Last night I finally met my cohort. Thirteen of us sat in a room not really knowing what to expect of our first class of solely Doctoral students. We interviewed each other; then in oral presentation read our thesis statement and supporting evidence of our thesis about the person we interviewed. There are COOs of companies, high school principals, heads of nonprofit organizations, bar certified lawyers, peace corps volunteers, and then there’s me. You really have to ask yourself when you’re in a room with such accomplished people, “Wow, maybe my life really has been extraordinary huh?”
My professor began discussing culture and of it he said a very moving thing, “Culture is the window from which we view the world. However, as you well know, you cannot build a window without also building a wall; so culture can also be confining and restricting.” I am not a note taker in class. I much prefer to listen and participate, and I only write down things that echo, needless to say I wrote that down. I thought about travel, undergrad, career…all of those things are windows, right? They give us a vantage point on life that we previously did not have, but then that window has to be supported by a wall. My professor went on to say that living in a small town growing up he was surrounded by very narrow, judgmental people so he could not wait to move to the big city when he was an adult. Then after moving to New York he realized that they were, in large part, the same way only NYers were very arrogant about their opinions whereas the country people were at least aware of their ignorance. I liken this to being able to see the wall your window sits in. Seeing how tall it is, and seeing how wide it is and knowing that there exists life on the other side.
The topic of lecture was perception. The next thing I wrote down was “For survival, we are trained to notice change in our environment rather than consistency.” This speaks volumes. This is why a woman can get her face slapped every day for a year and only take note of the day it doesn’t happen. Think of the dangers when a) we are biologically programmed to notice change and to react to that rather than the static, and b) the static behavior we are succumbed to is unhealthy or maladaptive. My brain was on fire. Its why when I play piano I can play mindlessly until I play an incorrect note, its why when we drive we may have no recollection of our route home unless there was an accident along the way. My question to the universe was, “Can we ever get used to change?” Of course we can, but the evolutionary answer to that is nonattachment to our environment. How many times have you seen all of these examples in your life? Isn’t that why the guy we want so badly can’t seem to commit? At least that’s how we perceive it.
Take this, the principle of pregnanz which says that we tend to order our experience in a manner that is regular, and simple. If that guy doesn’t commit to us then the answer is not complicated it really only because one of two possibilities, “Something is wrong with him,” or “Something is wrong with us.” There are a lot of things we could argue but in the end it boils down to those two options. It’s narcissistic with the answer is always the former, and its depression when the answer is always the latter. So of course we’re back to the walls and windows; it takes recognizing the window (it may be him) and also recognizing the wall (it may be me) to get the best explanation of our realities. But sometimes no matter how much we get it, we just don’t get it….
The Law of proximity. It states that objects close in spacial (physical) or temporal (relation) proximity belong together. Maybe this is why we get stuck getting slapped everyday. He seems so perfect, he went to the right schools or has the right job, looks the way he “should”, he is the type of guy we always saw ourselves with, we belong together. I quoted the movie The Wedding Planner to Arti this weekend, “What if what you have really is great, but not as great as something greater?” I do believe that when we are being fooled by the law of proximity, when we are being slapped in the face every day, there is that one day we go pain free…that one day where we meet someone who (at least superficially) fits our dream even more closely. Why is that? Is that person “the one”? Or is that person’s sole happenstance in your life simply proof from the universe that you are playing folly to skewed perception. Are there they just to show you the possibility of something else…The Law of proximity is also why it is important to keep a good circle. No matter how great you are as a person, you will almost always be taken as apart of the crowd closest to you. (Simultaneously, why I am ecstatic that my cohort is so accomplished, whether I am as decorated or not, the law of proximity gives me clout…I think this is why Harvard University’s endowment is second only to that of the Catholic Church).
Both of the last principles come from Gestalt theory of perception which states that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is always a bigger picture, in other words. There is always something behind the wall that we cannot see or sometimes even imagine.
A while back I did a dramatic therapy session where I had to act out what power was to me, with my body. I laid on the floor with my hands behind my head staring up into what I imagined to be a sunny sky. Looking back I draw a parallel…you do not notice walls or windows, barriers or steps when you are looking up. When up is your focus all you see is the limitless infinite. So that’s where I’m at…that’s my reality.