Sunday, November 17, 2013

Belief, Experience, Perception and Judgement

These words: belief, experience, perception and judgement run through my mind most days.  You'd think these words and their meaning might help one better understand life, love, this world and many other things but I've come to find that they don't.  They are not helpful to me at all.  Let me start my thoughts on each word and share a perspective.

Belief - A belief is something we're taught to hold from the outside world and those beliefs can range from whether you are a good soul or a bad soul, to religious tenets, Santa Claus or the Earth being round or flat.  A belief, to me, is an untested hypothesis of a person or thing that was conveyed as a truth that I must hold under some form of social threat of acceptance or non-acceptance.  I don't rely on belief alone for this reason and have come to a place in my life where I truly desire to identify and root out every belief I hold in order to test its validity.

Experience - You would think that experiencing something might render the truth of a thing and yet when I break that one apart, I see that it does not.  How do you explain many people experiencing the same things and yet they come up with different recollections or conclusions about what they experienced?  Consider also how some individuals seem to be mired in pain as a result of an experience while some who have had the same experience are invigorated by it (think roller coasters or sky-diving).  Conclusions derived from experience alone are not evidence of truth.  It just is what it is, an experience and that experience in description is subjective to the experiencer in the absence of objectively arrived at conclusions.

Perception - This one seems to me to go hand-in-hand with the above.  Through our experience we filter our thoughts and emotions to arrive at a conclusion.  That conclusion is more likely based on our own perception and not necessarily an objective truth.  Consider the perception of two roller coaster riders: 1) One may ride it, enjoy the experience and determine that roller coasters are fun.  2) The other may ride it, not enjoy the experience and determine that roller coasters are not fun.  Which is true?  Neither.  Both are perceptions.  A roller coaster is just a roller coaster designed to give an experience.  Another example I have is that we all may perceive the sun setting each day.  Therefor, the sun must be moving down the horizon, right?  Wrong.  It's actually the Earth turning that gives the perception that the sun is setting.  The sun does not really set but we, in our locales on the planet, actually turn away from the sun as the world spins on its axis.  Another example comes to mind:  Who has ever had an argument with a loved one or partner where each experienced the same situation and yet each fights because his or her perception is being foisted as fact unaccepted by the differing perception of the other party?  Again, where is the truth of a situation if two people experience the same scene differently and then they try to claim only one truth of a thing?  Perception can never give
rise to anything but provisional truth - it's true if you perceive it that way - we think.  But perception is not truth on its own even if you can find others who share your perception.  Perception is only how we rate an experience and catalog or categorize the good or bad of an experience.

Judgment - Judgment almost always is somehow caught up in the above three topics and depending on how it is meted out, may also not be made with the full understanding of a thing or situation. We quickly subscribe to belief (untested hypothesis), recall our experience (which is only ever single sided), define the experience with our perception (which is limited by our social, behavioral and cultural conditioning) and then judge a situation based on what we think is wrong or right.  After all of this, we may judge a thing and consider that true for all.  But it isn't in the absence of understanding.  Through objectively testing a belief, experience or perception, we can begin to learn the truth.  We just cannot assume a truth is evidenced by a belief, an experience or a perception and then form an  accurate judgment as a result.  In the absence of definitive or objective testing, how do we properly judge a thing or well, anything? 

I think about these concepts a lot because they seem to me (perception) to create a lot of disharmony and pain in this world when misunderstood. Sometimes they are used for good but in my experience it seems they have not entirely been used for good.  In human interactions I don't think these words are understood well enough for anyone to come to a judgment based on any of the above things and it's funny how common we use these concepts in an attempt to derive a convincing truth.  I have beliefs, experiences, perceptions and judgments too.  What I've come to understand is that these things are growing ever more meaningless as I live and breathe.  These things do not equate to the truth and I find I'm no longer willing to settle.  So, where do I have to go to get to the truth of a thing?  Well, it seems both simple and complicated but I do have tools at my disposal.  I'd have to learn a whole lot more about what truth is, how my beliefs were formed and test them.  Throw out the beliefs, perceptions and judgements of my experiences that don't stand up to the rigors of testing to objectively arrive at definitive truth.  How do we measure a definitive truth if we do not understand the premise from which we operate?

Understanding becomes the key to the door - or even knowing that you lack understanding...assert a belief not as a truth but as a belief.  Assert a perception as it is but not as a definitive truth.  Experience is subjective, please understand, and should rule no one's actions but the experiencer.  Judgement, this one should be exercised with caution, critical and accurate thinking before one takes an action or one could end up with foot in mouth disease or worse.

I judged these thoughts a bit crazy temporarily but I'm not done thinking through them.  I am motivated to understand them because from my perspective I just see so much chaos and pain created by misunderstanding and misapplication of these concepts and it just sometimes seems unnecessary.  If we devoted as much energy to solving the world's real problems as we do trying to dictate that our beliefs, experiences, perceptions and judgments were definitive truth, we would be living in a by far greater world than we live in today.  Someday we will learn. I believe that even if my experience and perception tell me otherwise.  I will observe, watch with patience and do what I can to help with understanding, promoting love, peace, tolerance and compassion because these are the tools through which we can begin to expend our energy in a more constructive fashion.  It matters to me.  I can't really seem to help that at the moment.  So, I'm just going to go with it.  In the mean-time, I understand that my beliefs, experiences, perceptions and judgements may be based on a framework I have very limited understanding of.  I could be all wrong or right on. Who knows.  I guess I'll just have to go deeper within to gain greater understanding and support the free will of others as I go, get involved where I think there is a need and just love all regardless of understanding.  What else can I do? 

~Blessings of greater peace, love and harmony for all.

(c) 2013 Jaie Hart (photo from

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