Feeling a Rose Petal

This is worth making a sticky because it so well encapsulates my interests and thought process.  I have added the composited image meant to be shown below the text.


Today I walked into town.  Along the way I passed a rose bush.  Several petals had fallen to the ground.  I picked up a petal.  As I walked, I rubbed it delicately between my fingers.  I’ve always enjoyed the feel of flower petals, often more than the scent.  The softness is unlike any other I know.

As I walked I contemplated the feel of that petal.  I was reminded of an image of a rose petal taken with a scanning electron microscope, which I had seen in a book called, Heaven and Earth:  Unseen by the Naked Eye.  It showed the actual texture to be coarse.  The petal is made up of ellipsoid shapes reminiscent of pointy eggs.  The same book showed an image of a human finger print taken with a scanning electron microscope.  It, too, is a very textured, almost mountainous terrain.

Does my expanded understanding of my fingers’ relationships to that petal…the coarseness on coarseness, the friction, shredding, the jagged edges tearing into each other…in any way negate the feeling I experience of the rose petal as divinely soft in all ways physical and metaphysical?  No… but it does illustrate a point.  Perceptions of a phenomenon are technologies which are selected and employed toward optimizing the alignment of our understanding and the actuality of that phenomenon within a limited range.  The benchmark against which the accuracy and usefulness of a perception is judged is its capacity to inform accurate descriptions of and predictions about a phenomenon.  This example shows that the relevancy of any perceptual system is finite and optimized for a particular range within a particular domain beyond which it loses value and relevance.

Descriptive and predictive capacities are crucial components of our cultural and philosophical systems.  Rich capacities ensure the development of comprehensive and resilient cultural and philosophical systems.  As these capacities are limited in range of relevance so too is our potential to develop our cultural and philosophical systems tied to our ability to optimize our perception of phenomena.  To the extent that this involves the coordination of the concurrent development of perceptual and analytic technologies, part of what limits the range of our perception is the rate of change of the interrelationships of the co-evolving technologies.

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