Thoughtful Thursday: Observing, Comparison and Evaluating
“Knowingly, and unknowingly, I relentlessly measure everything you do,
And that’s okay, as long as I don’t then pretend that I have ever measured you.”
“Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking.” — Wallace Stevens
We can observe what one does or what they have.
We cannot observe who they are. We are basically limited to observing what they do and have. And usually, we only see a very small percentage of that.
But even if we saw everything, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, we would be left with only seeing manifestations and phenomena, not the essence of who people truly are. We may know it’s safe or dangerous to be around this or that person in this or that circumstance, but we have no direct understanding of those people, we make the leap from observing what they do to who they are.
So its pointless to compare ourselves to others. We can compare what we do to what someone else does. Or we can compare what someone has to what we have. Just don’t fool yourself that you can compare yourself to anyone else.
The truth is that you cannot measure anyone. You can measure their body. You can measure the size or weight of their brain, their heart, their stomach. With the right equipment, you could even count the number of neurons in their brain, the number of synaptic connections, and, if using top-of-the-line (though still futuristic) equipment, the number of neurotransmitters and their motion and chemical composition.
To say the heart, the stomach or the brain is the person is a large leap of illogic and foolishness. To say the body (containing the heart, stomach, brain and several gallons of water) is the person is also not true. Maybe removing an appendix, a few skin cells, a couple of liters of water, or consuming a bit too much at a cruise ship buffet changes the viewpoint or experience of the person , but so can reading a book or watching a movie or interacting with someone else — and we don’t confuse the books on your bookshelf or your friends and family with you. Or do we? Yes, we often do! Since we cannot observe you, we observe things around you and use these are proxies for measuring you.
Be careful that what you observe is relevant to what you evaluate. Do not observe the behavior of ducks in the park and assume that you have collected pertinent data to evaluate the behavior of wolves in the wild. Do not observe the behavior of a person, and assume that you can evaluate the person: you can only evaluate their behavior.
Data seduces us. We see data and we sometimes don’t stop to see if this data is relevant, complete or appropriate for our analysis. Our process of drawing conclusions may be sound, but if we are not observing what we need to observe, then we cannot expect valid comparisons or evaluations and this in turn will impact our understanding and any subsequent action.