Reality arrives through four universal perspectives. This thought arose when I was observing my first grandson.
First and most obvious is the perspective that allows me to experience his physical form and behavior. His body grows. His physical and behavioral capabilities develop. He sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches; he crawls, then walks, then runs. One day he will come to understand a bit or a lot about the internal workings that provide these capabilities and may talk with me about these. But for now, these capabilities are just there and they work. The perspective I am describing is the external individual reality of the whole that is my grandson.
Second, and almost as obvious, is the family, nuclear and extended, or more generally the social context. He has parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. He has learned to name them, and knows that these kin are part of the organization of his world; they relate to him, and he to them as a system of interactions and interdependencies. Soon he will add friends, neighbors and strangers to his world, and come to understand that others also have such systems which might interact with his. One day he will come to understand a bit or a lot about the internal workings for these ways in which individuals form and maintain groups, and may talk with me about these. But for now they are just there and they work. The perspective I am describing is the external collective or communal reality of the whole that is my grandson.
The third universal perspective, and perhaps most amazing, is the angle that allows me to understand (or at least interpret) what and how he is thinking, what is his intent; in short, his mind. I will never have the same type of access to his mind that I have to his body and social group. But without this perspective on his mental activities, I cannot even come close to understanding him as a person. Right now he is busy building mental constructs of his world, finding categories of and patterns between things, forming beliefs about cause and effect, and turning thoughts into action. One day he will come to understand a bit or a lot more about the internal workings of his mind, and may talk with me about these. But for now his mind is just there and it works. The perspective that I am describing is the internal individual reality of the whole that is my grandson.
Fourth and finally is the view that allows me to understand (or at least interpret) the further development of his mind as part of an increasingly larger group of minds – those of other people. These relations began with instinctive and then increasingly purposeful gestures, and then more sophisticated communication called language. His brain and body gave him the capability to speak, both vocally and through the brain’s ability to learn, but the minds of all of us around him (including Sesame Street) have provided his vocabulary. Through a complex sharing of minds, we are also teaching him about right and wrong, and all that we have learned over thousands of years. One day, he will come to understand a bit or a lot about the internal workings of cultural processes and about his and other cultures, and may talk with me about these. But for now it is just there and it works. The last perspective I am describing is the internal collective or communal reality of the whole that is my grandson.
Universal Perspectives we all share
Those of you who have read about Integral Theory by Ken Wilber will have recognized these four universal perspectives.They are part of my reality, and yours. Every person has a collection of understandings and beliefs about, well, everything. Every person has a perspective about things he or she can reach through senses, perceptions created through sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Every person also has a perspective about things he or she cannot reach with senses. These include a person’s own mind, the mind of another person and the group mind of many persons. So think of yourself as a person with exterior (objective) and interior (subjective) perspectives, all working at the same time and inseparable from each other.
And think of everyone (and everything) in the world also having these four perspectives to one degree or another.