We Are More than the Sum of Vectors


Most of the time, we are not who we think we are. With our own existence at stake, we normally evaluate ourselves through a filter designed to let mostly self-advantageous material trickle through. On the other hand, we are not the sum of people’s perceptions either.

Assume it was possible to get a thousand different opinions of a person through all the people one has ever come in contact with. Pretend that each interpretation could be represented as a vector in space. Some vectors would clearly reinforce each other; others cancel; the rest would combine to give resultant opinions, which in turn would recombine into one single vector. Even if an unbiased analysis of this process were possible, it would be an incomplete one because there are private aspects of our lives that remain unshared. We are referring not only to dreams and events that kept private, but to all of our internal experiences that somehow lose part of their richness as we attempt to communicate them across to each other. Mental events, like physical processes, can never be transformed from one form to another with flawless efficiency.

Luckily there is a source of energy within us that occasionally cares enough to collect the vectors of others’ perceptions and to weigh these carefully against what is hidden from them. When we look at the final emerging picture with both hope and disappointment, it becomes the main driving force that keeps us human. It is the fuel for compassion, empathy, selflessness, industriousness and creativity.