Friday, June 22, 2012

Altered Perceptions.


When I got my new glasses, they were mostly for driving at night, in the rain, when it’s overcast, misty or foggy. When there are no amber lines, on a paved outlying road, where the streetlights are only at intersections and might be miles apart, the average reader will agree that it’s sometimes kind of hard to see.

I also wanted the right type of glasses for riding a bicycle. They keep bugs and rain and dust and gravel out of your eyes when cycling. They are useful for cycling at night, when all of the conditions in the first paragraph still apply.

Trying to walk in my new glasses was very strange. That was because it felt like the ground was up around about my belly button, and my legs are or at least were designed to reach the ground from about ass-level.

The glasses brought everything a lot closer to me. It took a while, but I walk and wear glasses at the same time just fine now. I had to learn a new skill: filtering. Or skewing, or ‘optimizing’ or whatever.

What had really changed was the perception. My visual perceptions were being filtered by clear lenses made of plastic. And it changed my whole physical world, for all perceptions are interpreted, and certain conclusions are drawn from them by the central processing unit, i.e. my brain.

What is interesting is how easily fooled we are as to what might be termed ‘spatial awareness.’ This was brought home the other day when I was riding my bike down the street and I took my glasses off while riding with no hands. I used a corner of my shirt to rub some dirt off the glasses.

Holy, crap. It was like I was nine feet tall on that bike. It’s quite a frightening moment. I couldn’t believe how effing tall that bike was, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think I could ride without my glasses now, but I was doing it before just fine.

Incidentally, I took the garbage out the other day, and wasn’t wearing my glasses. Holy, crap. Was that ground ever a long ways away! You wouldn’t want to fall from this height. What was normal a couple of months ago seems very strange now. It seems to me that when we alter our perceptions, the brain works very quickly and efficiently to detect and identify these changes in our environment, and to filter them out, and make everything look ‘all right’ again.

Otherwise it would be very difficult to cope with an ever-changing world. To read a description or report on such a process is one thing, but to experience it is another. Over time, the effect of perceptual distortion is pretty seamless, and of course now I wonder if we’re fooling ourselves on a whole lot of other issues as well!

This is an uncomfortable idea, and possibly even a very dangerous one. I say that because if I rejected the new reality presented by my new glasses, and attempted to consciously contradict and compensate for what is presented in terms of the environment around me, I wouldn’t be able to walk, or drive, or cycle at all.

That’s because things happen too fast, and there is a glut of information that must be processed very rapidly by subconscious means.

In a sense, we take a lot for granted—that our feet will work when asked, and that the ground is indeed located in such and such a place.

When you look at the world around you, and see the number of people trying to skew the flow of information using various means, by adding to it, attempting to shut it down, attempting to discount or augment some message, we really should wonder what sort of effect that it has on our consciousness over an extended period of time.

The other day I was on a website, and reading a couple of posts in some discussion. It was tempting to comment myself, and then I thought: I don’t know anything about this subject, nor have I read ‘Harry Potter,’ and I don’t really care if Tolkien invented elves, trolls and dwarves.

It was such a pettifogging dispute, and how the hell did I come so close to getting sucked in?

If J.K. Rowling ripped off Tolkien’s invention of elves, trolls and dwarves, ah, then good for her. Take your billion dollars and enjoy the hell out of it.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. At that point, I shut down the computer. I got on my bike and went for a ride.

Now this is real.


For more on perception, read this Wikipedia article.

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