot of choices, in the way she saw things.
Perhaps most of us feel as if we start from a simpler place, that who we are is a unified given and all we have to do is concentrate on seeing the objects around us. The world is objective for us. We just observe it and describe it (and react to it and manipulate it).
Maybe so. But I don’t think so. Maybe there is an objective “world” but if so, we can never access it. Nin is right. From the instant we “step into the picture” (as I’m doing above) we (consciously and unconsciously) determine what we see and how we see it, determine its meaning, even its existence. It’s impossible to disentangle ourselves from the world, and therefore we ineluctably create what we see.
For instance, what is this?
Unless you have spent time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico — and even then, unless you have looked through my sensibility — I don’t think you’ll recognize it as the wall of an old church in the centro, framed by a few leaves of nearby trees, a long-boarded-up window in the center of the wall.
And then there’s this, which I photographed in the neighborhood of Colonia San Antonio, a little way outside of the centro:
Do you see a facade of an old Mission inn that’s been gentrified? Probably not, although if the camera pulled back far enough that’s just what you’d see. When we were in San Miguel for a second winter visit, I was in the grip of a passion for abstracts, and so abstracts — as I went picking my way over the cobblestones and the uneven curbs and steps — is what I saw.
So, if Nin is right, and I am right, reality is subjective, not objective. Is this a problem? If we recognize that we are always and inevitably shaping the world in our own image — If we have the humility to recognize that only God/Ultimate Truth/Nature knows the whole picture —- No, it doesn’t have to be a problem.
But when we recognize only our own vision and our own truth, when we are adamant that only what we see and how we see it is reality, if we ABSOLUTELY KNOW that we are right and everyone else is wrong — Then it’s a HUGE problem. Just look at any newspaper’s headlines, just watch any television news broadcast.
This is my blog post. It’s what I see from where I sit. What you read where you sit, and how you see from where you are, are different. Do we fight over those differences? Or can we allow my view, your view, to mutually enrich us? Our choice. One final photograph that I hope will gather up all these words into one single image, an image of how I see reality: