Perception and Perspective

Opening thoughts:

Perception is a moment to moment thing.  Think micro.
Perspective is the breadth of the scope of your view.  Think macro.

Individual perceptions flow into and create your sense of perspective.
Your perspective directly influences your individual perceptions.

You can perceive something in a moment, and it can either come and go or it can be internalized into your perspective.  You can come to a situation with a given perspective, and have it reinforce itself or change in some way, based on the perceptions you have.


Take reading a book, for example:

When you start reading the book, you have a certain perspective.

As you read the pages, you make many perceptions – about the author, the words, the narrative.  These perceptions are:

–  directly informed by your perspective, almost like a low-grade confirmation bias; your preconceived beliefs tend to be more noticeable in your perceptions, like a guy so consumed with how attractive he is that he reads interest into every single interaction with a girl he has.  Or how an optimistic indivudal is more likely to see/focus on the silver lining than the cloud.

–  working to evolve your perspective in a continuous feedback loop.  The perceptions you have will either challenge or reinforce your perspective, causing it either to solidify or grow in certain regards.  I.e. perceiving the positive possibilities reinforces the individual’s optimistic perspective, or getting shot down may make the first guy reconsider some of the positions held in his perspective.

In many ways, we are limited to what we are able to perceive.  The evolution of our consciousness or being, our ability to transcend – in short, our ability to learn, is an important thing that is limited in such a way.  It is limited by our perspective.  And our perspective is limited to what we have been able to glean and internalize from our perceptions.

It is because of this that you could do a complete read through of a book, have a set of perceptions, grow your perspective, reread the same book, have a new set of perceptions based on your increased perspective, and grow it even further.  This is one reason why the religious texts of the world have been able to be central to the spiritual growth of such a wide and varied audience, in a continually evolving manner for thousands of years, and holds equally true for all mediums of knowledge-transmission – books, great or small, movies, interviews, you name it.   It is interesting to chart the growth of perspective through the interpretation of perceptions – you can do this with religious teachers, philosophers etc, but most importantly is to do it with yourself.


A consideration of quality:

Effort should be put into developing your perspective.  The perception to perspective feedback cycle has the capacity to act as either a virtuous cycle or a downward spiral.

Perceptions can be influenced by external perspectives, thereby creating the potential for our own perspectives to be shaped by a will other than our own.  Sometimes these will be beneficial influences, like from a good teacher, and sometimes they will lack regard for your own interests, like from many commercials.  As a matter of course, there are often multiple competing influences being digested at any given point in time – not necessarily just the ones in the room with us, and most are much more ambiguous, subtle and nuanced that the examples I’ve pointed out, and more difficult to assess the quality of.

It is the unquestioned or untested perspective that tends to be the most misinformed and incorrect.  Our ability to solve problems, whether they are the worlds or our own, requires correct perspective, or else we are likely to make a mess out of things unforeseen.

Of course, this is the nature of progress – we are doing the best we can, and our collective perspective continues to grow and evolve, allowing us to provide even better assessments and performance.

And this is also the nature of repression – there are small-minded, or selfish attempts made to limit perspective – e.g. tobacco companies not informing the public that cigarettes cause cancer.  Now, luckily, over a long enough period, the one cannot repress the many – eventually evolution takes its course, and progress is made.  But often progress gets co-opted and taken on frequent detours by individuals or groups with limited scopes of interest.

These all factor into why the quality of our perception on an individual, moment to moment basis, is of utmost importance for us, as individuals, to develop and safeguard.  On an individual level, mindfulness of the quality of our perceptions will allow us more intentional control, and therefore more opportunities for growth or evolution of our perspective.  On a societal level, it will provide reinforcing effects a la Swinburne’s leaky buckets, where a system is able to take on greater strength than the sum of its parts.