Center of control
The more I think about the brain though (who is "I" by the way? Isn't it my brain again?), the more I realize how much it is in control. Of who I am, what I sense, what I think, what I believe and eventually what I do. Why do we trust the brain so much? Why do we trust the signals it senses? Are the sensory organs we own the epitomy of perfection, so much so that all other devices we create for measurement and sensing should be judged against our sensory organs?
If one reads the ancient Hindu scriptures, one can read about Maya, also known as Mayajaal. It can be described as this veil that covers our eyes, and blinding us from the truth, the reality. Not that what we see is not true. Yes, that is a truck hurtling down toward you on the streets! What we see though is only one perspective of the truth, part of the whole, perhaps better described as a projection of the real thing on a smaller dimension, but yet something we are happy to accept as true. No matter how marvelous our senses, especially our eyes are, one can definitely question whether it can see everything as it is.
This whole thing sounds so "Matrixy", doesn't it? But, the very fact that it is very hard to accept we don't see the truth and that "Seeing, may not always be, believing", is why this is not very commonly heard either. Those who know that we cannot see the truth with open eyes, only advice that one must attain this realisation on their own. One cannot be told or shown what the truth is, but one can be guided how to seek it. Reminds me of a line from Brave New World by Iron Maiden -
All is lost, sold your souls to this brave new world.
What does education have to do with it?
We turn up in schools with an open mind, as absorbent as a sponge, only to be taught some of the most outdated material one can dole out. This is especially true of all sciences including Mathematics. Perhaps we could leave out biology to some extent. All that we learnt were labeled as theoretically perfect sciences, where every statement worth its weight had a proof, devised in a precise, orderly fashion. Little did we realise that these perfect sciences were all standing on the foundations of certain axioms and statements of truth, that never needed to be proved. Indeed, if you think about it, such a science which is based on devising proofs and conclusions and cause-and-effect theories, can never exist without such axioms to start with.
I am not saying all we learnt was bullshit. But, could it not be possible that these axioms were only sufficiently biased to not be generally applicable? They may only apply to a limited array of problem-spaces, but all of these fill up our daily lives and overwhelm us so much, we don't realise there might be more to it that is missing . Take for instance, the Newton's laws of motion. We apply them everywhere today. It is impressive standing on its own. However, it only took a few nuclear scientists to start digging into sub-atomic particles and their microscopic properties, and someone called Einstein in 1917 to take the macroscopic view at the universal scale to realise that Newton's laws no longer dictate how things work. They weren't found wrong, but inadequate.
From behind the spectacles
Our eyes give us this amazing perspective to life and our surroundings and dictate our interactions with it. They are excellent when it comes to helping us survive on earth. But we all know its limitations. We can only see radiation in the optical wavelength range, which is just so miniscule compared to the whole observed spectrum in the universe. We already cannot see everything. Add to this the fact, we cannot view objects below a certain size and beyond a certain distance, and we come to know, there is so much more we would want to see, if only we could!
Let me present another interesting example of our limitations. We know this from school as Geometry. But, today, in scientific circles, it is classified as Euclidean Geometry. Why? Ever wonder why we could always solve those theorems and proofs on a sheet of paper? Because it only applies to flat surfaces and planes! If you try to take your theorems to a curved surface, like say the surface of a sphere, they fail to apply! A straight line on a flat surface is obvious - shortest line between 2 points. We can use the same shortest line argument on a curved surface, but of course, this line is no longer straight. The sum of the internal angles of a triangle is 180 degrees. But on a sphere? It's greater than 180 degrees! The figures below show "straight lines" on our spherical globe (latitudes), and a triangle on a sphere with sum of angles equal to 270 degrees..
What can we see?
We only "see" what we are taught to see. Over years, we have developed a notion of what is "real", and we understand images based on this perspective. The eyes and the brain combine to form an instrument, which together "see" what they are trained to, within the limitations of the eye as a lens with a fixed focal length range, and a filter that can decipher only a few of the radiations out there. This doesn't imply I shouldn't trust the things I see, but only that I should believe there are more ways to interpet what I see that can mean a lot more if only I tried. There are more revealing illustrations to feed one's mind and make them suspect their firmest beliefs, which I will leave for future posts for now. But, believe me, there is more out there than meets the eye!