“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?
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.