Copyright©2007,2010 By Larry Gowdy
An expanded version of this article can be viewed with art at Observation.
Nodin : Why, it is you my dear friend William. I am always delighted to discover a man of reason standing before me when I open my door. Please do not hesitate to come inside.
William : Thank you Nodin, I do sincerely appreciate your welcoming me into your home, and out of this cold wintry weather.
Nodin : Come, sit with me near the fire, so that we may be warmed while we enjoy the purpose of your most welcome visit.
William : Thank you for such hospitality Nodin, for you make me feel at ease, both of body and spirit.
Nodin : So please tell me William, for what delightful purpose am I indebted for your visit today?
William : I have read the manuscripts, written by your own hand, that you offered me during our previous visit, and though I have been able to recognize the valuable knowledge within the manuscripts’ concepts, especially those about the origins and nature of logic, still I must confess that I do not yet understand their deeper meanings. It appears that the manuscripts have created within my soul more questions than the words answered, and I am humbled to beg of you explanations of the concepts, and perhaps if you are willing, to answer a question about the thing you termed observation. It is my wish that your good judgment will quickly dispel my questions and ignorance of the topic.
Nodin : I am so very pleased that my words have found usefulness, and such a grand usefulness it is that the words sparked a soul to ask questions! What greater reward might an author receive than for his words to become the source of a question? Please feel at liberty to ask me anything you desire about the manuscripts, for I am always anxious to answer a good man’s questions.
William : Thank you my friend Nodin, I am in gratitude of your willingness to help me in these matters. I must confess, that while reading the manuscripts, I became aware that I may not well comprehend the act of observation. The concept of observation, that of observing, appears to be a simple thing, it only requiring that we look at an object and be conscious of the seeing, but deep within my soul I sense that surely there must be more to observation than the mere sight of an object. Since I do not know the answer of my unknowing, then I cannot form a proper question to ask, and so I beseech you, please, might you explain to me that what I am inwardly sensing must surely be true, but what my mind cannot yet fathom?
Nodin : Ah, William, I am familiar with what you speak of, for it is quite common for humans to see with the eyes, and to still not observe. Please allow me a small latitude in answering your questions, for I feel that the best answers are those that come from within the person asking, and not from the teacher.
William : Please proceed as you feel most proper Nodin, for I trust your judgment on these matters far more than I can trust my own.
Nodin : William, beside you are several different varieties of firewood. Please observe two of the varieties, and then tell me what you observed.
William : Very well, I will choose two cuttings of hand size that I can easily hold. This first one, it is of a medium brown color, the bark’s texture has deep grooves, and the branch is approximately a cubit in length. The second branch is of a darker brown, the bark has shallow grooves, and it too is approximately a cubit in length. Aside from my possibly making more precise measurements of the kindling, it appears to me that I have performed an adequate observation, but my soul cries within me that surely I have not witnessed the heart of what it means to observe. What, pray Nodin, am I doing wrong?
Nodin : Place both pieces of firewood into the fire so that neither you nor I can ever again observe the wood as it is now.
William : I have done as you asked, and the wood is ablaze, too hot for me to handle by my bare hands, and already have the cuttings begun to change from their original nature to their future nature, which will be ashes.
Nodin : Tell me William, what was the weight of the cuttings?
William : I would require a quality scale to properly and accurately report what the weights were, and as we both do see now, the wood is burning, and never again will it be possible to accurately weigh the cuttings as they once were.
Nodin : Did you not feel the weight when you held the cuttings?
William : Oh yes, of course, I felt the weight of both pieces of firewood.
Nodin : What then was the weight?
William : I apologize Nodin, for as I said, I cannot know what the weight was if I did not have a scale to measure the weight by.
Nodin : I will nudge your memories lightly, with the aim of your recognizing that you did indeed accurately measure the cuttings’ weight. Tell me, which piece of wood weighed more than the other?
William : The darker brown cutting was the heaviest.
Nodin : How much heavier was it than the other wood?
William : Considerably heavier, but to what degree, I am unsure.
Nodin : When you told me your initial observations, you did not mention the weights. Why?
William : That is an excellent question, one of which the answer evades my reasoning.
Nodin : Does it not appear obvious that you did indeed recognize the observation of the differences of weights, for if you had not felt the differences, then you would not now be able to tell me which piece of firewood was the heaviest?
William : That is true Nodin, I had to have recognized the weights if I can now remember what the weights were. But when I was telling you my observations, I did not include the information about the weights did I? I was unaware of my own perceptions, and I feel myself foolish for having behaved so carelessly in reporting my observations.
Nodin : Do not unnecessarily punish yourself William, for it is normal human behavior to not be conscious of one’s perceptions. Rare is it that a man can be consciously aware of his own perceptions, and even more rare is the man who perceives in abundance. Answer me please, what were the weights of the cuttings as compared to the weights of similar sized objects of stone?
William : Oh, but that is easy, the stone would be of a much heavier weight.
Nodin : How did you arrive at that conclusion William? You had no scale to measure the wood, nor the stone, and so I ask you, how can you be certain that the weights are not identical, or even if the objects possessed the thing called weight?
William : Please forgive me of my hesitation in replying, for I am having to rationalize in my mind how it could be that I knew so much knowledge, and yet knew it without knowing that I knew it. It appears to me, and I profess no claim of possessing an accurate hypothesis, that I knew the wood was lighter than stone because I had held stone in the past, and it felt much heavier than the wood that is now burning in the fireplace, so, it appears that I judged the weights of the wood and stone relative to what my memories told me of my past perceptions. Please endure my bungling with the question, Nodin, but I sense that my description of how I deduced the problem, is relatively correct, is it not?
Nodin : Yes William, your deduction is valid, and also a pleasure for me to observe, for I am always pleased to observe a man reasoning about his own behavior. Why then, William, were you not before aware of the differences between the wood and stone when you observed the firewood?
William : There was, it now appears, a complete void in my mind, a void that did not so much as twinkle a thought of comparing the wood to stone. I am now in amazement of my own self, my questioning myself why I did not mentally associate the wood pieces to one another, nor to stone, and now I am with a conscious curiosity of what other information I did not deduce about the wood, for if I did not recognize the differences between the weights of wood and stone, then I also did not observe the differences of weights between the wood and other objects as well. Nodin, my dear friend, I now feel far less wise than when I first arrived, and I am humored at my own ridiculousness, that I arrived at your home with the goal of increasing my knowledge, and yet I am now with the realization that I have accomplished the very opposite, that I am now far less clever than I had previously imaged myself to be.
Nodin : Oh no, William, do not be unnecessarily concerned, for it is in the act of learning that we discover how foolish we might have been in the past. A man, who feels himself not foolish, he is the one that remains foolish. And remember William, that yesterday you associated the harm of negativity to your choice of sitting beside the door, so as to prevent harm, and so when you do later reflect upon our discussion of today, realize what things you do bring to mind, and which things you do not. But tell me now, William, are you with the mind that in future days you will include the relativity of many objects when you are observing a single object?
William : Oh yes, it is certain that I will never forget such a humbling lessen in life, and I will forever remember to compare an object that I am observing to all other objects that I previously observed.
Nodin : Excellent my friend, for you will discover within the relativity of objects that there exists things unrecognized by most people, and the knowledge is a wondrous thing. But there are a small number of items still missing in your observation, of which, and if you should choose for me to speak of, I will point to for your benefit.
William : Yes, please do Nodin, for I sincerely do not wish to continue my life with a blindness of observation as I had the moment previously.
Nodin : Then tell me William, what were the differences of aromas between the two pieces of wood?
William : Aromas? That I did not perceive, nor do I have a recollection of my having perceived them.
Nodin : What were the differences of sounds that the cuttings made when touching other objects? What were the cuttings’ taste? You saw some features of the firewood with your eyes, and you felt some features of the wood with your hands, but what about the nose, tongue, and ears? Do not all five senses have value? Are they not all of value for us to observe and define this marvelous thing we call Nature? How is it possible for any man to claim to have observed and know what a thing is, if the man cannot speak the words that describe, at least in part, what he perceived with all his five senses? And of what value is a man’s observations if he cannot rationally compare the perceptions of one thing to another?
William : But Nodin, and I do believe that you are speaking the truth, and I am without doubt that what you say must surely be the ideal form of all knowledge, but I must ask how it might be possible for a man to have so many thoughts at all times and for all perceptions? For I see within myself how difficult it is to merely be conscious of an object’s weight, and how determined of mind I must exert to compare one observation to but one other perception, and thus I cannot grasp how it might be so that a man may be capable of associating all memories to all perceptions. Is that not impossible?
Nodin : Impossible for most men, true, but not impossible for others. Some men strive for a lifetime to achieve the awareness, while some men are conceived aware in the womb. That which is beyond the capacity for one man, is what another man might have an over-abundance of, and it can be a difficult task for us to discern the differences in the capacities of men’s thoughts. Observe how men measure the intellectual capabilities of other men; that by observing if a man is capable of discerning an absurdity in a sentence. If I were to say that the road from my house is downhill all the way to town, and the road is downhill all the way from the city to my home, would you say that there is an absurdity in the sentence?
William : Why yes, for a road cannot be downhill in both directions. A person cannot leave their home, go downhill to a city, and then go downhill back to their home.
Nodin : But William, I did not say that both my house and my home were the same, nor even at the same location. What if I might have several houses and only one home? What if I might have a summer home and a winter home?
William : Aha Nodin, you tricked me, and with humor I am embarrassed for my grievous error of logic.
Nodin : Please do not be embarrassed William, for the sentence I provided is very similar to the one that men use to measure the intelligence of others. Unfortunate individuals do not recognize the intended absurdity that a road cannot be downhill in both directions, and men will deem another person to be of average or higher intelligence if the person provides a reply as you did. What the men do not recognize is their own inability to perceive the absurdities in their own thoughts, that the thoughts are not connected to other thoughts, nor to the men’s perceptions, and without the connections there arises the inability to relate one observation to the next.
William : Ah, yes, I am comparing my lesson of having recognized how I was believing that I had made a useful observation of the firewood, and yet I was so without knowledge and conscious thought that I did not recognize just how absurd my words of observation must have appeared. Thank you Nodin for having allowed me the opportunity to recognize the difference between the absurdity of a disconnected thought, and the manner of thinking that is connected.
Nodin : There is an endless stream of connected variables that I would dearly enjoy speaking of on this topic, but for today I will only pose one more primary concept. Please tell me this, William, by what means were you able to discern that a road cannot be downhill in both directions?
William : Your question is a simple one to answer, for I recognized the answer within your manuscripts. I discerned that a road cannot be downhill in both directions because in my past I had observed and perceived Nature, and I deduced my conclusion based upon a logic that relied upon my own personal memories that I myself created when I personally experienced first-hand what uphill and downhill implies. I have walked uphill, and I have walked downhill, and thus, through the first-hand experiences, I can accurately relate and analyze the topic of roads leading uphill and downhill. It is Nature that taught me the difference between up and down, and the knowledge was not learned from any man.
Nodin : You have replied well William, and so I will now pose the question, that, if you are able to deduce logical conclusions based upon the necessity of first-hand observation, then of what quality is a logic that is not based upon first-hand observations?
William : I would reply that the logic cannot be accurate, nor even useful, that the logic would have to rely on the fantasy of imaginary facts instead of the factual memories of first-hand observation. Would that not also imply, if you and I were to carry the thought over into the topic of measuring man’s intelligence, that what some men might interpret as a superior intelligence, might instead be interpreted, if only measured relative to the ability to observe, as the supposedly superior individuals being not too dissimilar to the unfortunate fellows? Ah, Nodin, I am with a hope that my interpretation and understanding of observations is now healthier than what it was before speaking to you, and as I now generally view it, an observation is an act that an individual performs physically while simultaneously applying logic to the perceptions, and that the logic must be based upon similarly acute conscious perceptions. Have I grown closer to an understanding of observations?
Nodin : Yes William, in my eyes you have grasped the spirit of observation, and it is my wish for you that in the years to come that you will build further upon the understanding that can only be had through experience. Observation is a beautiful thing indeed, but it remains a thing that all souls must choose and do themselves. William, I am already with the desire of learning, that when we meet again, of what new things you have discovered through observation. My eyes will sparkle, and my heart will cry with a longing happiness when upon your holding a bough, you can describe to me the color of the cloud that casted shadows upon the ant who walked the bough.
William : I have heard phrases of speech similar to yours Nodin, and if I remember correctly, the phrases were spoken by individuals of the eastern philosophy of Zen or a similar practise. Was the phrase you spoke derived from such a philosophical view?
Nodin : No, the phrase was merely an honest and descriptive expression of my true thoughts and feelings, but you are correct in that some eastern philosophies do possess similar phrasing in their writings. It is a common thing; for men who share a similar form of observation will also share a similar form of phrasing. Each occupation, whether it be academic, philosophical, religious, sales, or anything else, each group has its own vernacular, and it is a simple thing to discern a man’s life and thoughts by associating his manner of dress, body language, emotions, and use of words; but only if you properly observe and connect the observations.