Many Lenses Construct Reality

"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin

3 min. read

We don’t live in the same world, you and I. But I’d love for you to try to show me yours, if I try to show you mine.

If you’re an artist, you see line and shape wherever you look. You take note of the cues that create perspective, and imagine mixing the colors you see. You wonder how the reality you’re looking at might appear in pastels, oil, and acrylic, and how you might recreate that reality later, and how you might alter it.

If you’re a comedian, you see humor between every line. Every word you hear, every thing you see, is passed through an algorithm in your head. [q:] Would that make people laugh on stage? [if no:] What do I need to change/tweak? [if yes:] Write it down.

If you’re a photographer, you see light and the absence of light in everything. You know that everything you’re looking at, and everything you can’t see, is being translated to your eyes through myriad reflections and refractions.

If you’re a writer, you see stories in everyone you meet, and everything you see. You know that you’re forever stumbling into the middle — “Who planted that tree?” “What cause this clerk to be so irritable?” — and find yourself attempting to write the expositions and conclusions.

If you’re a designer, you see intentionality in everything made by humans, and inspiration in everything made by nature. You see a bus sign as a collection of fonts and symbols attempting to communicate a salient idea, and consider how you might have done so differently.

If you’re a speaker, you see language as a choose your own adventure story, and know that every individual word you choose has the potential to land you on a different page, with a different outcome. You cycle through dozens of words for every one you say, practicing them in your mind, hearing them, then plucking and presenting one like a wild flower.

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If you’re a social justice advocate, you see injustice everywhere it’s present. You see race, ethnicity, religion, class, gender, sexuality, ability, body, and education in everything and everyone. You think group when you see individual, wonder what intersections of identity have shaped their life, and try to focus all the noise into an actionable signal.

If you’re a gender and sexuality educator, you see the backstage of the plays the actors around you are performing. You admire their costumes, take note of the cues and liner notes in the scripts they’re following as they do the same, but you see and hear the director they are often unable to recognize.

And if you’re all of these at once — personally, professionally, passionately — you don’t see much sleep. Your brain is often dancing the line of full stimulation and full mush. And you appreciate when folks understand why it sometimes takes so long for you to reply to their emails.