“Do you believe that anyone can really experience anything objectively? Why or why not?” This is the question posed by the ever provocative Fandango and it’s a doozy isn’t it? Never one to back away from cerebral challenges I’ve decided to have a go at answering it; obviously my answer will be entirely subjective ;O)
In order to be able to experience something objectively there has to be a separation of emotion and opinion from the event taking place. As human beings we are naturally emotional and naturally opinionated but only insomuch as something affects us directly. Those things that we have no feeling about one way or another can be viewed quite objectively and therefore experienced in that way.
For instance, eating a ham sandwich (an odd example but bear with me). For me, a ham sandwich is nothing more than fuel for my body; I have no feelings about ham one way or the other, it doesn’t excite my taste buds nor displease them, it’s food. Therefore, it incites no emotion in me, I have no opinion about it so, for me, the act of eating a ham sandwich is entirely objective.
I will grant you that’s a pretty small example but I do believe that there will be times when we will experience something far more significant objectively because it is in our interests to do so. Human beings are designed to be sensitive to their surroundings and to others; we can feel the touch of an ant on our skin, we can be driven to anger by the smallest slight, we can be moved to tears by music and laughter by a kitten playing. We juggle our emotions on a daily basis, we develop coping mechanisms, strategies, we manufacture and manipulate and, often, it’s all done so that we are not overwhelmed. However, what happens when we are unexpectedly and violently overwhelmed?
Many victims of severe trauma experience depersonalisation whereby they have ‘out of body’ experiences; they know that something is happening/or has happened but their minds can’t cope with the enormity of the situation. Therefore, they turn off all emotion and view the event as if it was not happening to them so that they are not overwhelmed by their emotion. This, although not a conscious action, would be experiencing something objectively.
Similarly I think that we can experience situations objectively when our primal instincts take over, for instance, if we see a child falling from a building it is our instinct to catch them; we will not think or even feel in the moment it happens, that will come afterwards. Some people will put themselves in huge personal danger, rescuing someone from a burning building for example, which they wouldn’t do if they weren’t acting instinctively. The experience would, I imagine, feel quite unreal at the time and, again, it would only be afterwards that emotions and rational thought would replace objectivity.
All that said, I would hate to live my life eating nothing but ham sandwiches so, although I do believe we can experience things objectively, I am rather glad that, for the most part we don’t. Our emotions, our likes and dislikes, the feelings we attach to things and other people are what makes us who we are. Whilst we may sometimes crave to feel nothing when pain and despair takes over, our experiences are what help us learn and grow and, if we viewed them through dispassionate eyes, life would be very dull indeed.