The human brain is remarkable. As you read these words, your brain will translate them into a personal summary of what you see. In an instant, you’ll judge the information, compare it to thoughts you already store, and decide what you will commit to memory.
These thought processes feed a mind that already serves a particular reality. We each live in a world of our own, shaped both by our experience and the physiology of our brains. Tiredness or a passing mood can further shape our interpretation. Your favorite author is detested by some people because those readers understand our world differently.
Have you ever been to New York City? You probably have your own ideas about the city. Andrew thinks it is dirty, and overcrowded. Stagnant. But Andrew broke up with Anna on their trip to New York City.
Our outlook on life is who we are. It’s interesting, sometimes even overwhelming, to think about how different our minds are from one another and how we perceive reality in individual ways. I write about this a lot. And I’m so thankful to have a little group of talkative writer friends who enjoy bouncing thoughts around with one another.
Last week, one of our group members posted an image online as a writing prompt. The photo, which Lisa took herself, shows a view along a paved local footpath as it disappears between tall trees. Each of us responded with an entertaining piece of writing. I love this group! What intrigued us all, though, is the completely different way in which we each responded to the image.
The three writers who were unfamiliar with the pathway each focused on the yellow line which suddenly ends, but they wrote strikingly different stories. Those who knew the trail well shared ideas triggered by the image but based upon memories of the area.
Back when the book was in the editing process, I asked our group to respond to a paragraph of Aru’s Realm. I shared the description of a timber lodge because I wanted to see if I had described it sufficiently. Did the others see the image in their minds that I wished to place there? I hoped they’d picture a beaver lodge on a pond, but as built up into an elegant Victorian-style resort.
For the most part, the lodges my friends described back to me were nothing like the one I felt I had portrayed! The writers related memories of whatever the word “lodge” had brought to mind. For the most part they brought up vacation spots, not made of logs at all, not from the era of my story, but beautiful places that these listeners were happy to recall. This was an eye-opening experience for me. I realized that I would have done the same thing.
Life is fluid. We see things differently from others, and even from ourselves over time. It does no good to grasp onto particular ideas too hard. So, take from your experience what enlightens and strengthens you at the moment. Six months ago, the same information may not have been as useful to you. We grow, we change, that’s nature.
Every listener hears a different story.
Every reader has their own experience.
We look out of our eyes into a world which has been created both by us and for us. We often believe what we have been told to believe. To make sense of it all, we must remember our history—the origins of our thoughts and opinions, on both a personal and cultural level.
It’s been said for centuries, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”