Is Perception Reality? Cultural relativity and us.
Hello everyone! I hope everyone is well and enjoying the wonderful fall weather! I know I am! This week, I want to delve into an extremely meta topic, one that spans across all aspects of life and touches every one of us. The question is, are we real? Is anything we do for real, or not? Perhaps the only thing that really matters is what we perceive. interesting, right?
Let's look at a real life example.
In Mexico, it is often considered rude to refuse food when it is offered to you. I learned this when I was in Texas and I worked with a group of Mexican Americans (wonderful people. I still miss working with them today). One day, I was offered some homemade empanadas and melon fresca, but I had just arrived at work and had eaten lunch in my car on the way, so I said "No thank you." my perception was that I just wasn't hungry; it was a nice gesture and all, but to me, it was just food. However, to them, I was saying I didn't want to be part of the community. I later apologized when I realized this, but the point is, they perceived my rejection totally differently. Did it really matter what reality was, or did it only matter how the situation was perceived?
In my example, it wasn't reality (my being full and refusing the food) that offended my coworkers, but rather, it was their perception (that I didn't want their hospitality) that did.
How do we use this information? Well, some people might say this concept is TOO meta, like, if we try to focus on the perceptions of everyone all the time, we would overanalyze everything and spend the better part of our lives in fear of offending everyone. There is some truth to that, we can't discern everything. Jordan Peterson, a Canadian professor and intellectual, puts it rather eloquently when he asserts that "We must risk offending people as well as being offended ourselves in order to have real, genuine human connection." So, the answer really is, we are not obligated to know what offends people all the time, but we are socially liable to adapt to the perceptions of others as we become aware of them.
In simple terms, reality matters, but perception is the real meat and potatoes, as it often has the weight to overpower reality when emotions are complex, heavy, or invariably positive or negative. The only time that reality tips the scales on perception is when the concept is pragmatic or factual. Even then, as we see in politics, emotions sometimes cloud the waters. We would all do well to remember this when we argue with our spouses :). Facts are only important when they are perceived as so.
In conclusion, I believe that perception is greater than reality. To coexist peacefully, we must acknowledge this truth and be aware that, sometimes, our truth, our reality, is inferior to the perceptions of others.
Let me know what you think in the comments and let me know if there are any topics you want me to break down. Also, make sure to subscribe for email notifications and check out my podcast, "Does Anything matter?" over on YouTube for a more in depth conversation about this and many other topics.
Until next time!