Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Do

“What you see and what you hear
depends a great deal on where you are standing.
It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
~C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

I saw him standing by the big window, his face fixed in concentration and disbelief.  Get over here, love.  You’ve got to see this! 

Certain that he had spotted one of our four-legged friends, I joined him at the window with that sort of stealthy gliding motion I have developed after years of quietly watching, sometimes following, wildlife in this mountain paradise.  I scanned the yard, the creek bank, the massive trees; the space between.

What is it?” I squinted to sharpen my view.

“There! You see it?” He pointed with his fingertip on the glass.  “I don’t know…it looks like…a dog?  No, it’s not a dog.  What’s it doing?”

I could see it there by the water’s edge.  “What the heck...is that a…oh my, is that it’s tail?  Look at that…it’s standing on its hind legs!”

“It looks...like...a...monkey!  Look at that! Shoot! It's a monkey! Sweetie, get the camera!” He could hardly contain his excitement.

It didn’t make sense!  When have there ever been reports of monkeys in our mountain community?  We knew this, yet there we were having this random conversation while watching a couple of monkeys walking around on their hind legs down by the creek in our back yard.

Just as we had convinced ourselves that we were witnessing something truly amazing, the monkeys cleared the trees.  Our vision no longer obscured, we realized they weren’t monkeys at all.  They were our neighbors!   

Sure they were out of their territory and, true, one need only look at a diagram illustrating the evolution of man to see the resemblance of humans to monkeys and understand our mistake, but how could we have thought for even one second that we had monkeys in our back yard!?!  We laughed so hard I nearly peed in my pants.

That’s the funny thing about perception:  the way we organize, identify and interpret information to understand and make sense of our environment!  When you get right down to it, we’re all walking around on our proverbial hind legs seeing monkeys of some sort.  Sometimes our reality coincides with another’s and we have a shared experience.  Other times, not so much. 

Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch
with reality and he is not, but should instead say,
His reality is so different from ours
that he can’t explain his to us,
and we can’t explain ours to him.
~Philip K. Dick

Maybe we’re all just living in unique worlds, different from each other.  No one else has access to the private world we each carry in our heads, no one else can see or feel what we feel, or understand what we think we understand, unless we attempt to communicate our experience to others, which, even then, may not be understood.  Yet if reality differs from person to person (or at least our perception of it), then how can we really claim any singular form of reality?  Might we speak instead of parallel realities?  

Consider a person with multiple personality disorder.  His reality may be quite different from mine, yet as I learn of the disturbing, even nightmarish, events of his life, I know that his experience is as real to him as my perception of the monkeys in the back yard seemed real to me (however strange and fleeting).  Kind of makes it hard to say “he’s crazy” or “she’s right” or “they’re wrong” when you consider that we’re all just doing the best we can to make sense of the world we live in.

Each of us was once a dream and now we are the dreamers.  In one instance the world is one way.  The next moment, it’s entirely different.  The longer I live the more I understand:  Most of our experience of the world and the people in it  takes place in our minds.


Flo said...

I loved the whole article, but your statement, "Each of us was once a dream and now we’re the dreamers." is profound and I predict will be quoted in the future. I was so pulled into the story, that I got excited and could "see" the monkeys as they joined the bears and bull moose in your back yard. So disappointed to find the reality.

Anonymous said...

Did you really think there were monkeys out there? Hilarious! But so true. I read an article recently about perception is reality... Great post! Susan