What we see is not what we get. We get much more, but don’t need more than we see. Things are complex beyond belief, even the ones we perceive as simple or take for granted, especially those because if we can take them for granted it means that all the previous work, effort, knowledge and time invested was so grand that it eliminated the wild cards from it for the most part and we can safely ignore them.
We don’t see most of our surroundings and it’s impossible to know and see all. Physically impossible, as we operate on the principle of pragmatics and not objective sight. Useful things are the best use of our cognitive resources and the brain doesn’t like to waste them. Even in the sciences that are the most objective models of looking at the world. It takes years and years to train a scientist to try and take as much of himself, his presumptions, biases and expectations out of the thing he’s looking at, and it still often fails because we’ve evolved to see what we had to and in line with what we find valuable. Current usefulness determines which information gets through. You will not remember the wall colour of most rooms you’ve been in, the tile pattern or all daily interactions, you won’t see the most obvious things right in front of you if you’re focused on something else, because these other things are not useful aka have no value for your task at the moment.
We’re effectively blind for a large chunk of our surroundings and locked into a tunnel vision by what we need to get as actionable information. It makes no difference which colours the cars around you are at the stoplight. The colour of the traffic light is all you need to successfully navigate the intersection. A bunch of us could witness the same event unfold, let’s say a play including a couple in a heated discussion. Depending on your mood, experience with relationships, background, what happened to you today or yesterday, your occupation and stress or chill levels, expectations of the play we’d get completely different things out of it. You may focus on the relationship, feel anxious seeing the spat you’ve had with your partner this morning replayed, you might focus on the lighting if you’re a light designer, or scenery of you’re an interior designer, you may listen only to the words and the way they are delivered while closing your eyes or focus more on body language if you’re kinaesthetically inclined, you may be bored and look at the people watching the show because you’re an extrovert ore interested I real people…
That’s the thing about art and why it is so captivating, there is no one single interpretation because there is no one single value system. It may be on occasionally possible to step out of yourself and stop analysing the world through the prism of the persona you’ve acquired but, it is not possible to see all. You would go mad overloaded by unnecessary data that makes no difference in survival. No one of us is all-seeing or all-powerful. Even the wizard of Oz was just an old man behind the curtain putting on a show, and even Dorothy and the gang saw only what they wanted in their fear until Toot, unconsumed by human worries, opened the screen. Whenever you miss something don’t feel bad, 50% of us didn’t see the gorilla walking right mid-screen and beating its chest in a psychological experiment. Because it didn’t matter and there was a more important task to focus on.
Values make all the difference in viewing the world. The utility of the observed is king and rightfully so. We would be paralyzed with processing nonsense otherwise as every single thing we look at has infinite variations. One object alone can change and vary due to conditions ad infinitum. A kitchen chair in the first rays of morning light is not the same chair as the one at midnight, but for you it is. Its utility stays constant. Unless it changes psychologically – someone who used to sit there all the time moved and now it’s more than a chair, it’s a symbol of loss.
We miss most things, and that’s all right. What matters will reveal itself and attention to important details beats data overload every time.