I see an outline of a perfect circle in the center of a glass slide, containing a liquid bubble. Small streams of data, images and sparks, wriggling strands of numbers and letters float on its liquid metal surface. Overlapping the specimen, to the left slightly above, an imperfect, thick rimmed circular shape, an ellipse perhaps. Overlapping to the right is another shape, ovular, with a thick, rough, and irregular border. These are two lenses.
The center shape contains the way things really are, the truth. This might be just the truth about me or my world, or just the facts underlying some abstaction of my being, and if this could be viewed whole, there would be no mystery, every aspect of me naked and laid bare. What I think, and why I think it. My code.
The shape to the left is my lens, the one I peer through, and the extent to which it overlaps the truth is the extent to which I am even able to access the secrets to understand myself. It is my home of late, and I endure sleepless, bloodshot hours in its employment. A perfect overlay, axes aligned in all orthogonal directions, might allow me to be fully self-aware and self-actualized. But for the fact that the size is wrong: too small and too magnified. It doesn’t allow me to examine the entire truth, and the part existing outside of the focus, around the sides of my lens, is filled with what I merely believe about me, including my misconceptions, narratives, guesses, and incomplete answers to internal questions. It might be doubt, or conversely, confidence without evidence.
The opposite lens is what others use to see and gather info about me. Also imperfect, there is some truth, but also a whole lot of inferences, assumed motives, causes, and suspicions.
This specimen could be replaced by any truth in the universe, not simply my own. When I look for answers, I always hope that my angles are true, my reasons are valid, and that I endeavor to seek the truth; but often, the real goal is simply in finding an answer I can believe. But, if my lens is skewed and off center, my search area limited, my results are incomplete. alas, this is always the case.
The effort is to always optimize the lens, its scope and distance, stretch the view to capture as much as possible, at a resolution that is close to ideal clarity. Centering my lens on the peripheral aspects limits even the potential for discovery. This leaves so much area “open to interpretation”.
The exact same process works for the other lens. First impressions, bias, and disinterest will affect the positioning of this lens in the first place, sometimes by my own design. We all do this, from the selection of today’s tie to the smile forced upon an otherwise uncomfortable chin. And this is the important, sometimes ill-intended, action that requires both lenses: getting other people to see you the way you want and not the way you are. You need to know both.
I may want to hide my truth, or even my own impressions of what I believe is the truth of me. I may wish to expose it, advertise it, celebrate it. I slide my lens under the other, trying to shift the focus, manipulate the image. I may try to move the other lens entirely away from where it casts its gaze. I may pull at the other lens in an attempt to change the shape.
All of these are naturally useful and seductively simple answers. They involve putting the burden on the other viewer to interpret even by most noble manipulations. Turn on the charm, be gracious, apologize, be decisive. Make them see the best me. It’s not dishonest or immoral to be your best.
But changing the mechanics of their vision is a poorly planned adventure.
What if this was against the rules? No interfering in the view? No put-on charm, no lies, no rationalizations, for good or ill? Imagine if these were the rules:
Ultimately, I control only my own lens. Perhaps the level of self awareness I aspire to is impossibly disingenuous to being human in the first place. I cannot be perfect, so I need to edeavor to act honestly toward my own best, imperfect view. Most importantly, I had better control the subject, not the vista.