WATCH: Yesterday, I came across this delightful little animated presentation on Aeon about the “beholder’s share,” or how our prior experiences shape our current perceptions of the world. We can really only see what we’re expecting to see in any situation, until our perceptions are sufficiently disorganized that we can expand into a new paradigm of perspective. This is true in our work, our relationships and even in our own self-concept.
“All of our perceptions are a kind of storytelling by the brain. And so, by shaping this process, storytelling itself has the power to change our perceptions. So we learn to experience the world in new ways…
“The art of storytelling here lies in finding the fringes, finding the edges of what people can imagine. Go too far, and the audience’s prior beliefs can’t handle the data you’re giving them. Don’t go far enough, and the experience is trivial. Perhaps, great storytellers inherently know that a successful narrative doesn’t work unless you engage the person, compelling them to be part of the process of making and re-making their perceptual worlds.”
The stories we craft are indeed powerful in shaping our lives. Where could you take a step back this week and see where the beholder’s share may be at work? Are you feeling stuck in a fixed perception where there may, in truth, be many, many other possibilities?
READ: This essay on William James’ unique blend of pragmatism and mysticism is about a twenty-five minute read but is one of the best investments of time I’ve made in awhile. The prose itself is just delicious but, more importantly, it does a great job of capturing the essence of this unbelievably prolific and uniquely American philosophical mind. As the video above reminds us, we live in a highly complex and often confounding universe, full of seeming contradictions. As such, ‘The art of being wise,’ James suggested, ‘is the art of knowing what to overlook.’
LISTEN: As I took my morning walk today, I cued up another classic of uniquely American mysticism, John Coltrane’s classic 1965 record, A Love Supreme. This evokes for me not so much communion with God on the mountain as it does meeting the Mystery while roving through the cityscape- crossing grand iron bridges, making discoveries down crooked alleyways, and gazing out subway windows as the tracks repeat their mantras of clickety-clack-clack-clack down below.
Make this week magnificent!