(by Lance Erlick)
Life is like a Rorschach test. We see what we are pre-disposed to see. That only makes sense since our eyes pick up pixelated images like a dot matrix printer. Our ear drums collect sound waves, which they turn into electric impulses. The mind interprets the pixelated images into the flowing images we think we see, and turns electric impulses into the sounds we imagine we hear: music and language. Once the mind sees or hears something, that familiarity colors how new images and sounds are received.
If we imagine ourselves in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, then we see cockroaches everywhere. In their absence, we notice that lack above all else and measure our world accordingly.
We may see the glass half full or half empty. Do we find enemies at every turn? Do we see thieves and crooks all around us? Do we imagine everyone is out to get us? Do our pre-dispositions cause us to condemn those who look or act differently than we do or than we expect them to?
If an architect and a historian both visited the ancient cities of Greece and Rome, they would see and hear the same things, but walk away with entirely different recollections of what they saw. One would be able to describe the structures and architectural heritage. The other could quote what ancient peoples did there. It is not what they saw, but their pre-dispositions that determine what they see.
Increasingly, forensic scientists are discovering how unreliable eyewitness testimony can be. Of course, we have a historical example. At the time of President Lincoln’s assassination, there were scores of witnesses who were interviewed as to what they saw. They all witnessed the same thing, yet they could not agree on what Booth wore, what he said, or even on what he did after he jumped onto the stage.
So, how do we know what is real?