How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew!
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
This simple quotation hides the deep mystery of our perception and our difficulties in coping with reality. Our mental apparatus is designed to perceive only the surface qualities of things and to prioritize only a limited number of present perceptions based on apparent importance. Top priority in our scheme are the incoming clear and present threats to our well being and these are taken care of by our reflexes. We have little direct control over our first exposures, but can adapt quickly if the threats persist and we can learn specific responses. This type of response is available to all multicellular living things.
We humans like to think of ourselves as very perceptive of our environment, but usually it is little more than response to perceived things and we respond in our every perception with our habitual learned response to those things. We look through our eyes, and each of our layers of mind reflexively does its operations and we respond. It’s all automatic and we are almost automatons; we are zombies. Zombies are not absolutely mechanical, but almost. Zombies can learn new responses to old environmental inputs, but very slowly. And like the dew in the Emerson quote above, our zombie minds flutter over the filmiest of surfaces of the deep solidity of things; our perceptions are like the morning dew settling on his violets and roses. We don’t perceive the true nature of the flowers; we just settle most ephemerally upon them but wholly outside of their solid reality.
We feel like we understand things and are in control of our personal universe, but everything about this relationship is astonishingly superficial. We only survive because Mother Nature is so extremely predictable. Even before Newton we got along with gravity and inertia okay. Luckily for us, Nature’s superficial reality corresponds in a consistent way with her inner depths. There is some randomness, of course, but even this is highly predictable and moves in patterns. Some people are able to construct inner reflections of Nature’s reality that give a more congruent overlay of her deeper structure, and are thus able to see things which others do not see, and thus are able to do things which others can not.
A tiny new glimpse of reality gives humanity greater power.