Sunday, March 04, 2007

Patterns finale - illusion

Mosaic, Taj Mahal, Agra, India, August 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/350 sec @ f5.0, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

In closing out this week's series, it is interesting to consider illusions. Seeing things that are not really there. Like this medievil flooring, clearly laid in two-dimensions but with colors and contrasts that give it a three-dimensional appearance.

Well, now that we know the trick, it is clear, right? And we would never make the mistake again, right? Ha. We are more easily fooled than that, and every day.

For example, we have a full moon tonight. If you have clear skies, get outside tonight and watch the moon rise over the horizon. It's an enormous orb as it clears the tree line. Come back in a few hours and look up to see how much smaller it has become. Why? Just another optical illusion dealing with relative size comparisons. You can thank your mind.

And while you are looking up at the night sky, notice both the large number of stars, and the vastness of space that separates each star. Now consider your own body, or that rock on the ground. Solid and dense, right? Actually, we also are mostly "empty space" if we consider the fundamental building blocks that constitute our physical nature.

But then, that also depends upon the lens with which we examine life. Are we looking at particles or waves? Energy or matter? As you probably know from introductory physics, they are just different manifestations of the same thing. So in a large degree, what we see "out there" really is just an illusion -- made to look real to our senses.

Just like the clever use of color and contrast in the mosaic on the floors surrounding the Taj Mahal to create an illusion to our eyes. So it is that much that we see as "real" in this world, is really just an illusion to our senses.

You may find it useful to question that which you experience as "real", "absolute", "fixed", or "truth". Or you may be happier just accepting what your senses tell you about the world. Personally, I enjoy them both -- the beauty my senses take in, and the beautiful enigma which lies behind it all.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve!
Your post reminded me of a poem I read by Rumi:
"If you want what visible reality
can give, you're an employee
If you want the unseen world,
you're not living your truth.
Both wishes are foolish,
but you'll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love's confusing joy."

Steven Crisp said...

Very nice quote, Avantika.

It can be so confusing -- so counter-intuitive.

And yet there is the enigma again. Because we will not gain clarity through reason and thought -- but instead through direct experience and intuition.

So this "counter-intuitive" world can best be understood through intuition. Ha! The joy indeed.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Anonymous said...

And in addition to the senses, remember how the emotions we have influence our view of "reality."

One night I was with a friend who was going through terrible (emotional) pain, and I looked up at a beautiful star filled sky. I suggested that my friend look up into the sky too. I expected that the beauty might somehow transport her out of state of pain. But she looked up, made an distressed face, and said, "So much darkness, so little light - just like my whole life."

Thinking of her I realize that if we can not somehow distance ourselves from, and understand, our emotional states, we really can not be sure of anything that we are seeing as we look around. But how does one achieve that kind of clarity?

Steven Crisp said...


An excellent point and example. Yes, we interact with the world and each other (and ourselves) in so many ways -- not only words, symbols, and concepts -- but also senses, body language, and emotions, as you suggest, and I'm sure many others.

Perhaps what you have really concluded is even more simple: "we cannot be sure of anything that we are seeing as we look around." By definition, the use of our senses is a limited view of the unlimited world around us. That's how our senses are designed (e.g., only being able to process a minute portion of the electromagnetic spectrum).

With this severing of the world, we believe we see things as separate and distinct, when they are not. So we must question literally everything we know to see beyond this duality (separate objects, as seen by you, a distinct "seer").

I'm sure we can eventually figure this out on our own, but for me, I look to historical sages and current luminaries to help guide me through the logical and philosphical minefields. It is really quite a challenge to understand what is really going on when we are immersed within our environment and our culture. Like a fish trying to understand the water he is swimming in.

Another approach is to study very different cultures and thereby realize many of the inherent assumptions we make that are not intrinsic to our nature.

But beyond this, "how does one achieve that level of clarity?" Direct experience -- a non-rational "knowing" is best, I'd say. I've had that experience twice now, for brief periods, and it is very enlightening and motivating to keep on the path. Beyond that, and before that, probably with a good teacher, and though meditation. For me, I am currently relying on select reading. This has the danger of engaging only the rationale mind, but I now feel receptive enough that, that I can avoid some of those pitfalls.

Beyond that, I'm not sure. When in doubt, cultivate and trust your intuition.

What do you think?

Thanks much for the comment.