The Kaleidoscope

Last week we discussed “What is Reality?” to develop a basis on the topic so we can expand on it further. In that post, I determined that for each, reality is viewed through a unique lens. This lens cannot be removed and nothing (possibly except for some circumstances I will discuss at a future date) can be viewed without this lens. The lens is your figurative eye for viewing existence. In addition to this, I talked about art and writing working as a proxy to give a glimpse through the lens of the artist, bending the rule of lenses. This week I would like to expand on the idea of viewing reality through a piece of another’s lens.

I do believe any work of art is an attempt to create an artificial lens fragment that others can see through. Because art is highly subjective (as is reality itself), one cannot say for certain what “good” and “bad” art is, but I believe that generally, art created by an individual who can project their lens strongly can be appreciated by all, even by those who do not prefer the art particularly. Also, it is noteworthy that for our purposes, I am using the term ‘art’ universally to apply to anything from the fine arts to writing, to even casual conversation. Anything created by a human with the intent to transmit meaning to another human serves as art for this example. These creations are, in fact, the creation of an artificial lens for another to look through.

Throughout our lives, we collect fragments of these artificial lenses through reading, television, movies, paintings, and more. In fact, one of the most extreme yet least apparent sources of these lens fragments is society itself. The conglomeration of ideas, experiences, values, and opinions that is societal influence probably contributes the most fragments the average person collects, yet this is also the hardest source to identify as lenses from society are gathered passively by being a part of said society.  Society telling us “this is good, this is bad, this is how it’s supposed to be” is merely creating fragments of lenses for its members to adopt and conform to. That being said, every time we see through the lens of another and are affected by it, whether knowingly or not, we may keep that lens and add it to our collection, amassing them over time while still looking through them. These lenses eventually form a gigantic kaleidoscope by which we view reality, each fragment we have obtained is a piece of colored glass. All the lens fragments we have collected compare and contrast with each other to create an image of reality that is a magnificent reflection of the art and influences we have experienced at that point!

While this idea of forming a kaleidoscope from all of our influences should be a beautiful thing, I believe that it can cause tragedy. It is not the kaleidoscope itself that is the issue, but individuals themselves who forget they are looking through a kaleidoscope, or never realize this fact at all, and therefore fallaciously believe that what they are seeing through the kaleidoscope is actually their true lens! Keep in mind, to look through a kaleidoscope there needs to be an eye. That eye is the original lens of the observer—without it, not even the kaleidoscope would be visible! imagine if you looked through a kaleidoscope so long that you begin to mistake the kaleidoscope for your eye and you’ll have an idea of the irony of this mistake in an abstract sense. This mistake causes individuals to judge reality, including themselves based on what they see in the kaleidoscope. They attempt to make grand judgments based on a distorted image. Sticking to the analogy, how can anyone properly judge a work of art, the sight of their neighbor, or their reflection in the mirror while constantly looking through a kaleidoscope? Their judgment would not be accurate nor fair. These skewed judgments then proceed to cause delusion, cognitive dissonance, and suffering. In an attempt to make reality fit the fragmented, colored view of the kaleidoscope, the individual who has mistaken this kaleidoscope for their lens will try to alter others and themselves to match these impossible images which lead to suffering all around. Hatred for others because of their differences can often be attributed to naive judgments gathered through the kaleidoscope without the judger even realizing that these fragmented images are not their own! Not only this, but the person peering through the kaleidoscope may desperately try to change themselves to fit the distorted and constantly changing images they see while looking through it. They will find that to meet the extreme and rapidly changing sights they see in the kaleidoscope is impossible and they will feel inadequate for not being able to do something that was never feasible in the first place. They are trying to force themselves into the shape they see in the fun-house mirror. The most ironic part is all these images of reality they see have not originated with themselves! They were merely gathered from the artificially created lenses of others! In this way, many people (possibly as many as 99% or more) live their whole lives thinking the thoughts of others, maintaining the beliefs of others and creating the life others want to lead. The disconnect between their true lens that they have forgotten about and the kaleidoscope which they mistakenly believe is their original lens causes endless suffering for the deluded individual, and they will destroy themselves and others in the process of making their surroundings fit their fun-house imagery. A kaleidoscope is meant to be a beautiful source of enjoyment and perspective, but when people base their sense of self and sense of reality on the view from this light-hearted contraption, they cause themselves and others existential suffering.