Simple Things Are Often Complex

I often rant against dogma.

That’s because there’s something pretty arrogant about pretending to KNOW stuff.

Especially tricky, complicated, uncertain things.

When even simple things are often so complex!


You’ve surely heard folks say:

“Of course I know that! I saw it with my own eyes.”

But have you ever wondered – if that follows logically?

Or, more broadly…

How can you tell that you ‘know‘ something?


Even very simple ideas – ones that we’ve always taken for granted – can trip you up badly… if you care to scratch beneath the surface.

When you pause to analyze them – just a little deeply.

And apply critical thought… to oh-so-obvious concepts.

Let’s do that – and see where it takes us.

I’ll warn you, though.

This will be a longish note.

Sorry, but that can’t be helped.

After all, we’re trying to look with fresh eyes at something you’ve always blindly accepted as ‘usual’ or ‘normal’.



Remember that statement?

“Of course I know that! I saw it with my own eyes.”

What does it mean?

“I saw it”… refers to visual sensory perception.

You look out of a window, and probably you’ll see… a tree.

Now, we all know what a tree looks like.

And there’s little doubt about whether what we see IS indeed a tree.


But let’s tease that out a little.

What exactly happens in the process of looking out your window?

  • Rays of light (a form of electromagnetic radiation) pass from an object (in this case, a tree)… through the window, and into your eyes.
  • These rays are focused by your cornea and lens – onto the sensitive layer of nerve cells called your retina.
  • On the retina, they stimulate specialized receptors called ‘rods’ and ‘cones’.
  • A very weak charge (called an ‘action potential’) is then generated through a photo-electro-chemical process.
  • That weak electrical charge is carried by the optic nerve to various parts of the brain – where the signal is parsed, and interpreted in several ways.

The end point of this complex chain of events is ‘KNOWLEDGE’.

You realize that what you’re seeing outside your window… is a tree.


Is that what you “see”?

Or is it what you… INFER?

While our eyes help gather visual data from our world, we don’t DIRECTLY use these inputs to jump to conclusions.

There’s a great deal of ‘post processing‘ that goes on.

For instance…

Light rays from the top of the tree outside your window will pass in a straight line.

They hit your retina… near the bottom!

And conversely, rays from the bottom of the tree trunk strike your retina at the top.

The result?

The image of that tree formed on your retina is INVERTED!


Now, just because of that you don’t automatically assume the world is upside down.

Or that you’re standing on your head.


Your brain does some mental jujitsu – and flips that image over.

To “correct” it, and make it ‘right side up’.

There’s a whole lot more your brain does with the ‘raw signal’.

  • It fills in some gaps.
  • Smooths out edges.
  • Assimilates curves and corners, shades and tones into a composite re-creation.
  • Generates a kind of 3-dimensional object – in the shape of a tree.

And then, an even higher level of interpretation kicks in.

Your brain looks at those lines and angles, colors and textures.

It uses them to weave a complex mental picture – one that eventually becomes your INTERNAL experience… of a tree outside your window!


Just imagine.

All this processing happens EVERY time you look at something.

And it all happens instantaneously, automatically, and effortlessly.

You’re not even aware of this cerebral activity… but only know that it renders the image of a tree!



Once we’ve broken down this visual process into chunks, it’s clear just how complex it is.

And now, we can scale to the next level of complexity.

Which is going from what we “see” – to what we “know”.

This is totally fascinating!



Assume you’re normal.


And blessed with perfect eyesight.

Even then, there’s enough complexity to keep us busy!

So, here we are, tracing the connection between what you “see” with your eyes – and what you “know” about the things you see.

And how these guide our concept of “reality”.

Remember our core statement?

“Of course I know that! I saw it with my own eyes.”

That’s true.

But only to an extent.

Because there are different ‘kinds’ or ‘levels’ of “reality”.

1. The most obvious one is an EXTERNAL reality.

This is what we CAN potentially perceive through our senses. Sights, tastes and smells. Sounds and touch.

They give us an idea of the world around us.

2. The not-so-obvious one is a PERSONAL reality.

This is what we ACTUALLY perceive through our senses.

So when I take off my reading glasses, the words I’m typing on a screen turn into a dull gray blur… and make little if any sense.

The external reality is what I’m typing… but MY personal reality (sans spectacles) is a hazy mess on a white background.

3. There’s yet another kind – called ABSOLUTE reality.

This is what is really out there… and includes some stuff we cannot possibly perceive with our limited sense organs.

  • Like hyper-acute sounds beyond the audible frequencies.
  • Ultraviolet and infrared light outside the visible spectrum.
  • Radio waves that we can tune into with a transceiver – but are blissfully unaware of without such aids.

And so much more that we are completely ignorant of, given the limited range and scope of our technologies and abilities.

All of these, collectively make up an ABSOLUTE reality.

A reality that we can only intuit and imagine, with the aid of science and mathematics, philosophy and insight, imagination and faith.

4. Finally, there’s a completely fascinating INTERNAL reality!

The first time I heard about this, it was mind-blowing.

Your internal reality is a mental construct.

One that you have built up on the basis of past memories of remembered sensory perceptions.

If that’s hard to follow or understand, let’s play a little game that might make it simple.

  • Go to a familiar room. One you absolutely know very well.
  • Now, close your eyes tightly.
  • Walk into the room.
  • Take a few steps in any direction.
  • And as you do, try to visualize the room around you.

You’ll be amazed at how the furniture and objects in the room seem to shift and change in relationship to you – as you move further in.

As you pass through the door and go towards the far wall, for instance, you’ll notice that you can “see” the bed by the side, or the table in the middle of the room (which you’ll avoid by stepping around it).

Before opening your eyes, you’ll be able to determine where exactly you are – and what you’ll see when you open your eyes.

That’s because you’ve already built up an INTERNAL reality of that room.

And even without visual feedback from your eyes, your brain guides you through that reality – to the place where you end up.

A place that you can “see” – even without eyes!

Unless someone carelessly left a stool where you could stumble over it, you’ll be able to navigate the room quite comfortably – even if it’s pitch dark, or you’re blindfolded.


See how far we’ve come from rays of electromagnetic radiation that struck your eyeballs – and now you know that there’s a tree outside your window!

So many, many layers and levels of post-processing of sensory stimuli takes place at various levels of your brain.

They lead to complex inferences being drawn.

And of many multi-dimensional impressions being derived.

About your reality.

Which begs the question…

What about this is ‘simple’?

Well, it’s time to close this open loop.

Flip things around – just like your brain does with images on the retina.

What is simple?

Just this…

ALL these signals and post-processing involve just ONE thing.

Weak electrical impulses.

These impulses fire up specific nerve cells.

And run along select pathways.

They follow a certain sequence.

And create a set of patterns.

But they are all still weak electrical impulses.

These are what your brilliant brain INTERPRETS – to build up an idea or concept of “reality”.

NOTHING that we perceive about our world is based on actual raw data alone, or direct observation/experience of what’s “out there”.

Everything runs through the filter of our sensory organs.

And is then post-processed through a complex and elaborate system.

Only these inferences we draw… make up our “reality”.


So let’s return to our once-confident assertion that started all this trouble in the first place!

“Of course I know that! I saw it with my own eyes.”

Yes, you saw SOMETHING – with your own eyes.

And you interpreted it to mean something, too.

Your personal reality was matched against your internal reality – to check for consistency.

If your senses are perfect and you’re paying complete attention, then your personal reality matched the external reality.

But it still might be imprecise – or even wholly incorrect!

And it definitely will diverge a little – from an absolute reality.

One made up of quarks and dark matter.

And that’s comprehensible only when studied using laws of quantum physics and advanced mathematics.


Based on our imprecise, incomplete, possibly entirely flawed analysis…

We claim to KNOW stuff!

Isn’t that funny?



I’ll stop here.

If we go any further, I’m sure you’ll become convinced…

That I’m a NUT!

But before you affix such a label on me… pause to think for a moment.

Do you really KNOW that?

🤣 🤣 🤣


Even simple things are often complex!