In the US, it’s election season. I recently had an encounter with someone who hears everything in a political context, no matter the season. As we meandered through town, familiar sights were assigned a political interpretation, invariably one that had never occurred to me before. At one point religion was discussed, and I was quickly corrected that we were really talking about politics, not religion. To me, the idea of religion and politics meshing makes me think of a theocracy. It was a confusing interaction.
Needless to say, one person’s tendency to see everything as political made my conversation with them difficult, particularly since I am not very interested in politics.
I am, however, interested in thinking about random things, and I found this encounter fascinating. How can two people talk with each other but have different conversations?
It’s as if some people wear a lens that colors all information they gather. And by some people, I mean all people. Of course, everyone views the world through their own biases, whether or not they’re aware of doing so.
For example, someone with politics on the brain will see everything as political, and there’s very little that others can do about it. If a person is unaware that their lens affects their worldview, then their interpretation of the world will be the only plausible reality to them.
As they say, reality is subjective.
A person’s bias tints the lens through which they view the world. Their view of the world informs their perception of it, and their perception of it feeds back and strengthens their biases. We validate our own views so well that we barely need an external source to validate our views. If you’re absolutely convinced you’re right, why would you need external validation? Just continue building a subjective worldview that is fully self-supporting, since the lens conveniently filters out dissenting views.
It’s a perfect solution for someone who is lens-unaware: ignore the complexity of a world that contains many contradicting, dynamic, equally valid worldviews.
There’s more. Since we often live in accordance of our perception of reality, different lenses lead to different actions. Energy is spent in ways that support one’s worldview. Actions comprise what we see as the behavior, tactics, plans and projects of every person, community and nation.
Subjective realities from individual lenses lead to real realities through action.
This is not to say that all is without hope. Each person controls their own lens, and from my experience, the lens changes throughout life or can even change throughout the day. That is, if you want it to change.
- As a teenager, the world seems claustrophobic and confusing and I viewed it through a lens tinted with rebellion. In my twenties, I pushed myself on different levels – intellectually, physically, socially – and I saw the world as full of excitement, diversity, fun and challenge. I see beauty and balance in the world now. My teenage self saw beauty too, but the lens was darker.
But this is oversimplification of one person’s experience of the world. We all know it’s far more complicated than that.
- I love viewing the world through a filter of poetry. Everything becomes a dance of meaning and emotions and overlapping senses.
- My scientist lens is old and familiar. Through it, the world looks like gravity and food chains. Microcosm and macrocosm. The chemotaxis of bacteria and the coalescence of new suns. All is balanced and elegant. Everything breathes. It’s a beautiful lens.
- I try not to linger on lenses of anger and negativity. It coats the world in tar, and every encounter is seen through it. All is slights and subtle oppressions, the pull of a downward spiral.
- My lens of love makes the world skip. I see weeds through cracks of the sidewalk as a metaphor for hope. I see clouds in the sky as island getaways. I see blue and green. The world is inviting and full of potential. Joy.
- I love when I can fully view the world through the lens of childhood. It’s a wonderful gift of parenthood. I have slumber parties with Sunboy, share the excitement of changing seasons with Flowergirl. Giggle with them under blankets. The world is simple and immediate through the eyes of a child.
What color is your lens? How does the world change when you change yourself?