Seeing is believing: An Oxymoron? #NewYearResolution

by Kazeem Olalekan

“Settle down Beavis. This is only gonna hurt for like a minute or something.” – Butthead

When someone says seeing is believing, you may think ‘That is odd, once you have seen, then you know…in which case, there is no need to believe’ If you think that, then you might consider the statement ‘seeing is believing’ an oxymoronBelieving means accepting something is true, especially without proof. If you think that, however, you will almost exactly be wrong. In actual fact, ‘seeing is believing‘ is a proverb. It is a sensible advice which effectively means that even when you see, the most you can do is believe…no more. It is unwise to extrapolate that on the evidence of seeing, you know. For the duration of this piece, I will like you to suspend your belief or disbelief.

How many times have you seen something, being shown something and you swallow it: hook, line and sinker? How many of those times have you then acted on what you have been shown? Further still, how many of those times have things turned out to be different from what you have seen or what you have been shown?  Now consider how you felt when you found out the truth? Did you fly off in despair looking to blame someone or were you consumed with this blanket of great depression. This is a common problem of perception…and you are not alone.

Why seeing alone is not enough

Seeing is a component of perception. There are others: hearing, touching and other senses. To do perception real justice, one needs to engage all the senses when an action is required. Seeing alone is a very poor marker of reality. Why do you think people say things like; ‘Even a blind man can see‘ (You are probably thinking: ‘people use this to signify that something is obvious‘) but that is not what I mean here. If you can see, then other senses may become less finely honed. If you are blind however, then you rely exclusively on other senses. What might be obvious to someone with sight might not be obvious to someone without. In spite of this, a blind man’s perception may better correlate to reality; more than that of someone with sight. Insight is achieved when perception matches reality. I will therefore be very careful to categorize something as being obvious. Nothing is obvious; and that is my starting point. So I find myself walking away when all my key senses have not been fully satisfied. Why? The worst feeling for me, comes when I take action on a false premise! I guess this is true for most people. That is why we try to blame others for the consequences of our actions; because the other possibility – our complicity – is too difficult to stomach.

My approach is to doubt honestly what I see. Adopt a skeptical approach. Be a scientist. Use what you see as the basis for your null hypotheisis, then proceed to test it, if you can. If we don’t do this on a personal and individual level, the events of the holocaust will repeat itself. A skeptical approach is the only choice if we are to avoid making the same mistakes again.

Developing the senses

Insight comes from developing all the senses. To be able to do this, you need to shut down the most deceptive sense of all: your sight. I am not suggesting you should gouge your eyes out, no; although the Bible has something to say on this:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. – Matthew 5:29

What I am saying is this: In this new year, practice seeing without your eyes. Practice seeing things blind-folded. So, as an example, if something is said to you: Close your eyes for a minute or two and consider what was said to you. Strip out who said it. Forget whether the person is: black, white, stupid, poor, Hell’s angel, rich, wise, young, physiotherapist, old, inexperienced, nurse, layman, professional, professor, pharmacist, gay, doctor, royalty, celebrity, woman, man, midget, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, disabled…or even blind! Consider what was said on it’s own merit, then open your eyes.

When you do this often and honestly enough, your senses will sharpen, along with your insight. The blessing here for you is that you can open your eyes – that blessing, alas, is not available to everyone.

Big Brother

Is it possible to have a surveillance state, with all the cameras and technologies in the whole world, and still see nothing? Yes it is. It is equality possible for an individual or a group of individuals – just like a state – to disrupt the freedom we all cherish: Same difference. That is why whatever we do, we need to do it with all our senses engaged. We need to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. I happen to think that I couldn’t have made it this far if some key individuals have failed to engage their full senses. To these people, I am eternally grateful.

So as you can see; ‘Seeing is believing‘ is a good piece of advice and not an oxymoron, the same reason why military intelligence is not necessarily an oxymoron. In actual fact, it is all too easy for someone with a choice; to exercise that choice in a detrimental way because they haven’t engaged all their senses.

On a personal level, I am as sure as I can be, without knowing, that there is a God. I now believe, not only on the basis of what I have seen but also on the basis of what I have perceived through all my senses.

In the spirit of Radio 4’s unbelievable truths, can you now tell me how many oxymorons, I have managed to sneak into this post?

Have a pleasant and joyous New Year.

All Seeing Eye

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