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ESSAY SYNOPSIS : “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”



Anecdote:It was on the edge of Berlin on July 14, 1930, that science andspirituality came together in one of the most intellectually stimulating conversations in history, as Albert Einstein met with the Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore in his own house .The question of meaning of reality was thecentral subject of a fascinating dialog between Einstein and Tagore. Einstein emphasized that the science had to be independent of the existence of any observer. This led him to deny the reality of time as irreversibility, as evolution.On the contrary Tagore maintained that even if absolute truth could exist, it would be inaccessible to the human mind. The conversation between Einstein and Tagore is a wonderful exploration of the fundamental questions of existence,touching on science, philosophy, consciousness and beauty.

Do things have objective reality to see things as they are?

  • Social scientists after years of trying to find objective social reality
  • concluded  that  complete  objective  reality  in  human  world  is  not  possible.  Physical experiments like the Wigner’s Friend test show that our understanding of objective reality breaks down whenever quantum mechanics gets involved, even when it is possible to run a test. On the otherhand, a lot of science seems to imply that there is an objective reality about which the scientific method is pretty good at capturing information.
  • In spirituality, Buddhahood, an awakened state is about looking at things as they are without distortion. This supports the existence of reality that we all
  • are supposed to see when we are awakened like The Buddha.


We don’t see things as they are

  • When we look at a chair, we see the wood, when the Buddhist monk looks at it he might observe the tree, the forest, the carpenter, or our own mind.
  • For a scientist nature may be merely a ‘resource’ out there waiting to be observed, operationalized, explained,  reduced  into  elements  and  used  in  purely  instrumental fashion For William Wordsworth, the poet, nature is also endowed with its own spirit .
  • For a technocrat a big dam project might be a symbol of modernity and development, the anthropologist who understands tribal society look at the dam projects differently. Similarly, an ecologist who understands ecology ofrivers and mountains may look at such projects differently.
  • Prejudice & stereotypes: We have prejudices like women are week inrationality which is not true.
  • Illusions; We keep telling stories about our greatness. Some view themselvesas inferior and some view themselves as superior.
  • If we see a five year old child playing in front of us we may see it with love and care but the hungry lion sees the child just as food.
  • In anger, we feel like hitting the person in front of us, when the anger recedeswe see things differently.
  • In exams due to performance pressure, we might not be able to solve the problem. We see that we can solve the same problem with ease outside theexam hall.


We see them as we are.

  • We look at things with our memory of past experiencesOur desires and motivations decide how we see things Ideals: Ideals decide how we judge people around us
  • Biology: Youth, women, men, children, elderly all have their own gaze throughwhich they view the world. For instance, Male gaze sees women as an object of desire.
  • Emotions: Fear and insecurity also distorts the way we see the world.
  • Ambitions: The demand to achieve something might make us insensitive to needs of others.
  • Awareness: Our knowledge about things also shape the way we see them Socio economic situation: For middle class savings for the future is rational, for lower class daily wage laborers  who  do  not  see  any  hope  in  the future  savings  is  irrational  and  instant gratification is rational.
  • Ideologies: Capitalists are lazy for communist thinkers, for liberals, capitalists   put in creative labor to run an enterprise.


Implications of not seeing things as they are

  •  “We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.”-RabindranathTagore
  • It is important to be with reality however bad it is. When we understand thereality we see that what we need to improve.
  • Some may go too far away from their reality and become neurotic. Failures: If we do not understand our capability as it is , we fail in ourendeavors.
  • However putting out theories from the eyes of oppressed like women, Dalits,Blacks in USA and sexual minorities questioned the dominant ideas and notions. This has emancipated them immensely.

How to see things as they are

  • Philosophy of observer and the observed: When we look at things we have a space between ourselves and the thing we are observing: To see thing asthey are the space should end. The observer and the observed should become one. That is when we see things as they are.
  • Self-awareness: Our  awareness of  ourselves help  us  too  look  at  others with deep sensitivity.
  • Relationships; In interactions that are deep, we tend to dissolve our prejudiceand stereotypes about others.