Can we see a gray world in color?

Bird Droppings September 11, 2022

Can we see a gray world in color?

My wife shared a photo she took earlier while walking of spider webs along the power lines, a common event on cooler wet mornings when the dew settles on the webs. I was inspired to go out and take a few photos myself. Thousands of webs were spread across the powerlines and trees—orb weavers working to catch supper or breakfast. One of my last photos of the morning was of a web in a tree near our house. Slightly out of focus is the American flag that hangs at the entrance to our subdivision. Today is a solemn day in US history. It is also personal for me as I started back to teaching twenty-one years ago today.

I went back to teaching only to go into lockdown. Quite a day and experience for someone who hadn’t been in the classroom since 1977. Sharing the fears and anxieties of those kids with me taught me more than many years of education coursework. I sincerely hope no new teacher has to learn in that fashion.

“Stress is the body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts its normal balance. It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations, and we don’t manage our reaction to the disappointment. As a response, stress expresses itself as resistance, tension, strain or frustration that throws off our physiological and psychological equilibrium, keeping us out-of-sync.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

By chance, I got into a discussion on perception yesterday amazing how we all seem to see the same world differently. Sometimes it amazes me what my years of experience and age see can be so vastly different. Each of us has been to different places, seen different things, and learned different methods and strategies that provide us with a means to view the world. We constantly apply these perceptions without thinking about each waking moment and every step we take. I recall listening back several years ago to an interview with the then-great athlete Lance Armstrong before he became not great.

“Cancer is my secret because none of my rivals has been that close to death, and it makes you look at the world in a different light, and that is a huge advantage.” Lance Armstrong

I remember waiting to hear about the prognosis after my father was wheeled into surgery for stomach cancer. We had been given the grim reality of his possible future by the surgeon just minutes before and were waiting as a family for news after. Amazing how death offers a new perspective to life; it seems each second becomes precious.

“Do not say,” it is morning,” and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name.” Rabindranath Tagore

When the surgeon walked out and said this was the smallest tumor he had ever removed from a patient’s stomach and still paraphrased, it was a relief. Life, though, had been redefined, and the meaning of each moment had been altered.

“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also   depends on what sort of person you are.” C. S. Lewis

Our experiences, understandings, and beliefs have input and affect our perception of each instant in our lives. These are sort of the filters we see, hear through, and conversely understand. I once had an extremely conservative student who viewed everything as being altered to be politically correct. My former student saw each item in their life as having been spun. Many of us do as we watch news biased by the opinion of the news broadcaster, but I am amazed as I see one thing, and my former student’s view was nearly the opposite.

“The solution to stress management lies in how we perceive the stresses in our lives. It’s not really the events taking place in our lives that cause stress. Stress depends entirely on how we perceive the events that happen to us. The good news is that since stress is a response—not the event that triggers the response—we can control it. Once we shift our perception of a situation and see it with more clarity, the stressful reaction can be reduced or released.” Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

However, the problematic aspect is changing your perception; it has taken time and effort to come to the world view we have.

“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” Ziggy

“You have to ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The appearance of things changes according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” Kahlil Gibran

A cartoon character, a philosopher, and a mystic poet would see a world differently, perhaps yet there is an understanding among these three that the world has varying and differing views. Is the glass half full or half empty even though the amount of water is the same?

“All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.” Charles Kuralt

Amazing how a linguist and newscaster see so similar, though one is famous for realism and one for fantasy. Kuralt is known for his to-the-point clarity in news casting, and Tolkien for his brilliance in creating a world where fantasy and magic are real.

“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Anais Nin

“No life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” Henri Bergson

I often wonder how people see and hear what they do as I go about each day. What biases and prejudices make their world appear as it does? So many people allow hatred and negativity into their lives through their perception of existence. An incident on Friday got me remembering when I sat with a young man, helping him calm down; the actions of another student stressed him. He was stressed to the point of wringing his hands till there were red. I am sure the other student walked away laughing at how he had pushed this other fellow to the breaking point, “all in fun.” He was a big man on campus, which was part of his image.

 “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances.” Martha Washington

“Men are disturbed not by things but by the view they take of them.” Epictetus

One student sees humor, another sees ridicule and shame, one walks away laughing, and another sits in severe pain.

“Miracles seem to rest, not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from far off, but upon our perceptions being made finer so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear that which is about us always.” Willa Cather

It is difficult to pass judgment when perception is involved, yet life should be about doing no harm, and doing no harm means not finding humor in another’s pain. When someone asks to stop, whether you do not see the issue, stopping is the only alternative. We have to learn our perception is not the sole perception in this reality. I have seen too many tears walking through the halls and at home this week. I have seen far too many clenched fists. Yet eleven years ago, tears were of joy while officiating at a wedding.

“Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

So often, emotion tints the glass of our vision, and anger allows us to see color only in grays and not in the vivid color there. I left the house unable to think this morning. I recall when my granddaughter was living at our house. She came downstairs crying from wetting the bed, and my wife swooped her up, wiped her tears, and cleaned her up. She was not yet half asleep, and she still wanted her Minnie Mouse night shoes on and went back to sleep.

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” George Bernard Shaw

If only we could provide free Windex to all people, imagine what a world we would have. It is such a simple concept using Windex to clean the world’s perceptions, to help clear the grime off so many windows. I do not want everybody to see the world alike; that would be boring but somehow leveling the playing field; perhaps as I drove home a few years back from dropping my son at college, an idea hit me. I called it the sacred spirit of man. Maybe just providing corrective lenses to others so they can see my way, and I am legally color blind. If only? Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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