Day 11 – Perception.

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Day 11 – Perception.

Perception is limited. That sounds obvious, but we forget it really quickly. Our perception is made up by the limited stuff we see, hear, smell and touch. “Our past shapes our future” is true because no matter how hard we try, buried in our minds is what we have been through and it is something we carry everywhere if we know it or not.

It’s why trigger warnings on content are so important. You know that song you listened to in high school which takes you back to a feeling of anxiet, frustration, happiness, sadness or confusion? Well imagine that but for a horrific life event. It’s why I get so angry with comedians who don’t handle those subjects well. But I digress.

Our senses only take in a certain amount of information. Once you accept how limited your perceptions are you can really start to mess with your world view.

Say you date someone for 5 years. You see them every single day and talk loads. You’ll know loads of facts about them and how you feel about them fills in the rest. You can’t get their perspective. It’s impossible. It’s the basis of a lot of family / relationship based comedy. We have all heard the phrase “I just don’t understand what’s going on in your head!” Or a variation.

I find it interesting that when you assume something about someone and they don’t live up to that expectation you feel confused and shocked. Your perspective on them and how they might react hasn’t been met and your mind needs a minute to adjust. The other day I was walking towards a crossing. I was looking at the button you press to cross. It lit up. I was 10 feet away. In my head for a second I went “this is my super power!” Because I’m a moron. And no I wasn’t high. I looked at the opposite side of the crossing and I saw an elderly Asian lady who had clearly just pressed the button on her side of the road. And I was actually a little disappointed for a second because I had in a moment lost my super power. Then I got mad at myself for thinking that would even be a thing. Then I got frustrated that I would even be excited that pressing buttons from 10 paces would be my super power. How many situations would I really be able to use that?

Going further, how do you know this word is blue? You know it because you have been told those light rays are called “blue”. But what if you were told that this was called yellow. Yes. This word is yellow. You wouldn’t be wrong in your perspective. Only wrong to anyone else who has been told that the this colour is called blue.

Going slightly further alone in your education, your history classes were taught to you around a series of facts which favoured the country you belong to. Much like the BBC news program can only give you a certain number of stories in their 30 minutes nightly, the history teacher you had only had a certain number of biased facts to teach you.

The more I learn the less I feel I know. Why? Well, every time I learn something new I feel like I’ve read a book and looked up and noticed there’s a whole library I’ve not touched. There’s just too much. Even this blog post I’ve had to pick and choose what I include to example to you something I am thinking.

We also limit our world views (broadly speaking) due to fear or ignorance. Our friends are a select sample of the people we understand and get on with most. If these people aren’t working hard to edit or adjust their world view, ours won’t. I’m not saying we need to spend every minute reading and consuming stuff. That would limit our perception in other ways, like if we only took in stuff in the form of videos it would shape our view on radio.

It’s amazing how much labels and thoughts limit what we do as well. For most guys I know if they did something sexual with a man they’d fear being called gay or bisexual as if there’s anything wrong with that. I mean I say that, I’ve asked none of my male friends if that’s the case. I’ve assumed that’s how they’d react. But they might not care about that. That might be me projecting.

It’s worth noting as well that advertising (generally) plays on our biggest primal fears in order to sell stuff. I remember being at school when yoyos were a fad and I wanted one with no idea what to do with it. All I knew was the kids in the adverts looked “cool” to my limited childhood perception of the world and the kids at school “all” had one. I say they all had one, I think about 30% of the kids had them, but because I had made up in my mind that everyone else had one I noticed them everywhere. Much like when you’re sad and you notice everything bad happening to you and ignore the good stuff. You limited your own perception.

I am beginning to write a sitcom. I’ve had this idea for ages, but not got round to doing it because I’ve been “busy” with other stuff (largely browsing Facebook and getting lost in profiles and groups. Even while writing this on my phone I forgot to put it on airplane mode so go a buzz, which led me back to Facebook and I noticed without thinking I started scrolling. After two scrolls I was like “hang on, I’m writing a blog post, this is wasted time”. Then I came back to my note making app and wrote down what I’d done (it’s all very meta).

Ultimately all the sitcom writers I could see were in their late 30s early 40s or above. So my perspective on it was I need more life experience to write the thing. But I get the experience by failing and learning. Because without learning, my perception stays the same and I don’t improve.

I remember a new comedian doing their 4th gig asked me for some advice a few weeks ago. I gave them some tips and finished it by saying ” it’s useless what I just said. You need to learn it. Or else it would be as easy as reading a book and then learning someone else’s jokes parrot fashion “.

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Simon Caine is a comedian, author, podcaster, writer and social media manager. He's the host of the Ask The Industry Podcast (iTunes link) , writer of jokes for Twitter and teller of gags on the London comedy scene. He's also the person writing this and it is taking all his willpower not to make a "Simon Says" joke.
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