“Seeing is believing,” goes the saying. The famous idiom was first documented in 1639, or so says Wiki. The assertion is made by many of us skeptics. We’re ready to be convinced only after verifying evidence with our own eyes.
For me, however, a more meaningful truth comes with the reverse, "Believing is seeing!"
Not only beauty but perhaps every other visual response lies subjectively within the eyes and mind of the beholder. If we look at the Mona Lisa, you and I are likely to react differently. I can''t take my eyes off her curious smile, whereas you may be transfixed by the relaxed position of her hands. Someone else might be fascinated by the mysterious landscape in front of which she sits.
And actually, the differences in what we think and, therefore, see go beyond the visual. For instance, when I reflect on the computing power available today, I wonder what drugs the medieval medical genius, Maimonides, could have developed with access to today’s bioinformatic libraries. Contemplating the same computing power, my rabbi speculates on the Talmudic breakthroughs that Maimonides might have achieved. The unique perspectives that each of us bring to a conversation are valuable not only for their diversity but also because they reveal so much about each individual at his or her core.
For the past nine months, during this voyage of "52," we’ve worked toward a primary goal: to know ourselves more fully. As we’ve broadened our self-knowledge, we have had opportunities to modify our behaviors toward our goal of living in greater accordance with our values. The process is by no means easy, and we’ve used both direct and indirect techniques in our efforts to gain insight.
The "believing is seeing" concept offers an indirect route towards self-discovery. In his song "Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan inserts the lyric "you never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you." But if we did turn around, what facial expressions would we identify on those entertainers? Whether you would decipher a smile or a frown, what does that say about who you are, and are you at peace with what this is saying about you?
As I write this, I’m riding in a train that’s making its way up the enchanting Mediterranean coast. Imagine, if you will, that you’re riding with me. It’s hot and humid outside, but the scenery is breathtaking. Across the aisle, several teenagers are talking rather loudly, one of them on a cell phone. What’s your reaction? Are you frowning because they’re annoying you? Perhaps disturbing your focus on the picturesque view? Or are you smiling because they’re enjoying friendship in the comfortably air-conditioned train on a torrid summer day?
There''s tremendous worth associated with the inferences we can draw as we experience any given moment. But there''s also a danger. In his book, "Thinking Fast and Slow," Daniel Kahneman warns that "what you see is all you know." In other words, he theorizes that, because we’re so sure of our interpretation of reality, we’re likely to attend to only what we choose to see, while we ignore or nullify aspects of reality that escape our notice. That''s a fairly extreme hypothesis, but probably is the way you have to think in order to win a Noble Prize as Kahneman did.
In any event, there is tremendous power embedded in understanding how we perceive things. By availing ourselves of these little Rorschach tests from time-to-time, we have an opportunity to covertly get to know ourselves a little better.
Believe me! You''ll see!
Until next Monday, Shalom.