The Death of Perception

So, this is an example of something I quazi-call: "Synchronistic Web Surfing."

Eye - Leonardo Sketch

I'll be watching something on tv, or in a movie, or something will pop in my head that inspires me to "google it." Then i'll find something that leads me to something else, that leads me to something else, and it almost seems that.. I was meant to be where I ended up.

The connection between what first started it - and where it led to seems to be related. This is easily explained in most cases. You see something about an actor - you look them up - you see what movies they were in - you click on one of them - then you end up on a wikepedia page about something you never thought you would be at after only looking up an actor's bio. There is nothing really special about it, its just a casual result of boredom and curiosity.

I do stuff like that a LOT but there have been a few times that where i've started, why I started - and where I ended up seemed to have something synchronistic about it.
Synchronicity is basically a "meaningful coincidence." Where a-casual events seem to be corresponding to each other in a way that seems "special". Most people have these experiences, coincidences that it's hard to explain away as being simple coincidence. There are some who say "It's just a coincidence and you are reading too much into it." But there are others who think: "There is no such thing as a coincidence."

I'm a little of both types. I used to be more of a skeptic - in regards to everything. But throughout the last few years i've experienced some things that I haven't been able to explain. It seems to always come back to


:something that within itself, is pretty much unexplainable. Jung labeled the idea and I still don't have a clear-cut idea about what it really is. I think of it as an concept or a theory that really exists, but has yet to be explained. Almost as if it's there, you can recognize it's existence, but you are not able to comprehend it. Almost as if it's how people theorized about DNA before they could actually prove it was there and explain it. Or thinking there was such a thing as "germs" before they made microscopes. To understand synchronicity seems like it would take a new form of science and observation that we still call the "Supernatural" or "magic."

This is an example Jung gave of an synchronistic event:

  • "A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since."

I have an ironically similar example that i've experienced. I was actually telling one of my friends about Synchronicity and said: "Synchronicity would be like me talking about a bee and having it fly down in front of us right now." A couple seconds later a bee flew down and landed on the chair he was sitting on. We looked at each other and I was like "see, exactly my point!"

  1.  A bee landing on a chair is not significant. It happens, not THAT often, but it is not very strange.
  2. A bee landing on a chair when I was talking about a bee, is strange, and slightly synchronistic.
  3. A bee landing on a chair when I specifically was talking about synchronicity and using a bee as an example - and it happening RIGHT at that moment. Is not just strange, but very synchronistic.

I have a few very cool examples but that was one of the best. There also just so happens to be a bee on the table I am typing from.

So, back to my latest seemingly synchronistic web searching situation! Last night I was looking through netflix on-demand trying to find something interesting to watch. There was a documentary about "Near Death Experiences" By someone who had done hundreds of interviews of people who died and came back - and almost all shared the same experience. Seeing a white light and their family, watching their whole life flash before their eyes. A lot of them experienced an "out of body experience" when, during surgery or when they were "dead" and unconscious, they left their bodies and were looking down at their bodies and after being brought back to life - were able to describe the scene that happened in detail - as if they realllllly were watching from above their bodies the entire time they were "dead."

For me personally, since I can't fully explain how that would be possible without "souls" being a real and almost-tangible thing, I try to explain that as a product of a person's consciousness/ imagination projecting itself outside the body and using the body's senses to create the real life details.

It seems very similar to dreams that i've had where i'm outside my body and feel that i'm experiencing a real-life world. I've had "lucid dreams" which I am aware i'm in a dream and realize that - and am able to control it to a certain extent. There have been other dreams where they seem SO REAL that I actually think I am awake and the place I am in, and what I am doing, is actually happening. I'll actually ask myself in my dream "Is this really real?!" I had one of those last night. Actually it was a combination of both. I was "lucid" BUT still questioning if it was really a dream! I was pulling out my teeth and they were in really strange sculpture shapes! When it was happening I realized it was a dream at one min, then the next I would be like: Wt'hell! is this really happening - and going back and forth between knowing it was a dream and thinking it was really happening. Teeth-falling-out dreams are one of the most common and are suppose to mean you are "insecure" or are more physiological - than psychological. Meaning that it could be something that your physical body is "telling" you that then gets represented in a dream. eg. You are thirsty or hungry and in your dream you are trying to find food and water. Dreams are weird!

SO! In the documentary about near death experiences I heard a quote: "When someone imagines their death they always perceive it as a spectator." - by Freud. Since I only remembered it "paraphrased" when I googled it a site that had that quote came up.

Freud on Death

  • "'It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death.' Because, as Freud goes on, '[...] whenever we attempt to do so we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators'. In fact, we could say that we assist at our own death, as if the one who dies in our imagination were a different person. We can't imagine how we would be like dead, without being able to think or see, for example. We can't accept our own death, 'at bottom no one believes in his own death'. As Freud claims, 'in the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his own immortality'. There is no sense of the passage of time; time does not work chronologically in our unconscious. This unconscious belief that nothing can happen to us may be seen as 'the secret of heroism'."


I ended up pausing the documentary and reading the whole web page. There was something about it, and how it was written that felt strange. (in a good way) I wanted to know more about it, and the writer, so I googled her name and then ended up on another page:

Perception: How personal is it?

This page and what it was about - was almost exactly what I had been writing about, and in the same "style" for my book. I have a whole chapter on "Perception" and I could very well say that "perception" is my biggest interest and what I write and think most about: How do we see what we see? How do we dream? What are thoughts made of? What is the imagination? Essentially trying to answer a question Leonardo posed 500 years ago: " Why does the mind see a thing more clearly at night than the imagination while awake?"

The answer(s) to which led me to research Autistic Savants, psychotropic drugs, and how both the human vision system works vs. dreams vs. the imagination. "Day dreams" Rapid eye movements etc. It's very complicated!

As a pertinent example: in the documentary about Near Death Experiences they also interviewed people who have been blind since birth who had NDE and described the experience in the same way as people who have had sight their entire lives! For me that was an enigma. The implications that someone who has been blind and then was able to "See" while they were "almost dead" is... I dont even know. It pushes the limits of my skepticism to a point where I doubt the people who have experienced it. It interfears too much with my perception of the world.

And that takes us to last stop on last night's synchronistic journey online! In the article above the writer(s) were trying to explain how personal our perceptions are. The difference between objective and subjective perception. They got into the subconscious societal language aspect of it, which I have also considered (and is in my book) but what really stood out is they gave an example that was exploring exactly what the crux of my book is about.

  • "Is this a duck or a rabbit?Or maybe something else for which we don’t have yet a word and an associated pattern through which we should, or could, look at the image. A duckrabbit? Each perception is as justified as the others and this makes it a matter of choice and preference. A choice which may be influenced by conscious or unconscious motivations."

Its basically asking why would someone see this as a duck, or a rabbit, or both and how it's both up to you - and what you are told to see - to see it. How we can see one thing - and then the other - and that they are both there. How we see what is really there vs. What we expect to be there vs. what we want to see vs. what we are told we should see. When I look at the image above I can see a rabbit, and then a duck - and then both at the same time- BUT each of the three different "perceptions" of it are different. I can't see the duck when i see the rabbit BUT i can see them both at the same time, but only conceptually. My mind will switch back and forth and where they meet in the middle. But there seems to be three unique stages of my perception of the image...

Swans Reflecting Elephants, S.Dali 

  • "You don't start seeing what is, you start with what you are told that there is there. And then you try in good faith fitting everything -all the rest you see there- along the pattern you started using. But then contradictions start to be felt. Some things are difficult to fit, some don't fit at all. At this moment you can either use the psychological defense mechanisms to stop feeling and thinking about the contradictions and thus keep your pattern (and the image which it leads to you seeing) or you start doubting it because it leads to something which is "so broken" that it can't be true (Eleanor). Finally you discard it completely, look for another, find it, and see differently.

  • However, with Woolf, there are two worlds: the world of fact and the world of vision. Each of them is real and part of our existence. Woolf does not exclude the ordinary aspects of reality in her novels, which are just as real. She is aware that ‘the modern novel cannot represent only heightened moments of self-consciousness, but must be made up of more mundane moments that make up one’s life.’ ( Liesl M. Olson, Modernism and the Ordinary (Chapter 2, Virginia Woolf's 'cotton wool of daily life'))

  • In cases where the initial assumptions, the patterns initially used for recognition later lead to contradictions we can indeed speak of only one true world and its many false perceptions due to wrong assumptions, due to misinterpretations. However, there are situations when it is not possible to say which perception is the right one, which is the true one and which one is due to using the wrong pattern for recognition. In this case each perception is as real as the other one with no way to decide which is ‘fantasy’ and which ‘reality’."  Perception: How personal is it? 

This painting by Dali is obviously a LOT more complicated! Its also a painting that I tried to play with in photoshop years ago. It was one of the first (maybe the first) "Modern" painting that alluded to what I was noticing in Leonardo's art. That there are multiple, "hidden" or obscured images within one image. Although the images of the swan are nearly identical to the images reflected in the water - they have been purposely painted to look like elephants. Unlike seeing things "in clouds" these reflections were meant to look like elephants - since it is called "Swans reflecting Elephants" You see swans - then you see elephants being reflected. So unlike seeing "elephants in clouds" you are seeing a painting that is TRYING to represent obscured images.

Within this same painting I can see other images that are not obvious. Faces in the rocks, the clouds, and the tree's. They are things that could be a false perception, or the original intent of the original painter. Its not "where is waldo" it is "what is waldo."

What was most interesting and "synchronistic' about this for me, was it made me realize that other people "get" what my interest is, what my book is essentially about. "PERCEPTION" It also made me realize how complicated it is! There were sentences on this site that I had to read and re-read multiple times. For a couple of them I still didn't completely understand even after reading it dozens of times. Not too sound too "literate/elitist " but that doesn't happen to me very often! I've taken a lot of "Speed reading" courses and this article made me read very slowly.

The other, and probably the main point of this whole post, is that I found an article online - through the aforementioned synchronistic web surfing - that was the closest to what I write about that I have ever found... It also made me realize that when i write about, and how I write about - what I write about is going to be very tedious to a "general reader" and the vast majority of readers. Its what has taken me so long to finish my book- to translate this obscure and technical and "weird" writing into a form that someone else who isn't well versed in the subject to understand. I've already written my book 100xs over! The struggle has been writing it in a language and format that other people could understand. It was Einstein that said if you can't explain it to a child - in a way they could understand - then you don't understand it yourself.

Freud on Death

@derekbair | |

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