It is the “I” behind the eye that sees. It’s an interesting phrase, one that I have repeated for so long that sometimes I believe that I coined it. I didn’t. But the concept it refers to, perception, fascinates me. You see, we all most certainly view the world through a window we have individually constructed. Each pane represents something in our lives – experiences, background, gender, race, age - that affects the way we perceive everyone and everything around us. It is how we make sense of things, while shaping our philosophy of life or point of view.
And then, there is the sensory aspect. We filter what we see, touch, smell, hear, taste and assign a meaning to it based on experience. Ready for some examples? When you hear a special song from your teenage years, does it take you to that time and place? Do the smells of a certain perfume remind you of someone? Can you relate a moment of joy (or trauma) from a particular flavor or a special dish? Does watching the sunrise fill you with happiness and hope or dread? The answers to these questions are born from your own particular journey through life.
There is an interesting reality at work here: everything we experience is an opinion. What tastes nasty to me, may be yummy to your refined palate. What is beautiful music to me, may simply be noise to you. What stinks to me, may smell lovely to you. What is soft and comforting to your touch, may feel unnerving to me. And finally, and most important, all that we see is a perspective, not truth. It really is rather mind-boggling, isn’t it?
And here is what's so remarkable. Just as you are assigning some meaning to everything and everyone you encounter, so is everybody else. EEK! We are undoubtedly influenced by the judgments, opinions, and observations of those with whom we come in contact, which serve to either confirm or cause us to second guess what we believe to be true about ourselves and society. No man (or woman) is an island. (Thank you, John Donne.) And that is why when we connect with another human soul, when we can say, “I saw that, too; I love that, too; I felt that, too;” something powerful and validating occurs. It also explains why we may meet a hundred people and only feel a kinship with one or two. Those shared experiences, shared meanings unite us, bonding us in a profound and special way. To me, it is one of the grand mysteries of life.
As a writer, I am fully aware that the way my books are interpreted, received, and understood is a matter of perception as well. Some readers will readily identify with the characters and themes; they will be moved in some way by the suggestion at play. And others will not. But because there is the power of individual awareness in play, it makes the endorsement even more special. Indeed, a book binds two strangers for a moment in time as their views align in some way. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?