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  • Sunil Soni

Observation- What do I see?

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” - Anaïs Nin


The quote kept me thinking for a long time, as what do we see? How do I see the world around me? Who or what decides my perception?

Let me introduce this with a story. Imagine yourself in 1908, when Henry Ford introduced Ford’s Model T, a simple, sturdy and relatively inexpensive car– but not inexpensive enough for Ford, who was determined to build “motor car[s] for the great multitude.” In his own words he said, “When I’m through, about everybody will have one.”. The problem was big, as during the times when car was a luxury available to only elites in society, he wanted to make a car affordable by everyone. Henry had to find a way to make this possible, any approach used in automobile industry would not solve the challenge neither the existing practices of manufacturing would allow them to lower the prices drastically.


One day during his travel, Henry was visiting Chicago’s meat-packing plants, where he observed that the company would disassemble animal carcasses for packed food in a very specific way, they were working on a belt driven arrangement where each worker is assigned one very specific task in the process, which they would simply repeat, and then the process moves to the next worker who does his or her task, until the final product is made. This inspired him to use this approach in assembling the parts of a car on to a moving chassis in a car factory, introducing assemble line.


In 1913, Henry Ford installed the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile. His innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes. As the pace accelerated, Ford produced more and more cars, and on June 4, 1924, the 10-millionth Model T rolled off the Highland Park assembly line.


The story fascinates me every time, about the potential of what one can achieve with true observation. But I was unsure about what it takes to have such a keen observation?


Surprisingly I realized, we all operate in a larger patterns of life. What I see, to a great extent is influenced by what is seen and felt by the larger part of my society, what is said by community influencers or the kind of exposure I have had in early stages of my life. The baggage of legacy in society & compulsive conditioning of our individual mind in early stages of life sets us into this pattern.


But is legacy there to keep us away from reality, or the reality is more important than carrying the legacy forward? How to enable individuals to see the reality (truth), keeping away the past baggage, legacy & conditioning?


When the pattern is in repetition mode without the consideration of change along with the context, this can lead to imbalance. Our education teaches us to accept or reject things on certain criteria but we fail to question the criteria itself. Every time our perception fall into this pattern without our awareness is what creates complication. My conditioning becomes a barrier to observe things as they are, this evolves into the tendency of stereotyping or labeling the world around me. Taking us far away from the real nature of things.

In communities, the traditions & practices which have not evolved with time can seem inappropriate and insignificant. At large, this insufficient approach can lead to unintended consequences faced by community such as discrimination, inequality etc.


So should I discard all traditions, past experience, education?


This doesn’t mean that patterns, tradition or systems are not useful. Yes, we all need practices for individual discipline, family conduct, education system, cultural traditions, governance models etc; but the model has to operate in the context of present real world to reap the benefits. The tools and method to deliver the values & learning should evolve with the context & audience. Moving from individual perspectives to Macro aspects we need these models for sustenance of good society at large.


So are we just trained to see the world in a certain stereotypical way? Is it my education has become a burden?


Finding answers to my question, I chose the path of exploration, a choice to put aside the cloud of my education (what I already know), to see the truth.


All of us live stories, answers, opinions and education that we identify with ourselves. This aspect of individual identity or legacy is so strong that it conditions us to be conformists.


The only way real observation takes place is when I begin with ‘I dont know’ – because if I already know then what is afresh anyway?


When we explore with the intent to learn and listen afresh it is only then that we pay attention.


Observation without preconceived notion of the world provides multiple perspectives. We then become aware about the role & value of different elements at play in a situation and learn from the context, approach & limitations of each of these. Aspiring to see things as they are rather than with the biases prejudices of our knowledge.


The quality of our exploration is deeply rooted in being aware of each moment for what it is. This being the unique ability available to humans to go beyond the set limits and to create the new, beyond the known.


Sunil Soni

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