Does thought distort fact?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

We may have found ourselves at some point faced with spectacular scenery that has left us speechless, without thought of anything and completely calm. If we remain like that for a few moments, our breathing becomes more measured and we relax. The scenery is a fact, what we feel is an event in the present. We do not think of it, we are there, present, in the event. Events are in the present. Things that exist at that moment. When we are with someone and we observe them in the same way that we do the scenery, we are in the present moment, open to what is happening, without wanting to respond immediately to what is said. Without thinking about it. When you watch children playing in a park and you just look at them, as you do with the scenery, without thinking of anything else, you are present.

But what happens when, faced with that scenery, you start to talk to someone about the scenery, about how beautiful it seems to you, about how good it makes you feel, about other scenery you saw on your last trip? The truth is that then we are no longer observing the fact, we are thinking about the fact, comparing the fact with others and recalling other things. Thinking, by its very nature, moves in the past. Try to think of something that you have never seen, something that is totally different from that with which you are familiar.

You will not be able to do it. It will always be similar to what you know. Thinking has its uses and for that it resorts to memories, to knowledge that you gained in the past, to things that you have heard or done or read. What is more, thinking is a great creator of assumptions, of hypotheses, of expectations and interpretations. When you capture a fact, like a piece of scenery, it quickly sets to work, in its way, with this fact (that is already a fact) and it develops it, compares it, analyses it, projects it…but you are no longer in the event of the scenery. When you saw the children in the park, the train of thought that you set in motion included things like, they are doing something dangerous, the mother is distracted, how happy we are in childhood…Is that not so? And where did the fact end up? It had already become a memory and you were far from the event, in your mechanical thoughts that began with that event and ended up somewhere else. Thinking always develops and distorts events. It is part of its nature. If we pay much attention to what we think, as if it were true, it may lead to deception. A fact is one thing and what we interpret (think) of the fact is something very different.

Normally we believe that what we think are the facts themselves! Be careful!