Classic History Personal Blog

What Has Civilization Done to Our Senses?

Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog

Optical illusions. Two lines, the same length but with arrow ends pointed in opposite directions. Our minds are tricked into seeing them as having different lengths. People in undeveloped countries are not tricked by optical illusions such as this. Why not?

It is because they do not live in a world where everything is plumb and square. We live in a world of dimensional lumber. Most everything is standardized. Windows are square, floors are level, everything is precise. Our brains are wired by this world from the moment we enter into it. And we are trained to expect form and regular dimension in everything.

Now imagine what civilization has done to our other senses. What have clocks done to our sense of time? What have airplanes done to our sense of distance and space? What have perfumes and deodorants done to our sense of smell? What has central heating and air conditioning done to our sense of the Earth's seasons? What has public education done to our sense of family? What has diversity done to our sense of community?

Civilization focuses our minds, tuning out massive amounts of information. That’s the definition of consciousness, tuning out all superfluous information. We are a culture that is highly focused, mostly on money and technology. In doing so, we make massive gains in these areas, but our minds cannot see so much of the wonder in the world. Just as we are easily tricked by optical illusions.

Perhaps this is why eras in our civilization come to an end. The Classic Era (1517-1750) saw logic and form dominate. Then the Romantic Era (1750-1914) came along and smashed logic, taking emotion to its extremes for example. In the Classic Era a mountain may have been seen with a determined elevation. In the Romantic Era, impressionist art may have painted an unnamed mountain with a vague picturesque background. The logic of things was discarded in favor of capturing a Romantic feeling or impression.

The culture became too focused, and therefore the people shattered its edges and expanded their minds and emotions. Could we be nearing the end of the Modern Era? Has our intense focus left other parts of our souls neglected?

What might we all be missing? What have dimensional lumber and clocks done to our ability to understand the natural world? Obviously they have expanded our understanding. But they likely have limited our senses greatly as well.

Originally published


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What Has Civilization Done to Our Senses?

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