In life, how much is anything really neutral? We might say facts and statistics are just that – neutral observations of reality – but aren’t they usually wielded within that reality for a certain purpose? Doesn’t our mind tend to coat them with interpretations, implications or conclusions that, almost immediately, filter back into the world without such a clear sense of neutrality?
Tracking back to the idea of our thoughts, in some way, reflecting reality (Notes One), there seems to be this sense in which we each observe life and take those observations as being, simply, true. Whatever we’ve been told each thing “means” and wherever we’re been told it “stands” within our society becoming what it is, for us, in terms of fact.
Is life that simple? Whatever culture, tradition, education, the media, or everyday life tells us about the artefacts, events, practices, beliefs, and assumptions making up our lives can clearly be seen differently from other perspectives. Yet whatever worldview we inherited or developed for ourselves seems to dictate how we’re seeing each element and the place it’s been assigned (Notes Two).
Aren’t we perhaps “seeing” life through the lens of whatever ideas we’re holding about it? Giving everything its meaning, its significance, its purpose. Stacking everything up in line with the conclusions, justifications and narrative arcs we’ve been told “fit” with the perceptions we’ll make of society. Any given fact potentially being brought in to support any number of agendas or causes.
As if our neutral observation of reality immediately receives this overlay of meaning we’ve learnt to apply to it all. Then, of course, the emotion we have in response – the enjoyment, indignation or despair at our expectations being confirmed, denied or otherwise challenged by the course of events. (Notes Three)
Our view of life naturally containing our own hopes and sense of what’s acceptable, events are rarely neutral in how they almost inevitably suit some while coming at the cost of others. In the give and take of society, maybe nothing’s really neutral in that the world we’re living in shapes everybody’s lives: every word, attitude, choice or policy rippling out with personal and social consequences (Notes Four).
Neutrality may exist in the idealistic world of thought, with all its facts, theories and statistics, but “in reality” it seems that what we make of it – how we respond and apply those ideas – might be the determining factor in whether these things are good or bad. Maybe facts are only part of the picture? The other part being brought to the table by us through what we choose to do and how we bring our ideas to life.
In our relationship to the world and all that’s living within it, maybe the meaning we’re assigning things makes all the difference? As if the thoughts we have in mind alongside the bare facts of existence are the level at which important distinctions are being made – choices that, perhaps, step away from neutrality before feeding back out into our lives.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Ways thought adds spin to life
Note 1: What is real?
Note 2: Culture as information
Note 2: Passing on what’s important
Note 2: The sense of having a worldview
Note 3: Effect, if everything’s a drama
Note 3: We may as well laugh
Note 3: Does anger ever, truly, help?
Note 3: And, how much can we care?
Note 4: Joining the dots
Note 4: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 4: How important is real life?
Note 4: The difference humanity makes
Note 4: Living as a form of art
Earlier thoughts around the idea of neutrality were also the focus of What’s neutral? back in 2018.