Words, understanding, wisdom, and all that stuff

This is how I think we understand things and how things are presented to us.

Take a look at a scene of reality, whatever you think reality is.

We’ll make this simple for the argument of writing and say that the scene of reality we’ll observe is a sunset of of grassy rolling hills gently sloping down to the ocean with patches of trees spotted on the slopes.  There is a sky above and patches of fluffy clouds in the sky.  That is our “reality” for this exercise.

Reality as we see it


When you observe the scene there are countless photons of light hitting your retina to record the image.  Everything in your direct line of sight is recorded on your retina, but you don’t actually “observe” them all.  It would be impossible to be aware of and remember every blade of grass and every leaf on every tree and every droplet of moisture in every cloud, so what you “see” is only a small portion of the reality in front of you.  Your body and mind act as a filter to sort out what you think is important from the reality in front of you.

But even then what is recorded on your retina is only a small portion of the total reality of what’s in front of you.  What about the other side of each blade of grass and the other side of every leaf on every tree, and the countless small animals hiding in the dirt and grass?  You could only ever possibly see less than half of the reality that is even there.  Then there is the reality that is beyond your vision, such as infrared and ultraviolet light.

You can only ever see a tiny portion of the actual true reality in front of you.  In fact it would be impossible for you to see all of the reality in that scene in front of you.

Reality is “bigger” than anything you can see, or perceive with your senses.

That example was just using a very simple static view to demonstrate a point.  When you consider all of reality across the entire universe and maybe even beyond the universe and through time you can imagine that we can only ever “know” a very small portion of that reality.

Reality is vast and effectively unknowable with our senses.


Within that vastness of actual reality are concepts or ideas.  If you were to form a concept of the reality in front of you it can only EVER be a small portion of the total reality.

Our concept of the coulds as we remember them

The concept of the scene used above cannot be as big and complex as the scene itself – it is simply impossible.  It’s just what we think of the scene based on our limited (filtered) senses or our imagination and memory.  Even if they are concepts about reality itself, they can never be as big as the actual reality and cover all of reality.  Concepts and ideas are just a very small representation of reality.


If we want to communicate a concept to someone else we need to define it so the other person can understand it as we want them to understand it.  In other words we put a cage around it so that it can be studied.  We need to keep it still and stable so it can be evaluated and discussed under a common understanding.  So we develop a language so we can communicate concpets.

Words we use to define the clouds

The cages we place around concepts are language and words.  Since the concept is now caged and defined we can study it, but cannot know the concept in its free and natural state because it is now effectively limited by the words and the meaning placed on the words and each of our individual understandings of that meaning.

The language is also important so that it captures the concepts effectively.  Can you get a true sense of the experience of eating a banana using only your sight, if I was to mime the act of eating it?  You might know what I mean but you can’t really get a sense of the experience because the language used can’t cover the total experience.

If I was to simply say “gravity” one person might think I meant an apple falling to the ground while another might think I meant the attractive force between masses, while another might think of a warp in the space-time continuum, or the force created by gravitons.  One person might think it is constant while the other might think it is varaible.  Until the terms are clearly defined (caged) we can’t have a clear conversation.

So going backwards:

–          Words and language cage and limit concepts so they can be shared and studied,

–          those concepts can only ever be a small representation of the reality they are trying to portray.

Words, and even concepts cannot ever be a true representation of reality.

  • Words bring knowledge.
  • Concepts bring wisdom.
  • Reality brings…?

What do you think all this means for our concepts about the creation of the universe and of things like time and space, or even religion and God?  How do you think we actually get to know reality as it is, or can we?

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One Response to Words, understanding, wisdom, and all that stuff

  1. Pingback: Spirit Hunting | thirdobservation

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