Nothing is what it appears to be

I was driving along listening to NPR on the radio the other day. A show came on that explored how people and some animals experience vision.

The color receptors in the eyes are called cones. And each cone is tuned, if you will, to a certain color. Different animals have different numbers of cones. The more cones you have, the more wavelengths of light you can “see”.

Vastly simplified, human beings normally have three cones, roughly tuned to red, blue and green. Dogs have two cones, tuned to the colors yellow and blue. Everything they see is in some combination of these two colors regardless of what color the actual object is reflecting.

Below is a comparison between how a human and a dog see the same color spectrum:

So, as you can see a dog doesn’t see the same world that you and I see. As if that weren’t enough, some butterflies have at least 15 different color receptors! They can see colors that are completely outside the range of the human visible color spectrum. The world they see is orders of magnitude more complex than what we can see. And butterflies aren’t even at the top of the vision pyramid.

I’m not really here to write about color vision. I want to talk about reality and relationships and oh no, here it comes:


I’m no relationship expert so I’m kinda going from experience here. And as I often like to say “if nothing else, at least I can serve as a bad example.”

A person’s personality colors their perception of the world they live in. It’s similar to the way the cones in your eyes allow you to perceive light. Some people live in a nearly black and white world. Things are good or they’re bad. When faced with a decision they have a very clear notion of which is the correct choice based on the situation at hand. It looks sorta like this:

Look, if you can’t commit to a lifetime with me, in the next five minutes then we’re done!

Others of us see the world in 50,000 shades of gray. Given a choice that’s got any wiggle room whatsoever and we tend to get bogged down in the details. You know what I mean:

The sex is fantastic and we have these amazing all night conversations. She made an entire playlist for my workout! On the other hand I haven’t had a free weekend in like two years. And why do we always have to fuck at six o’clock in the morning? Why can’t it be at night for a change? Should I break up with her?

Please don’t say “well if you really loved her….”, as is usually the case, the decision is made long before I’ve even gotten to the question.

These seem like extreme examples. But they’re really not. My Real Life experience my friends.

And the point is?

There are no answers. Everything is perception. Your perception of a situation is different than mine. Look at the two examples above. We weren’t even asking the same question. Talk about not on the same page, we weren’t on the same planet!

That kind of relationship doesn’t stand a chance. It’s like a Scotch drinker and beer drinker sitting in a bar fighting over which wine to have. And neither of them like the taste of wine.

It’s not even about love. You can be head over heels in love with someone that lives in an entirely different universe than you. If you can’t figure out how to perceive the world from each other’s point of view, you can’t make that love work. No matter how much you want it to.

Not that people don’t do it. Some of us will happily let ourselves be absorbed into another’s world (more personal experience here). But that doesn’t last. Eventually the walls close in around us and everything goes to hell. It might last two years or it might last twenty. Sooner or later the shit hits the fan and somebody gets hurt. What gets missed is that somebody was hurting the whole time.

Here’s where I’m going to give you some advice. Ironically, it’s the very same advice the protagonist above gave me early on in our ill-fated romance.

Know what you want out of the relationship. If you aren’t sure, figure it out. Preferably before taking things too far. And then communicate it, CLEARLY. If that means the relationship ends right there, well you didn’t waste too much of anyone’s time. And hopefully, hearts aren’t broken quite so badly.

Thank you for reading.

father, motorcyclist, old retired guy who’s just a little lost on a blue marble corkscrewing its way to oblivion

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store