To be is to be perceived George Berkeley
If I look back, I have always been interested in how we perceive the world around us, what we understand to be, ‘the truth’, and how that in turn impacts on how we are perceived by others.
I remember in primary school, constantly wondering if we really do see the same colour when we both picture ‘red’ in our minds.
I remember at Uni having a great discussion with a fellow student. He wondered that, if we had senses that simply are not within our capabilities to imagine, would we then find a whole new world of Beings just milling around us here on planet earth? He was very stoned. I was very drunk. It all made perfect sense.
I wonder why we judge someone who uses drugs for fun, more than someone who seeks their thrills through physical pursuits such as hurling themselves out of aeroplanes or climbing mountains. Perhaps it’s because we are suspicious of those with a mental state that seems forever up and down: when I have seen loved ones go through serious mental illnesses, I wonder how they can possibly be interpreting the same people, objects and stimuli so differently to how I am interpreting them. Their version of reality seems terrifying.
Thinking about changes in our mental state gets me to thinking about the most profound and yet most banal event that occurs within my body every month, regular as clockwork since I was 14. My period.
Everything is flux Heraclitus
For about five days of each month, the world I inhabit changes. You may think it is me that has changed, that I am irrational, illogical, mad even. I have certainly been called all of those things at my time of the month. However, from where I am stood I am anything but. I am still processing the information that I touch, see, hear and feel the same as I always do. The conclusions I draw are logical, based on the information that my senses collate. It is just that the stimuli themselves seem to change.For about one fifth of my reproductive life, the ‘truth’ as I see it shifts slightly.
One most peculiar change is that I go from believing I am generally acceptable to look at, to firmly believing that I am well and truly hideous. I wonder, is it a fact that I am uglier for these few days? And if so, is that because of any physical change or because melancholy people are generally not that attractive?
Since trying to write daily, I have noticed that it’s not just how I judge my looks that changes radically throughout the course of a month. See this post, written a few days before my period was due, this post where I used my exhausted, apathetic, menstruating state of mind, and this one, written through more optimistic eyes. The same situation, seen through slightly different eyes, can lead to three very different versions of the same event. Which reaction is the ‘real’ character? Which are just her moods?
Outside of writing short stories, the whole cyclical nature of my personality is sometimes a little inconvenient. I reside in a world that wants me to progress constantly, forever onwards. For the few days of each month that I don’t quite fit within the structure of this linear approach to life, is it really me who is a little mad, or the way we have constructed the world around us?
I am convinced that it is the regular undulations of each month that actually keep me sane. I have been equipped to realise that after every down comes an up, and after every up comes a time when we need to schedule in rest. I have great comfort in the fact that the inevitable build up of life’s little frustrations will be dealt with via the sweet release of my period each month. I cannot understand the world without my cycle.
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world Arthur Schopenhauer
Obviously, there was a time in my life before periods, and there is another one that will come where this event will no longer take place in my body. No doubt then, my perception of the world will change once again. I wonder, how will that change how I see the world?
Will you look a little different? Will you perceive me a little differently? And will that matter a jot in terms of the truth of who I am?