An Observer of the World

By Chris Chittenden

That we are all different observers of the world is one of the main building blocks on which our work is based. As different observers, everything that we encounter through our senses we interpret so it makes sense to us and everyone will have their own unique interpretation. We claim those interpretations are what you call "reality".

Why are our interpretations unique?

Our interpretations of what we see and hear are steeped in history.

Firstly we have the fact that we are all human beings and we are limited by our biology that has evolved over many millennia. Many of our interpretations are the result of reactions that may have saved our lives when we lived in caves but which may not be an appropriate response now. Examples of this are our fascination with staring into an open fire and our underlying desire to fight or flee - a trigger for so many emotions.

Next we gain our interpretations from the society in which we live. Social domains such as country, religion, family etc all influence us to adopt their assessments of what is right or wrong. An innocuous gesture, word or action in one social environment may be seen as a mortal insult in another.

Finally we have our own personal history - our experiences - that provide a further context for our interpretations. Many of the influences that generate our interpretations are learnt at a very early age, but we continue to change our view of the world as we grow and learn more about ourselves, our environment and our relationships.

So what does this mean?

Many tensions between individuals and societies are based on both sides believing that they hold the truth about something and that this demands obedience. This philosophy pre-supposes that there is an absolute truth out there waiting to be discovered and that, once discovered, all will be revealed.

Accepting that we are all different observers of the world implies that we may not have access to the truth, but we do see a world that is true for us as individuals. The issue then becomes whose interpretation is valid. This in itself provides a different view of the people with an opposing view and provides an opportunity to wonder and perhaps learn from them. After all, this is now just a matter of an individual's interpretation rather than what is absolutely true or false.

By not holding the truth, we can free and empower ourselves. We can validate our position in the world because we are no longer totally constrained by those who claim the truth. It becomes our decision as to what is true for us. Undoubtedly, we will assess our view of the world by using reference points with which we feel comfortable, but it is still our choice as to what is true.

By not holding the truth, we also open ourselves up to other’s ideas. We can begin to accept that others view the world differently and that their view may have some benefits for us. Their ways of doing things may be better than our own. We begin to see others as a source of learning.

The idea that each of us observes the world differently is part of an ongoing world wide paradigm shift known as "post-modernism". The "post-modern" world is one in which new meaning and understanding is gradually generated from the encounter or the intersection of many different elements.

The concept that we are all different observers leads us into what we term "The Theory of the Observer" and we will explore that in our next edition.

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© 1997 Chris Chittenden