Posts Tagged ‘Cognition’

Reality check

I have just opened the balcony door, so I can hear the coarse voices of teenagers walking by. Opening a window might seem like peeping into reality; a young friend of mine once told me (passionately), “Open the window and look out. The world is not what you can see on your computer screen.”

Well, can I, by opening the window and looking out into the street find out what the world is like?

If I do it, I could describe the world as follows:

“It’s hot and noisy, full of dust and burnt gas fumes. Still you can hear the songs of thousands of crickets.

People are loud and ugly, especially men, who are made much uglier by a certain hairstyle.”

That reminds me of Jivka’s answer to the question “What do gypsies purchase?” Her reality check read as “They buy expensive snacks.” You probably remember the other guys joining in to prove her wrong with “They don’t buy anything because they don’t have any money; they steal.” or “They work abroad and send money to their relatives.”

Have you ever heard the story about the group of blind men who had to describe an elephant after having examined by touching it. Someone described it as an animal with a huge trunk; another as a creature with crinkled buttocks, etc. Who offered the right description?

Forget about these blind men and get some learned men. How would a vet, a circus elephant trainer, an anthropologist, a zoologist, a poacher and an ecologist describe an elephant? Wouldn’t they know better than the blind men? If they were reporting reality, wouldn’t they give us the same reports? If their descriptions vary wildly, then whom shall we trust?

How do we get a real picture of reality? Is it by opening the only window we have? Is it a good idea to stare at the computer screen, for it can open an infinite number of windows? Is it better to go out and do some field work, or is it better to sit back in our easy-chair, close our eyes, smoke a pipe and think or … sing?