Who Gets the Message?
Decoding the information of our senses

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.


Decoding information, photo courtesy of Elan Sun Star
Photo courtesy of Elan Sun Star

What have these things got in common?

  • Rabbit tracks in snow.
  • A traffic light.
  • A roadmap.
  • A nod of the head.
  • The printing on this screen.

Each of these things is a "message" — it tells us something if we know how to read it. If we don't happen to have the previously acquired information on hand with which to decode it or read it — say, if the printing on this page were in Mongolian, for example — neither you nor I could read it. The message would be there, but we wouldn't get anything from it.

What sorts of things are messages?

  • The "V-for-Victory" sign.
  • The layers exposed on a cliff face — at least, these are messages to anyone trained in geology.
  • The bent twig or disturbed leaf — read by the practiced hunter.
  • A different color of green in part of his field — to an alert farmer.
  • Thumbs down.
  • A pat on the back.
  • Faint praise.
  • Lipstick on the collar.
  • A rapidly falling barometer.

The swirl of a galaxy, or the stripes of color on a spectrograph, can be read by one who is trained in astronomy or astrophysics or cosmology.

The ancient Polynesians used to be able to read the ocean's waves — and tell from what they saw there that there was land of such-and-such size and shape in such-and-such a direction a thousand miles away.

At Rhine Institute in Duke University, researchers thought that they had found some real telepathic people who could consistently read minds by extra-sensory perception and tell which of several cards the researcher was looking at in his hand. As it turns out, it wasn't ESP at all — without even knowing that this was what they were doing, those experimental subjects were actually reading "body language." They could tell from the way the researcher was sitting or standing which card he was looking at.

Editorial notes:
(1) Even more, perhaps, by the way the researcher was breathing — see "Breathing as a Way of Life" (Winsights No. 28, April 1999).
(2) Entertainer Darren Brown uses similar cues for many of the effects with which he wows TV audiences.)
What seems terribly sophisticated in message reading can also be utterly basic and fundamental. When people blind from birth are helped by medical science to get their sight — even if their eyes are now fully workable, it takes such people six weeks or longer to even tell the difference, by sight, between a triangle and a circle. It takes that long to build up the visual information necessary to achieve that small a task.

It can take a child too long, either by lack of enough sensori-motor opportunities to acquire that base of underlying visual information or by some possibly very minor glitch in its sensori-motor wiring. Then its at first rapidly growing brain doesn't grow right, and its abilities are semi-permanently damaged, as its brain isn't being fed the right kinds of visual information at the right times (one reason that keeping children in playpens tends to damage their development, including their later ability to read). If the child is fed better-than-average quantities and qualities of information at the right times, its brain will be correspondingly better able to read the "messages" of the world.

To see, or to hear, or to make sense of any sensory impression at all, is a function of what you already know and understand. For example, consider all the kinds of previously stored information that you need to make sense of seeing a bulge in hanging curtains and the glimpse of a shoe underneath. And depending on the context, you may "read" all kinds of extremely shrewd and sophisticated information from that one visual message.

The point of all this? Every pattern, every configuration, indeed any event in the universe is a "message" if you can acquire the "decoding" information with which to "read" it.

Suppose parents taught all children this awareness, even before starting them in school — that every pattern, every configuration, every object and every event in the universe is a message if they have or can get the "decoding," previous information with which to read it. Suppose your child and every child could grow up with this kind of awareness and expectancy, see through such eyes everything around them with this kind of consciousness, understanding and appreciation?

(Suppose you could see everything around you with such eyes, yourself?)

It will have to be parents who do it if anyone does. Our present schools are, more than ever, headed in an opposite direction, orienting not on understanding but on rote memorization and teaching temporary information to the tests. Our schools are decades, if not centuries, away from teaching anything as new-fangled (since the 1920s!) as Information Science....even if some of the key awarenesses of Information Science go back three thousand years:

    The heavens declare the glory of God
    And the firmament His handiwork.
    Day after day tells of it,
    Night after night is full of the knowledge.
    There are no words,
    The speech of it is not heard,
    Yet their voice goes out through all the world
    And their message to the ends of the world.

Has anyone gotten the message?

(You can view the above Psalm with either secular or religious eyes, and key parts of the message will come out the same ...)


The preceding was mostly written in a column I used to author in several newspapers, around 1970. I also made that the basis of an appendix in my book, Beyond Teaching And Learning. In all the time since, I've become more and more convinced that every pattern, configuration, object and event that exists is a "message," or even a set of many messages, if you have the appropriate decoding information. Even just a back-of-the-mind appreciation of the key concept here will make life itself infinitely more rewarding, on many levels.

Can you, and will you, with that in mind, look for a few minutes at a time at even just one situation each day, or one event or one object, and ask yourself what messages might be learned from it?

Incidentally, because your Beyond-Conscious is way ahead of "you" on such matters, you might also ask your Image-Streaming faculties — if you have developed that basic skill, it always answers with appropriate imagery — what message, what learning you can glean from this object or event. You will be surprised at how readily and how much information comes to you when you ask yourself that question, and this will help make more real for you the main appreciation through which your life and surroundings become so very much more rewarding to you.

One key focus of this concept has to remain educational, however. Even as science is dying out among our younger generation and the torch of rational, disciplined inquiry is passing to Asia and Asians, the very mindset — that any phenomenon examined has much in the way of message to the observer who can get the right decoding information — would render the very basics of science so much more accessible and appreciable to our younger generation!

Just try asking yourself that question, on different things around you, and be amazed at how much and how extensive are the "messages" you experience as a result.

See also:

Further note:   If you modulate something, you write information upon it — including such "messages." Also, many objects bear additionally with them the message as to how they were formed, whether naturally or man-made — with all the further information which sometimes can be inferred from that. The sheer interconnectedness of everything, and the ways everything gets to be holographically written onto everything else, is part of the appreciation and perceptual-conceptual tool we are hoping to build with this article.


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Win Wenger

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