See a table

What does it mean to truly see, to see things as they are?

To see things as they are, is to see them without interpretation or judgement. If you look at a table, and think “I see a table”, the table is lost, and you don’t see the table, but your mind’s interpretation. This would become apparent if I asked you to look away, and then tell me the color of the table. Perhaps you would respond, “brown”, or “white”.

But if you look more closely, you see that this is not true. The table isn’t one uniform color. If this was true it would look flat and two dimensional. It has a variety of shades, tones, and even various colors reflecting off in different lights. Perhaps it is a wood table, and has complex textures and grains. Maybe another object in the room, of a different color, is creating a reflection in the table. Look again, and you see a rich variety of colors, not a single one.

And aside from color, I could ask what shape the table is. A square with four legs, you might respond. But if you look again, what you see is probably more like a stretched parallelogram with various extensions. Most likely you can only see a couple legs. Four legs exist only in your memory and interpretation. And if you walk around the table, at every moment, the shape that you see changes.

This changing shape is much more true. It is unique, based on your current experience. To describe it in words would most likely fill a novel. Even so, it is difficult to convey with words, as words themselves communicate through the learned meaning attached to them. Over time you come to understand meaning in words, but this meaning is built up of your past experiences. Specific connotations of words and phrases can vary significantly from person to person, especially between cultures, so words themselves are not even constant between people.

So, what started as a simple table, is now a complex object, which you naturally simplify based on your historical knowledge of what a table is and how you use it. But this label of a “table” is not the truth of your experience.

If this is true of a table, how about everything else you’re thinking about during the day?