Dissecting Understanding Part VIII: Perception

per·cep·tion
pərˈsepSH(ə)n/
noun
  • the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. “the normal limits to human perception
  • the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses. “the perception of pain
  • a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. “Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public

 

I would like to discuss the third bullet on this Philosophy Sunday.

(Mini-note…”Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public”??? That sounds mighty ominous!! Is that why that horrible show about that one iconic family is such a hit? Because that is Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public?? What a sad state of affairs….)

Perception is a fickle and capricious beast! As a whole, society’s perceptions are seemingly in constant flux–at least that is my perception–shifting from one point of view to the next, one extreme to the next, more quickly than the blink of an eye. As individuals, we seem to be either a stick-in-the-mud-sticking-to-my-guns type, a que-sera-sera type, or a “sheeple” who ebb and flow along the most-popular-perception-at-the-moment type. Perception is weird.

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It has been argued that, essentially, there is no reality–only everyone’s individual perception of reality. And since perceptions are a lot like opinions–everyone has one and everyone’s is different–it is hard to argue the existence of a one true reality. Also, like opinions, everyone seems to be positive that their perception is the right one.

This battle that perception causes, is, in my opinion, the biggest contributor in any argument. “You said this, this is how I perceived it, and now I am mad. ” Followed with a, “Yeah, I did say that, but it means this to me, and I cannot believe that you could perceive what I said in such a way.” Or, “This is how my people perceive the world. This is what we believe in, and we are 100% right, and you are 100% wrong. Therefore YOU change your opinion!” Followed with, “Well that doesn’t make any sense to me and my people. Obviously you guys are crazy, and unless you change, you will be destroyed.”

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To dial it back to a more mentally manageable level, how does perception affect your day to day life? For myself, I find that other’s perceptions of me seem to vary quite a great deal. Being one who strives to be the walking epitome of “Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover,” it is a personal goal of mine to contradict those perceptions. I want to look like a veritable badass, but in reality I am sweet, almost too sensitive, and pretty friendly. I want to look cool, but really, I am hardly “on fleek.” I can be a punk, a geek, a goth, an emo, a slightly unprofessional-looking professional, a rocker, a furry, a valedictorian and the class clown–but in reality, I do not fit fully into any of these categories.

Sometimes the perceptions of different social groups surprise me! In my group of hooligans, although I am one of the oldest, I am one of the tamest. One of the least experienced, and kind of a puss when it comes to some of the more “hardcore pastimes.” (For example, the mosh pit! I have never been in one!! Or fighting–I have never been in a fight, even though several people have tried to start one with me.) However, my stories being told at the museum where I work–man! People seem astounded by my badassery!

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I do kind of feel that reality is based on your own perception. And your perception–your world-view, if you will–can be changed. Therefore you can change your reality. However, you cannot force someone else to change their perceptions. What are perceptions made of? The thoughts, opinions, nature/nurture, and reactions of the individual. I cannot see the world through your eyes, because I was born with mine; and visa versa.

Although I am sure the governments of the world would like us all to be on the same page, I don’t think there would ever be an agreement on who, in fact, carries the right belief. I mean, we purposely have different perceptions in the United States–because that is what democracy is all about! Therefore…is world peace possible? Is there a way to collectively alter everyone’s perceptions? In that case, would there need to be one single answer? Would it not be more simple to just agree to disagree? I am rather against a “sheeple” mentality, so I do not think a single collective perception would be ideal, but what do I know? Only the reality that I perceive…

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As If Seen With New Eyes: Why I Am Loving My Life Right Now

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(Photo taken at my quiet country home)

So I realized yesterday, as I strolled down to the edge of our two acres to inform my father, on his riding mower, that dinner was ready, that I really do enjoy our quiet little life. Yes, I live with my father—having moved back home almost ten years ago to first take care of my mom, who passed away in 2010, and then to take care of his mom, my grandmother, until she passed away almost two years ago; now staying so that he won’t be alone—in a very small town in “the middle of nowhere,” my city-folk friends like to say (they have obviously never been to Eastern Colorado, hahaha!). Yes, this small town has alternately been the bane of my existence and the best place ever, for over twenty years. Last evening, it came as kind of a shock that I was back to loving my home, loving our quiet life, and happy to live here for the rest of my life! I appreciated it.

I went to a funeral last Monday, and as per usual, it kind of put me in a contemplative funk. Especially because it was a funeral for an ex-in-law’s ex-in-law, making us more of outsiders looking in—also a rare experience for us—but still including our family and our family’s family. I guess what I am trying to say is that this particular service brought “people out of the woodwork,” that we haven’t seen in years—some that I have absolutely no memory of, having been a baby when we met—and it was really rather interesting to see who, what, where, and how this extended family was faring in the world. Coming from a family where bad luck seems to be our very best friend (judging by how often we see “him”), it was unfortunately exhilarating to find out that my father’s and my life was rather mundane and quiet. Peaceful, as it were.

I believe that the biggest contributing factor to our plain and monotonous life would be our attitudes. We just don’t have the energy to sweat the small stuff. There is always something to do, people always suck (a favorite of my father’s life lessons—“People suck!”), people in our life continue to die; but we are going to be as happy as we can be today. Even when my brother returned home and his girlfriend basically moved in a couple of months later, what order we did have went straight out the window! But we embraced them, welcomed them, and shifted our routine to accommodate. Our family rarely argues, and we are not known to hold grudges against each other, and yes, we complain on the daily, but it is limited to inside-voices around the coffee pot (instead of the water-cooler, hahaha!). We do our best not to start unnecessary drama with each other. Even when it is a member of the household that is getting our hackles all raised up—for example, my brother cannot clean up after himself to save his life—we discuss it calmly—occasionally not so calmly—with each other, to get the emotions out, and then it’s over. We might say something to Tony, eventually, but it rarely becomes a huge THING that disrupts the household. We love each other intensely. We have looked into each other’s eyes and seen pain that we could not erase, could not ease—the death of my mom hit us all super hard—so we work vigilantly to make sure we do not put more there. We look out for each other.

And a lot of the peace I do get to experience, is facilitated by my father. My dad is a hero of mine. His life was hard, sad, and filled with bittersweet memories; but he survived. He has made something of himself, and with quiet diligence, continues to do so every day. He knows pain, he is good friends with sorrow, and most days are a struggle—but the point is that he still struggles. He still fights. He still lives and laughs and loves, and he does not give up. Maybe it is for my brother and my sake, but we are all grown up now, so that would be awfully caring of him!

So, on this Father’s Day weekend, take a moment to assess your life. Bear in mind that there will always be the poo—the bad stuff that you cannot control—but it is how you deal with it that makes the difference. Two things that help me: 1. Everyone has a story. People suck, you just can’t get around that, but they have a reason! Same coin, different side, those who do not suck, don’t for a reason! You have to give people the benefit of the doubt. This includes parents—good, bad, or crazy—they are who they are for a reason, and you have to cut them some slack. 2. You control you. There are a lot of things we cannot control in this world, but the one thing you can, is you. I know how hard that is sometimes—like it is hard to control how you feel, because things happen and you feel things about those things—but you can control your actions. How you present yourself. How you hope your self-image is projected onto the world. Take a deep breath, and in an instant, your bleak, monotonous, boring, restricted, country life becomes a tranquil, peaceful, beautiful, happy oasis to rest your weary soul!

After seeing family and extended family last week, I have come to re-appreciate my quiet country life. I have no use for the hustle and bustle of the city, for booze-fueled dramatics in public, or for loud angry outbursts to disrupt my peace (I’m sorry family, I love you lots despite). I will take the chill road, thank you, and carry on for another day!

Random Acts of Kindness

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When I spied this quote on a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot when I first started working at my current job, I knew I had to track this person down. When I found out that bumper belonged to Megan, before she became Ms. Lollipop, I knew that we had the potential to be friends forever.
See, my dear mother, Wanda, taught me this lesson at a very young age. In fact, I was kind of surprised to find out that it wasn’t an original Wanda-ism. She was always trying to help out her friends and family. She was also a born-to-be-waitress. She LOVED it. One of her goals was to make sure everyone left happy. So if you came in feeling down, or grumpy, or whatever, she made it her goal to make you laugh. All of her guests left with a smile. Seeing as I worked with her at times, I have seen this practice in action. “It’s Showtime!” She would declare before every shift, reminding me to drop my own baggage at the door and put on my happy face!
One of the most beautiful examples of her kindness is the topic for today’s blog. In the late 1990’s, my mother co-founded a non-profit company called Quilts for Kids. Eventually becoming Quilts 4 Kids II Inc. The company did exactly what the name alludes–they made quilts for kids–in crisis. The life-altering event that started this phenomenon was a drunk-driving car accident. A lady was hit head on, and she was pregnant. They had to deliver the baby, although it was extremely premature. Thank the heavens though, the baby survived. My mother took it upon herself to track down anything and everything that this woman needed in order to get through the horrific ordeal.
After that, QFK was born, and she and her partner started making quilts for all sorts of people, including police stations and fire departments, so that when a child was rescued, they could be wrapped in a personal blanket that the victim could keep. Soon they found this awesome faux fur, made from recycled plastic, that could absorb sweat and still offer warmth. Perfect for this.
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They would also have local “Safety Expos” with several vendors and speakers, to teach children about a vast array of safety techniques–like wearing a helmet, fire safety, not talking to strangers, or getting your fingerprints done so that if you go missing, there will be another clue available to try and find you. Their motto was, “If we teach the children, they will teach the adults.” Especially for simple things like wearing a helmet or fire safety–sometimes parents get a little lax. I was in my very early teens, but I absolutely adored these expos! Well, it also helped that my best friend and I were volunteered to be the entertainment, so our singing and dancing duo, TUIT, was featured on the stage, singing Britney Spears, and BSB, and ‘NSync. Fun times!
 It was around then that they met Abby. Abby was special, because she suffered from a horrible condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa. Basically, the skin is just super sensitive and fragile. In Abby’s case, contact with her skin could cause some of the top layers to be ripped from her body. Can you imagine how it would be if you couldn’t even hold your child due to the fear that you could cause her a ridiculous amount of pain? But guess what? The faux fur didn’t do that! Abby could be wrapped entirely in the fur, which is uber soft anyway, and not be in pain. It was a beautiful thing.
It is very unfortunate that Q4KII did not last, but one of the last big projects that we completed happened after one of the biggest crises of my generation, the biggest crisis for the USA–but most especially Colorado–in 1999…the Columbine High School Shooting. Unnecessary violence. My pack of friends helped her complete the blankets, and she and my 8 year old brother went to deliver them to the survivors at the hospital. I cannot tell you how beautiful the letters of thanks were. I have even heard a few stories that the same survivors still have possession of their exclusive Q4KII Denver Broncos (authentic flags were donated to her) quilts, and how much comfort this small company out in the sticks brought to these children in need.
These are true examples of random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. My mother was one of the most beautiful people that I have ever met. The world is just a little bit darker without her light, but those of us who knew and loved her, and were loved by her, are just a little bit brighter because of it.
I know that both Lollipop and I will revisit this particular quote, because it should be recognized, should be praised. So ask yourself, what is your most recent random act of kindness? Your senseless act of beauty?

Be a Source of Sunshine

Sunshine QuoteI told Railey (my six year old step-daughter) the other day that she has a superpower she doesn’t know about.  As a cute, little girl she has the power to make people feel good about themselves by doing nothing more than being the sweet person she is.  I told her that all little girls have this power and they can choose whether to use this power for good or evil.  Now, whenever I see a little girl using their superpower, I point it out to her and I ask her whether she thinks the way they are using it is good or bad.  It seems to be working! She used to tell me all the time that she is cute, and now she tells me she is kind!

The point of all this is that grown women still have that power!  I swear Railey can tell when I am in a good mood, and she is all over me like moth to a flame.  It may seem like a burden at times, but the upside is that it’s an incentive to take care of yourself because it is so much easier to make others happy if you yourself are loving life.  As we all know, with power comes responsibility. So as you go about your daily lives, remember that you too have a superpower and you have to ask yourself:  are you going to use your power for good or evil?