Just as you cannot understand the cat’s perspective until you learn how it has been shaped to perceive reality, neither can you understand another persons point of view until you learn how and why they perceive things as they do.
The past week has been mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining. Our attachment to events beyond our control has created a riptide that is pulling our consciousness into its deepest, darkest and murkiest depths. In order to escape we will need to step outside of our own viewpoints and try to understand one another better so that we can find some common foothold to escape this abyss of madness.
Often times it can be easier to view our folly when we have some other context to view it from within. The following parable is just such a context, and I hope it can be a useful way for marijuana and other activists – as well as everybody else – to think about the need for less attachment and more perspective.
My cat gets vocally adamant when his food dish gets low. However he considers half a days worth of food to be low. So he will not tolerate any dismissal of the need for his food to be topped off.
On top of this, he does not tolerate any staleness. His food has to be occasionally thrown out to meet both of these conditions.
And I thought this made him kind of a spoiled asshole.
Then I watch a documentary that goes into detail about the sensory performance of cats. Turns out that they have two olfactory organs, compared to our one, and their sense of smell is incredibly complex.They also can’t see up close for shit.
The light glinting off the one sliver of the bottom of the bowl not covered by food might appear drastically overstated so as to make the bowl look virtually empty, and the loss of aroma over time might also make the food seem essentially invisible to him.
Turns out I am the asshole for doubting him.
Now think about that in the light of every discussion you have had in the last week.
What might seem unreasonable, irrational and insane to you might make complete sense from the perspective of another fellow human. That is because it isn’t just the physical qualities of eyes, ears and nose that determines how a being perceives the world (how) – it is also their experience (why).
Every human being has unique experiences that help form their perceptions. Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson called this your ‘reality tunnel’.
Underneath all of the politics we all have pretty similar values. Far too often we get hung up on morals, which are restrictive social reinforcements that lead to division and disharmony. If we can understand peoples values, it gives us an opportunity to present our perspective in ways that appeal to them. Empathy for the perceptions of others, the most basic ingredients of trust and respect, opens the door to positively reinforce the best in people to bring about awareness and change.
So next time ‘those people’ seem unreasonable, irrational or insane to you – remember the cat’s perspective. Maybe it is you being the asshole, or maybe nobody is.