• Daniel Rodman

The Limited Senses

It is easy to think that what we experience is the true reality, that what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch is 100% accurate. What else can we do but trust our senses. I believe there is good reason to, however it is interesting to note that our senses are vastly limited compared to what is there to experience. For example, our sight can see all the colors of the rainbow, however this rainbow is only a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is what light, heat, radio waves, x-rays, and gamma rays are a part of. Frequencies below what we can see are called infrared. Heat can be seen with infrared cameras. Frequencies above what we can see are called ultraviolet. Blacklights shine ultraviolet light on neon colors and such and make them glow. All in all, of the known spectrum of electromagnetic waves, what we can see is only .0035%! Not only this, but there is no posited limit to how high or how low the electromagnetic spectrum can go! That means that not only is what we actually see possibly a fraction of a percent of what is really there, but it could also possibly be infinitely small! This same pattern of only being able to perceive a small percentage of what is actually there applies to hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

Animals are known to have better senses than us in certain ways. Dogs and cats can smell and see better than us, and bats and dolphins can hear much better and higher. Also, elephants can hear much lower frequencies than us. Other animals can taste and feel better than us. It is also known that even if our senses are as accurate as they possibly can be, our brains and our minds also need to interpret that information to make sense of it. Shapes, names, concepts about what we see, judgements and biases, all are produced by our brains and our minds.

So how does this information apply to our practice? It is a part of meditation to see things as clearly as we possibly can, particularly letting go of bias and ignorant assumptions that can harm us. The belief that we have a stuck unchanging essence that is independent of everything is called the ego. It is the basis of all selfish and harmful states of mind. To see that all things change momentarily and arise dependent on other things allows us to realize the relativity and the flow of the moment and release our sense of separate ego. In this way we can be accurate about our true reality. But what of our vastly limited senses? One thing we can take from this knowledge is humility, knowing that we are only given a sliver of reality. On the other hand, I am a firm believer that any perception to whatever extent of accuracy is a direct relationship with reality, a reality that is divine. Therefore we ought to trust our senses, and relate to our senses as the doorway to a divine perception, in that all things share in the divine on an ultimate level. So let us celebrate this unique opportunity to experience our reality, whether seen as good or bad, that we may increase our appreciation of this miraculous display, no matter how small a window we see it through.

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