Fact or Interpretation?
CONTENTS (Do you have ideas for future newsletters? Write me.)
- Fact vs. Interpretation: Trapped by What we “Know”
- Quote of the Month
FACT vs. INTERPRETATION: TRAPPED BY WHAT WE “KNOW”
Do you sometimes wonder why someone doesn’t see things your way when you are “obviously” correct? Me, too. This week I made it a practice to notice when people describe their perceptions of the world as though their perceptions were facts. It’s a fascinating experiment — I highly recommend it!
Each of us views the world from one of many different possible perspectives. It is as if we are each peering at life through separate knotholes in a fence. And yet we often speak and act as though our view of the world is the only valid interpretation possible: the only “knothole.” Now, speaking with great conviction is very powerful and highly appropriate in many instances. It just should not be confused with fact.
Once we can clearly distinguish the difference between a fact and an interpretation, all kinds of “problems” vanish or are greatly diminished. Let’s define the terms first. A fact is something that has actual existence, that is “independent of mind.” That means everyone except the most contentious of beings would agree on it. Examples are “It is 72 degrees Fahrenheit in this room,” and “I am biologically a female.” Actually, I can’t think of a lot of examples beyond that. Once you get clear about the exact criteria for a “fact,” you’ll notice they’re kind of scarce.
To make an interpretation is to “conceive of in the light of individual belief or judgment.” It’s basically your opinion. As valid as it may seem, as strongly held as it may be, it is only one of many possible stories that you have created to fit the facts as you perceive them. (See, it gets a little tricky once you start paying attention to this.)
Once we understand just how vulnerable our perceptions are to obfuscation by our world-view, we become a lot less attached to our particular interpretation, and more open to considering the views of others. This open and modifiable stance makes it possible to see things that we are otherwise blind to.
Consider the following simple experiment. Quickly count the number of F’s that occur in the following phrase:
FEATURE FILMS ARE THE RE-
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIEN-
TIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE
EXPERIENCE OF YEARS
Most people, upon seeing this for the first time, are unable to count them accurately, even though they know that there is some kind of trick to it. It seems like such a simple thing. But if we can’t even count the number of F’s in a sentence accurately, what makes us think that we accurately perceive the “reality” around us? (See below ‘Quote of the Month’ for the actual #.)
If fish were scientists they would be the last ones to discover water. You’ve almost certainly experienced this yourself. When we learn a new word, we tend to encounter it everywhere. When we buy a new car, we notice that there seem to be an awful lot of other cars like it on the highways. We see what we look for. We see what we are already familiar with. We see what we know. And that’s what we call “reality”.
Once we “get” this, we are more free to experience the world in other ways besides the way it’s always been for us. Then, just maybe, we can discover how life appears through someone else’s knothole. What do YOU think? Write and share with me how this shows up in YOUR life.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH (Send me your suggestions for Q.O.T.M.)
“Most conversations are like two TVs facing one another.” – unknown
F: There are 6 in the sentence. Most people miss the ones in OF.