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May 25, 2010 / myspork

Reflections of the Other, Perceptions of Self

Question:

We are reflections of “the other” (Bryson 94). How can the concept of a soul, of the consciousness to utilize free will, come into play here? Is the idea of fate simply another way to acknowledge that we, as a viewing subject, do “not stand at the center of a perceptual horizon” (Bryson 94), and know that by interacting with others “[annihilates the] subject as a center” (Bryson 91)?

How can we consider our unitary lives our own when they rely on the perception of the other, on the reactive behaviors of the tangents in our own field of vision? And since we know this, does this make our behavior “honest,” or is it simply performing in a role?

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Answer:

In the long run, everything is a code. We are all a program. Have you seen a spiral cauliflower? Those kinds of things don’t happen by accident. What we are made of is coded in the way we act – in our culture. Humans act and react to a sequence of “chains and series of signifiers passing across the visual domain” (Bryson 94). What we are is a set of reactions to our sensory world. It is only logical that some reactions will be more predictable than others. For instance, in language (a human construction of symbols, a network of meanings), grammar is set up so that certain words are likely to follow others. It has a specific word order, a sentence structure. Just as our behaviors with one another follow a behavioral structure, and as our vision follows the most likely visual structure.

Have you ever edited papers and missed an, “and and,” repetition typo? Our minds are set up to expect certain things, and when what the eye sees does not match what is provided, often the brain smoothes over the “error” and corrects it before we are conscious of it. Monocularity ensures that our “visual world is constructed according to systemized constraints, and from which any inconsistencies and irregularities are banished to insure […] a fully legible space” (Crary 33). Glitches are caught and repaired. But what is a glitch, a mistake, comprised of – who is to say that it isn’t a stylized way of living, of speaking, or seeing? If we are fully in power of our own unitary self, then how can anything be a mistake – does that not make us each our own God? Is this not an example of free will?

It could be called fate – and has been throughout the histories of the world. It is our way of acknowledging that we, as a viewing subject, do “not stand at the center of a perceptual horizon” (Bryson 94). By interacting with others, it “[annihilates the] subject as a center” (Bryson 91), and makes our existence a reaction in a series of events. Only in monocular vision is it possible to manipulate our environment into appearing that we are, indeed, a solitary subject. But no human has is completely without the interaction of others, and because of this, it changes the omnipotent view of reality into one that must be shared with the perceived other.

By having senses that “[unfold] to the side of, in tangent to, the field of the other” (Bryson 94), it devalues both subjects’ perceptions of the world. It gives another perspective with which to create the “norm,” a mediated, controlled, average way of visualizing and reacting to the world. We become decentralized, and instead of perceiving ourselves as a unitary subject to whom all lines of sight and experience meet, we become simply another tangent piece of a greater reality.

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© Michelle Ferris 2006

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