Each person has one ultimate point of reference – himself. He may choose delegated reference points, such as a universe, a star, a mother, a lover, a god or a pope, but their authority for him derives from his decision under whatever pressures there may be, to make the delegation.
Around him lies a world relating to himself, even if it is only to ignore him. How he sees it depends partly on his personal powers of observation. Passers-by may register merely as faceless shadows or more deeply as a succession of individuals marked with the details of life’s scars and triumphs. A piece of music may register as being of the ‘squeak squeal ‘ variety or as a special point of contact with the divine. Some have more discriminating senses of smell and taste than others; some more delicate fingers. For some tension is the norm, for others it is rare; no doubt colours are perceived with differing degrees of intensity.
All of these powers of perception derive from inherited physical make-up. Many clearly run from parent to child like the quality of Mendel’s peas, although like those of Mendel’s peas these capacities are prone to considerable modification by training, effort, changes in body physiochemistry and medication.
Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch – these are the basic parameters; but then there are emotions. Emotions are capable of modifying body physiochemistry to the extent that powers of perception undergo a massive change, ranging from their elimination to their upgrading almost beyond recognition. In addition emotions may cause an observation to take on, by association, a meaning for one individual that it does not possess for another. A religious devotee may for example be moved to an intense and all-embracing ecstasy of oneness by a ceremony that to an uncommitted observer is merely quaint enough to be photographed.
Emotions can change. Love can grow cold. The oracle that formerly seemed all wise may appear to utter tendentious pedantries. Keats was not the only poet to note that Spring loses its freshness. It is a function of the sum of the internal and external actors that go to make up an individual’s attitude.