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Nature of logic and perception

Perhaps the greatest gift bestowed on human beings among the whole animal kingdom is the ability to think. While the other species on this planet merely act on instinct alone, human beings can decide their actions based on their ability to critically think through any situation or event. The world is lying out there for everyone to experience, but each one of us has also built our own worlds around it. In any given situation, two people will usually perceive it very differently and come to entirely different conclusions.

What is it then that makes each one of us see the same object, event or circumstance differently? The first step, I feel is observation. All our five senses are engaged in this process, but the extent of their involvement and their efficiency may differ. Observation skill is also dependent on how much the mind is in the present. For example, I may be in a book shop, but my mind is occupied with the dinner I have to organize at home. Expectedly, I will not be able to focus on a lot of details in the store. The second level is even more subjective and is perception.

Perception is the basis on which the thinking process starts functioning. There is a fire in the mountain. A child who has never seen fire before watches in wonderment and is lost in the beauty while to an adult who has survived through the traumatic experience of being trapped in a house on fire, it brings back the horror, the pain of the experience. The event is the same, the perception largely different. Logic or critical thinking works on this perception and takes the mind in a direction to reach the inference. I have been gifted with good analytical skills and I make use of them in my critical thinking.

However, my perception is something I have less control on. It is largely a product of my background, my past experiences, and my state of mind at any given moment, mostly everything that makes me who I am. And since the input to my critical thinking is my perception, I often see a situation as very different from what it truly is. To give an example, I will narrate one particular incident in my life. There was this one guy I met in my grad school, who seemed to personify everything that I ever wanted in a man. He seemed too good to be true.

Around him I felt at home and I felt protected and taken care of. One main thing that I believed attracted me to him was a kind of elusiveness about him and his reluctance to get deeply involved with anybody. So convinced was I about the fact that he was not interested in any girl that I knew beyond all doubt that it would be useless to approach him with the prospect of a future together. The reality however, was very different from what I had perceived. While it was true that he enjoyed his freedom, it was also true that he had wanted to build a relationship with me.

I learnt this much later when he admitted that he had always harbored a strong attraction towards me as well. What had kept him from pursuing it was my own attitude and nothing else. I had given out this signal loud and clear that a relationship between us was almost unfathomable. The outcome was that we perhaps lost out on what could have been a wonderful life together. So why was there such a difference between what was actually going on and what I perceived it as? The difference was because we see the world as we usually like to see it and not as it really is.

It is as if each one of us is looking at the world through colored lenses. This lens is unique to each one of us and is born out of our desires, our fears, our hopes and aspirations. I was looking for someone with certain characteristics that I loved or admired. I already had a notion of what this person should be like and all I was trying to do was identify who would fit best into that model. In doing this I never gave a thought to what the other person maybe looking for or wanting from life.

Once I had identified one person to fit into the model I had made, I was willing to do anything, make any justifications to prove to myself that this person fits the idea I had built around myself and any apparent aberration was to be merely ignored. Interestingly I was looking for qualities that would suit be the best. I was too possessive and too attached by nature, so the opposite qualities, elusiveness, detachment appealed to me. I was so keen to find someone who would meet my specifications that I never looked at the person himself and what he may also be looking for and had I done that, we could have shared a beautiful life together.

This incident taught me a lot. It taught me to be very aware and careful and not to jump into the conclusions that the mind often easily makes. It taught me to really look into my own mind and see what was responsible for a particular thought or inference. For example, I meet a person X for the first time in a party and after some few minutes I am left with a strong sense of dislike. I decide, I do not like this person X. Today, I am more careful. Where did this dislike come from? Perhaps I had a school bully whom I secretly hated and this perhaps innocent guy just happens to remind me of him by his looks or attitude.

As other times, it can be that the dislike is born out of experience, of intuition, is a knowledge that has come out of being sensitive to vibes. In the first case I shelve my concept; it is due for a recheck. In the second case I am more open to accepting my judgment, for years of experience have taught me to not ignore my sixth sense. My critical thinking ability have sharpened so that it can work in my favor and I can use it to my advantage rather than becoming a victim of my thinking process and reaching incorrect conclusions that work against my favor.

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