Inside Looking Out: The reality of reality
You and I look at the same picture. You see a butterfly perched on a leafy bush and I see nothing but a mess of different colors. We have a friendly debate of what’s really in the picture. Nobody wins.
Now we look at a big truck. We both agree that it wouldn’t be wise to jump in front of the truck while it’s moving. It’s not just a truck that could hurt us, but the fact that we know it is a heavy, solid moving object.
Although most of us can agree about objects within our universe, we often dispute much of everything else that is not made up of physical matter. We watch a child telling another child that his shirt is stupid and ugly and you think that’s an act of bullying while I might feel the kid was only expressing his opinion.
This is where perception comes into play, our ability to see, hear or become aware of something through our senses. Of course this phenomenon creates all kinds of problems because science tells us that no two minds think alike, which means your sensory awareness that sends signals to your brain gives you a different understanding than mine of the same world we both live in.
No wonder why our country is polarized at government levels and our personal relationships struggle. These problems worsen because of significant differences in perceptions and mutual agreement is never reached.
This is why I won’t promote a political or religious viewpoint in these columns, and to be honest, I don’t understand why anyone does this anywhere else. Trying to convince the other 50% to change their comfort levels is like swimming against the current in one of those lap pools where one never goes anywhere.
In 1961, author Anais Nin wrote, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Comprehending the logic of his statement should give us a broad acceptance for those perceptions and opinions that differ from ours whether we like them or not.
Seventeenth century philosopher John Locke contended that babies are born with a “blank slate” or no perceptions of reality. They begin to experience the world through sensory awareness and formulate their own reality, uniquely different from anyone else’s.
Other great thinkers have contradicted Locke and believed that we come into this world programmed with preconceived perceptions about reality.
Inspirational speaker Wayne Dyer issued a simple formula for perceiving reality through free will.
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
Dyer was an advocate of positive thinking, which is the result of looking for the good instead of finding the bad and living with joy and anticipation of each experience, which he called “adventures” rather than facing each day with apprehension and anxiety.
The other day I was driving behind a car that was tailgating another car. The driver kept honking his horn, obviously angry at the slow rate of speed the car in front of him was moving. The perception of the tailgater must have been that the slow driver was inconsiderate of him and other drivers on the road.
How often I see this happen. What if the slower driver is an elderly person who lives alone and is trying his or her best to stay focused on the road and drive safely to the grocery store? Perhaps he’s a young, inexperienced driver who is still getting used to operating a car.
Here’s another example. Two guys who don’t know each other stand in the checkout line in a convenience store. The line is long and a young cashier is dealing with price checks, credit card failures and what not. The first guy becomes impatient and upset that the line isn’t moving along quicker. He turns to the other guy who’s standing behind him and says, “This place is a joke. They gotta get someone up there who can move this line along.”
The other guy smiles and says, ”Why, I don’t see it that way. The cashier is doing the best she can and is probably making minimum wage. She has a job, and that’s more than I can say for some people I know who are sitting home on their couches complaining they have no money and yet they wouldn’t be caught dead working in here.”
A healthy perception comes from a good attitude and positive outlook that creates a positive reality. Those who create these realities live happier lives.
Forgive me if I sound like I’m an expert in psychology, which I am certainly not, but I’ve taken advice about reality from a trusted one. To quote the last line of a Robert Frost poem, “And that has made all the difference.”
Rich Strack can be reached at email@example.com.