Perception vs. Reality

1000 year old Procession Panel petroglph at Bears Ears, UT

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” ~Hamlet

I have some hearing loss. It probably began back when I played in rock bands (who knew?), and then took a turn for the worse when a wildly flailing racquetball partner smashed a ball into my ear at 100+ mph. After that, I knew I needed to protect my hearing. In theory. In reality, I was foolish.

We had several dead pine trees. So I rented a chain saw and bought a package of tiny foam ear protectors. These deadened about 10% of the chainsaw’s Saturn 5-level noise. When they were in my ears, that is. They fell out roughly every 23.6 seconds.

The next day, when I climbed into our family van with my wife and kids, I began to laugh. “What’s so funny?” they asked.

“Listen!” I said. “The open-door reminder sounds completely different than before!”

“No, it doesn’t. It sounds exactly the same,” they replied.

“No! Listen!” I reopened the door. The “new” reminder sound was dramatically lower and more strident than before.

“Honey,” my wife said, “the sound hasn’t changed.”

That was when I realized what had changed was my perception. The chainsaw hadn’t just lopped off those dead pine trees, it had lopped off a gaggle of tiny receptor cells in my ears! But what really stunned me was that nothing sounded “wrong.” It simply sounded different. So which perception was right?


Human senses are remarkably weak. Our pets see things we can’t, and hear sounds that, as far as we’re concerned, don’t exist. So do other animals. Butterflies taste things with their feet. Salmon use the Earth’s magnetic field to guide them. Ants communicate with pheromones. Catfish are basically giant tongues, with bodies covered in taste buds that sense 25oo times what we do! Dolphins can sonographically see inside other creatures (including us)! We see a spectrum made from three primary colors. But there are actually twelve. Manta shrimp can see a vast spectrum of light and color that is completely invisible to us: ultraviolet, infrared, gamma rays, x-rays, and beyond!

Bottom line: We don’t perceive Reality, we only perceive our perception of Reality.

Max Planck, the originator of Quantum Mechanics, said that, after a lifetime of studying the perceptible universe, he realized, “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of the existence of consciousness.” In other words: trees are not trees, they’re code which our senses interpret as trees. (And who wrote the code?)

Yet our senses perceive only a tiny fraction of Reality. We lick our lips and think we’ve tasted the ocean. We look through a keyhole and think we’ve seen the universe. What are we failing to perceive?

Nearly everything.

We live in Plato’s Cave and think that, by observing shadows on the wall, we know all that dwells Beyond, or worse, that there is no Beyond. But there is.

And it is Reality.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Perception vs. Reality

  1. simonjkyte says:

    Oh they are weak and confusing. I don’t know what you will hear of this….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. simonjkyte says:

    So they are not only weak, they actually confuse and fool one another.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve always wondered if we could perceive reality …
    I SAID … 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow… Just, wow. May I repost this sometime? I already know the Scripture reference, I Corinthians 13:12.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Perception vs. Reality – jcgregsolutions

  6. abeaustin says:

    Hate to burst your bubble, but your 1st Grade teacher lied to you. The primary colors are not Red, Yellow, and Blue. If you are talking about the light that we perceive they are Red, Green, and Blue. And if you are talking about the ways that we mix paint, ink, and dyes, they are Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow 🙂

    Great post as always, I love how you are always able to find profound meaning in the simplest of things.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. landl30 says:

    Great post Mitch. I had a similar experience with my eyesight…. .my wife and I would disagree about colors for the walls etc. Then I had eye surgery and discovered that I had been “seeing” everything through a yellow filter, as it were… and that the lovely warm paint that I’d thought would be perfect for the living room, was in fact pretty much flat white/beige.
    She makes the color choices now, and I smile warmly.
    Len Freeman

    Liked by 4 people

  8. revruss1220 says:

    You reminded me of an on-line conversation I had with an atheist last week. Apparently, September 19 was national “Ask An Atheist” Day and so he invited any and all FB friends to ask him a question. My question was about how he arrived at his choice to espouse atheism. He replied that he got there when he discovered that everything in the universe happens according to orderly, scientific processes. But then he dropped the fatal logic bomb by saying, “Now where those processes came from is another matter entirely.” Your comment, “And who wrote the code?” probes in the same direction.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Clever Girl says:

    Interesting stuff, for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So true…Jennifer Kennedy Dean said that earth is a shadow of Heaven. That is the reality and we are living in the shadow of it! Love the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, dear. I live in a semi-permanent state of cognitive dissonance as it is. I fear to add sensory dissonance as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Agreed: we’re going to be greatly surprised when God reveals full Reality. A thought-provoking post, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. So true about Plato’s cave analogy. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Angie says:

    🤯 Very interesting.. this train of thought usually leads me down a rabbit hole; but it’s also very intriguing. Now, when I look at my dog I’m going to be wondering what she’s seeing and hearing! 😆

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I have hearing loss from rock music, guns & nail guns & airplane engines. Interesting that you used a rock drawing as the image, some people believe that they a writing system based on sign language.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I love your creative thought processes, Mitch. My forte is academics and research, but oh how I enjoy the immaginative.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Pingback: Reality 2.0 | Mitch Teemley

  18. Pingback: The Logic of Dreams | Mitch Teemley

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