The Sky Is Blue, Water is Wet, Etc.

I’m not a finger-on-the-pulse kind of gal, but this story caught my attention yesterday. A women posted this picture on tumblr.

tumblr_nkcjuq8Tdr1tnacy1o1_500Believe it or not, people all over the world are arguing now about what colors are in this dress. Some people see it as black and blue; others as white and gold.

Turns out that there are scientific explanations for this like the functioning of the eye and the context your brain assigns to the perceived ambient light.

One thing is for sure: whichever way you see it, you will be entirely mystified as to how anyone can see it otherwise.

This touched something in me – something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Believe it or not, apart from the tempest in a teapot/I’ll do anything to avoid actual work/people can argue about anything aspects of this story, I think it points to a stark capital-t Truth of our lives.

An essential element of our existence is its solitary nature.

No matter how many people we love and have loved us back, no matter what our relationship status is, no matter how close we are to another person, there is a chasm that we can’t cross.

We really can never know what’s going on in another person’s brain.

Example:

Red Circle

I truly hope I’m not being controversial when I say that’s a red circle.

Even if we agree that it’s a red circle, I really have no way of knowing what you actually see. If I could magically transport into your brain, I might discover that this red circle actually looks like this to you.

teal circleBut in your mind, that’s what red is.

I realize this is a bit of naval-gazing but I think this dress thing challenges our basic human need to be understood. And I think its sheer popularity highlights a stark reality – there is a limit to how completely we can be understood.

In my down moments, I see this as proof of this chipper Orson Wells quote – “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”

Something changed in me starting, oh, about 6 years and 5 months ago. Slowly, like drips of water wearing away solid rock, I started seeing a liberating side of inevitability.

The paradoxical nature of this particular one is that we are united by the insurmountable isolation of our nature.

Turns out we don’t see everything the same way.  Really, who knows if we see anything the same way? After all, a tree and the word “tree” are not the same thing. We each have a unique sieve of nature and nurture through which we push the raw data.

There’s so much we can learn from each other, if we can just set aside that infernal need to be right.

Because one other capital t Truth: all the browbeating in the world won’t make you see that dress any differently than you see it right now.

2 thoughts on “The Sky Is Blue, Water is Wet, Etc.”

  1. Need to be right can be seen as the need to find truth. Your post demonstrates this, including several statements of your grasp of truth. Seeking rightness is supremely good and perhaps our central mission. Maybe the salient problem is how we cope with being wrong—something all of us will be many times (by definition) in pursuit of truth.

    1. Yeah, I think that’s a good way to look at it. I think what I was talking about was more about people who will alienate people around them in a pursuit of being correct even though there might not be one single answer. That whole “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy” thing.

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