I am sure most if not all of you will have seen the image of this dress — although the question is, of course, not whether you have seen it, but how you have seen it: gold and off-white (75% of people) or black and blue (25% of people)?
This is all great fun, and worth a laugh, but it does uncover a couple of important issues, the first relating to perception. We all tend to associate our personal perception with reality — we assume that somehow how we see or perceive things relates to an absolute, to an actual reality.
Whereas, how we perceive things is simply that — how we perceive things.
Now I can hear some saying, ‘Ahh, but this is colour, colour is different.’ At the risk of being argumentative, it is not — we are used to people having different perceptions of colour, that is all. Yes, people perceive colour subjectively, but this is simply an example of how people perceive everything differently.
Everything we see, hear, taste, smell — everything we perceive — we do so against a background of our experience, of our learning. If we are taught that dogs are filthy dreadful animals, so we will perceive them; if we had a terrible experience with a particular food growing up, we will probably perceive that food as nasty.
The explanations given for the discrepancies in perception of the dress are clear — this is not a physiological matter, it is not a physical matter: it is a matter of how different minds may interpret identical signals from the eye. It is in the mind, it is not a physical matter embedded in the eye.
Professor Barry C. Smith of London’s Institute of Philosophy wrote of The Dress, ‘It is not just what we see, but how we think about what we see that influences how something looks.’
It is important that we realise this about our perceptions: they are a product of mind, and everything that the mind has experienced to date.
And it is important that we realise just how many of our judgements are thus made based on previous experience, sometimes completely irrelevantly.
Meditation helps here, it allows you to experience that deep, inner calm in your mind before your conditioning, before you had the formative experiences, before you established your values (or your prejudices). This enables you to achieve a clearer understanding of what is going on around you.
The second point that that dress raises is more in the way of some fun. Be honest with yourself, you do not have to tell anyone: if you were part of the 25% who saw the dress black and blue, did you feel a slight smug feeling of satisfaction? A slight feeling of you being set apart, somehow special?
Or, were you very slightly annoyed if you were down-at-earth, run-of-the-mill, ordinary old 75% who saw the dress as gold and white?
Give it some honest thought. And give some honest consideration to the question of why on earth you felt like that.
It is all part of awareness training.
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