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21.8. Masking and attractors

The result of interpretation is knowledge.

Most things do not need interpretation because established knowledge already exists. That applies to space, time, elementary particles, gravity, mass, air, grass, water, crows, pebbles, trees – everything we have seen many times before.

When something unknown appears that requires interpretation, it usually happens quickly and effortlessly. Why?

The answer is that we neglect the known, what we already know. We mask it away.

Only the new requires focus and effort. We are incredibly efficient, not because our brain is fantastic or anything like that, but because of the masking effect.

Take, for example, a snowstorm.

Snowflakes fall from the sky. Meteorologists claim that there may be a trillion, trillion, trillion (36 zeros!) unique shapes.

If you stand in the snow under a street lamp and try to catch them with your tongue, they look pretty much the same. You do not use focus and thinking power to distinguish their shape, except that you may be trying to find the largest flakes that fall slowly and are easiest to get hold of.

You mask away the giant pile and focus on a few snowflakes that stand apart.

If you are a meteorologist on a research trip, you may instead take out the magnifying glass and examine the snow that builds up on the ground. You can spend the rest of the winter there in excitement, but you will hardly see what is happening in the rest of the world.

Your focus is on the diversity of the snowflakes while the world is now masked away. Again, we spend minimal focus and mental activity on things we know well, in this case, anything but the snow.

We simplify as much as we can – when it's safe. Or put another way, we focus on what is most «unsafe», that which is unknown.

Out of the snowy weather, a swirling «snow cloud» can suddenly appear, which stands out as denser and darker and moves slowly along the road as a kind of ... what then?

Does a storm create the phenomenon? Is it the abominable snowman coming? An avalanche? An illusion?

You focus on studying the snow cloud as best you can by moving a little in the terrain, spending time, and putting your brain into high gear analysing what it may be, what it looks like, and which associations are most valid.

Then you hear the sound.

It was the snow plough.

You managed to integrate the unknown phenomenon into something known.

You did not have to invent something new and foreign.

If, on the other hand, it was the Yeti coming towards you at high speed, you would have fled in terror because what you have hitherto thought was a fantasy figure now turns out to exist in reality.

In that case, you will probably dissociate, go into a highly solution-oriented role that either flees, takes up the fight or tries to make itself invisible by freezing. That is classic PTSD food.

Interpretation is thus a very complex process that takes place lightning-fast and at all levels, usually without us noticing it.

We already know about most things happening around us in the world.

Only when we need to create a new interpretation, a new idea, a new symbol, often also a new word for this symbol – we direct our focus towards it, and new knowledge is established.

Everything new attracts focus, which means that everything else is masked.

Masking can also take place in a completely different, diametrically opposite way; through dominance.

We know this from everywhere in daily life; here is an example:

At night we see stars in the sky, but their light disappears – for us but not in reality – when the Sun rises. Sunlight masks the stars.

We know what the Sun is, so it doesn't require our focus. It is, therefore, not about knowledge but dominance, or what attracts the most attention, i.e. what takes your focus when you look at the sky – what is the strongest attractor.

We have only a few universal laws and principles in our theory that the world is a mental conception.

The most central principle is emergence, i.e., when something new arises, it is interpreted in the context of what already exists. In sum, that results in something additional that again needs interpretation, and so on.

The most essential laws are about the dynamic behaviour of all these new things that constantly arise, i.e. the complex system that emerges.

These «laws of complexity» describe the interaction, how everything affects everything and who/what «wins» and «loses».

We saw this earlier in the example of the girls and Christmas. Winning is the same as taking dominance, i.e. being the strongest attractor, the one who attracts the focus, in that case.

During the day, the Sun is the attractor; the stars take over again at night.

An attractor is thus something that attracts focus, takes dominance and through it masks, shadows for, that which is weaker.

The masking must not be total.

For example, both the Sun and the stars may be visible simultaneously, just when the Sun comes over the horizon and is still faint. A few minutes later, it has taken dominance.

You may have a music recording full of annoying background noise, but when the crescendo comes, it masks the noise. In other parts, the noise can come and go, depending on how loud the music is relative to the noise.

You may have an unfortunate odour in your bathroom that you are trying to mask by spraying a floral scent. It takes several presses on the spray box to work, but after three or four showers, the foul smell has lost its grip.

So we are talking about thresholds.

These are some fundamental laws and principles. How do they apply when it comes to human beings?

As the child experiences developing from zygote to fetus and so on, it constantly focuses on everything new. What is already known is out of focus, masked, or taken for granted.

The child constantly acquires new knowledge and tries to combine and integrate the new into existing knowledge.

In this way, it grows and experiences itself continuously as a unified unit, not just lots of loose pieces that happen to be close to each other.

The child understands and experiences itself as an integrated whole. It constantly focuses on everything new. At the same time, it forgets where it came from, where it all started; it was masked and forgotten.

How is all this felt, then? What is the subjective experience for the child?