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We know so very little

Editor’s note: this is not meant to be a scientific article, and I have glossed over dozens of sources to round out my thinking. Most facts discussed are common knowledge scientifically, and material is readily available, so I will not be utilizing references here.

It is, I think, a part of human nature to look at the world around us and, using our senses, come to some understanding of time and place. Over the centuries, our scientists have furthered our understanding by unlocking the code for physics in unbelievable ways, down to the quantum level. This gives us a picture of living in a world that we understand well. But yet…

What if what we see when we look out the window is not real? Or, more precise, is not a full and accurate picture? When we look at a flower, we see petals, some new, some sagging. We see leaves, a stem. The petal may be yellow, or red, or a mix. That is the color of the flower. To humans. Birds see something far more colorful because they are not human. They see ultraviolet colors in addition (and I believe many other types of colors). Humans have three cones from which to view the world (Short, Medium, Long). Birds have four. Humans can see approximately 1 million distinct colors. Birds can see 100 million. What do we not see, that exists, every day, as we look around?

We use the sense of sound to identify danger, assess emotions, and guide us to locations. Yet, when compared to other animals, our range is quite limited. There are many soundwaves occurring in nature that we are incapable of processing. So, to us, they do not exist. Yet we all know that dogs can hear a dog whistle. Their range of hearing is about twice of ours. Bats, which predominantly rely on sound for location, have a range that is 4-5 times that of a human. Beluga Whales, porpoises and dolphins are beyond that. Think of it – our earth, our world has sounds (technically, sound waves) that exist right where we are, and we cannot hear.

Dogs have a sense of smell that is thousands of times more sensitive and discerning than humans. That gives them an ability to understand their environment completely differently than us. We have used dogs to our advantage over hundreds of years to help in war, hunting, and finding food. There are studies now that show dogs can smell certain types of cancer. We spend billions of dollars trying to detect a phenomenon that a dog, in its natural state, can detect. Our world of smells is so limited relative to what exists in nature.

On top of these senses, there are electromagnetic signals that we do not experience. There are any number of pulses and waves that are present, such as gamma, UV, and infrared. I will spare the part about quantum mechanics, but you can get the sense that the earth has a life, a heartbeat, a system, that is far more complicated than we experience.

An even more fascinating consideration is time. Einstein’s theory of relativity explores the idea that time itself is relative. This unit of existence that heretofore had been considered a fixed truth now was turned upside down. While we (and animals) as a practical matter have a constant time (a second for you is a second for me), this rabbit hole can lead one to consider beings, forces, or realities that truthfully experience the same things we do with a different sense of time. Woah.

There are parts of the ocean that contain creatures that we have not seen, with vastly different physical characteristics if the newer studies are to be believed. Thousands of species come into existence and out of existence all the time.

So here we are. We are relatively simple when it comes to experiencing our world. We cannot see everything, hear or smell everything, experience all of the waves, know I all of the creatures. We have extremely limited sensory intake of what we observe, walking down the street. Our consciousness does not subsume the entirety of our existence. Our awareness does not include all that exists. We know truly little about what is happening right in front of us. Right now. Here we are, the most advanced species on earth.

Hmmm that is something to think about. Our brains have brought forth the ability to communicate, to create societies, to build skyscrapers, technology, and fake meat. That’s our advantage. Another advantage? Our brains allow us to know so much. Like, the fact that we can’t see all the colors. Sense the smells. Hear the soundwaves. We’ve brilliantly articulated the senses we don’t have! And this is what makes the human experience human. We can picture a world with senses that are bigger than ourselves. We can have curiosity drive us to questions, and our brains can search the answers.

So, I walk my dog humbly knowing that her experience is so drastically different. I enjoy the flowers in the hummingbird garden without being able to see the UV rays. I experience the sounds of MUSE, Puccini, and the waves on the beach in the way that only I can.


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