Opaque Surfaces and the Worlds They Hide

Thinking about the opacity of life.

All around us our devices present us with surfaces below which lie complexities few understand. Our technologies are increasingly opaque to us. But this is, from a certain perspective, not very different from much of the rest of our experience.

As I look up at the sky, it presents me with a surface which, during the day, hides from my view the vastness of the space that lies beyond it. Even at night, the starlit sky discloses only a glimmer of the magnitude of the universe.

As I look at the blade of grass and my hand that holds it, a surface presents itself beyond which lies another, atomic and sub-amtomic, universe whose infinitesimal scale is entirely concealed to my unaided senses.

How much of reality lies beyond these surfaces that present themselves to us as the perceived limits of lived experience? And yet there is one other surface that veils a world from view.

As I look into the eyes of the persons I encounter day in and day out, a surface once again presents itself in seemingly uncomplicated fashion. But beyond this surface too lies a complex and unfathomable universe. The mind, dare I say soul of every person is another world — vast, complex, mysterious, wondrous, and beyond the reach of my ordinary perception.

In the end, I suspect that of all these, it is my own consciousness that is most opaque to my perception and the most challenging to penetrate.

All our learning is finally an effort to see beyond these surfaces.

6 thoughts on “Opaque Surfaces and the Worlds They Hide

  1. Great thoughts, and they point towards a problem I see in Borgmann’s device paradigm. Just because something is more hidden away doesn’t necessarily imply that this is a bad thing. Much of the natural world’s mechanisms are hidden away from our casual observance (for example, consider the human body).

    1. Right, perhaps best to take a case by case approach to applying Borgmann’s schema, looking for cases in which the opacity yields problematic alienation and/or a refusal of those kinds of troubles that Borgmann believes ought to be accepted in principle and in practice.

  2. I suppose one of the good things about our superficial culture is that because of it I’m being increasingly driven to look beyond the seen and appreciate the more significant unseen. Somehow ‘Jersey Shore’ and the like can still inspire reflection and thought, albeit in an ironic way…

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