This is a photo I took of a butterfly sitting on a marigold flower in my garden – a real flower and a real butterfly. Yet, as you can see, it is not all that realistic because I used filters and editing to arrive at a different viewing point.
This is the same photo without editing other than cropping. Which one is “real?” Well, the truth is, both of them and none of them. The camera sees the scene through a lens and is limited in what is able to be captured by the sensor and the recording media. The result is an image, not the real thing in itself.
Yet, behind the image is something that is definitely real regardless of the filters through which that “something” is sensed or felt. One doesn’t even have to have the sense of sight to have and awareness of the flower. But of course, this blog post isn’t about the flower and the butterfly, it is about my “self.”
“. . . to acknowledge that whatever reality may be, it will to some extent be shaped by the lens through which we see it. When we are born we are handed multiple lenses: genetic inheritance, gender, a specific culture and the variables of our family environment, all of which constitute our sense of reality.” (Hollis, The Middle Passage, p. 9)
When it comes down to it in the final analysis, the only thing I can truly know must be filtered through my lenses. And as I grow older and perhaps a bit wiser because I have experienced bumping into the world and others, my lenses change. Some of those changes are due to ripples from my presence in life, and others are due to the ripples due to the presence of others. I have learned that I can choose the lens I want to use. And more than that, I have learned to enlarge focus and depth of field at will – or to allow focus to slip into a foggy place where it is almost impossible to be fully present in the outer world. Learning this has been followed by a realisation that it isn’t all under my conscious control. Emotions, complexes and the presence of archetypes have their way with my lens collection as well.
Of course I can always defer to the realities that come from outside, accept their versions of my reality, accept their truths. Most people seem to do this without much ado. But I find myself confused as I know that all that enters into my consciousness only enters through my filters, through my will. It is only by my choice to give up my authority over self that allows the truths of others to replace my own truths.
And so I learn to live with being responsible for myself, and accept that I can only know the world through my own lenses.