Nov 022010

Thank God.  It took less than a week for the media circus to leave town.  The homocidal pervert is in jail for a long time and the sober reflection can begin.  It’s hardly my place to analyse and assess.  The situation is far to complicated for someone with my general lack of professional training and experience (although that didn’t stop any of the reporters, columnists, and essayists that weighed in between his capture in Tweed and his final sentencing in Ottawa).

Having said that, I would like to contribute only this to everyone’s receding thoughts and considerations about the situation.  Williams, like so many others good and bad, traded on this feature of human nature.  We see what we want to see.  Or put slightly diffferently, you see what you expect to see.   It’s not something I made up or discovered; it’s a psychological truism.  In the case of Williams, those around him fulfilled their own deep or passing expectations of the good soldier and all that means.  Lantern jawed, of steely gaze and upright comportment, Williams was the model of a modern major general in a manner of speaking.  So what did colleagues, friends, neighbours, and others see?  Exactly what they expected.

This phenomenon applies not only to hideous human stains but to the things we all do every day.  In the case of Williams, it took detectives putting the pieces together to suspend belief in what they expected to see into the spaces between and around the perception and the reality.  For me and you, it means questioning our own eyes (and ears, and nose, etc.) at times.  Who hasn’t felt like a fool once or twice, having searched for a good long time for some missing thing only to discover it in the most obvious and repeatedly reviewed place?

To the extent that any given person is aware of this phenomenon, we don’t apply it to our own efforts particularly well.  If we did, not only would we find our eyeglasses faster, we would also manage to uncover critical information that is not obvious to the common observer.  We could put that relatively simple capability toward uncovering novelty, insight, and inspiration in the spaces in between the information and data that’s commonly evident to all.

More about this as this blog evolves.

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