In psychology and the cognitive sciences, perception is the process of getting, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information. It includes the collection of data from sense organs through to the interpretation made by the brain. ... Perception is a lot more than just "information coming in”.
If wisdom comes with age, the whole notion of “perceiving” a situation and attempting to understand what is happening has taken on a different twist in my relationships with people. In youth what I perceived (saw, heard, touched, smelled) was my reality. It was “truth”. Other people had their own perceptions, but they couldn’t possibly be true when they did not coincide with my own. I remember my brother and I discussing a family event from our childhood. As I listened to my brother relate what happened, I remember thinking,’Oh, he’s got that all wrong. It happened this way.” And I proceeded to correct his errant notions. We went back and forth for a long time, neither of us giving up on our version of the “truth”, until we finally had to lay the discussion (argument) to rest knowing we were never going to agree.
It was the classic example of the perception of the “eyewitness” to a crime. You can have several people who see the same thing happen and then each one tells a different story. Everything we know we run through a filter of personal experience. All the traumas of our childhood; our relationships with our parents and other family members; health issues; unresolved grief. But the final step is the one most often forgotten — our experience is interpreted through our brain. It is in that massive machine inside our head all incoming information is interpreted, selected and organized before it becomes something of which we take ownership and becomes the way in which we see the world. As the definition says, perception is not just information in and information out. A lot has happened to the information while it has been stewing around in the juices of our psyche.
In all our relationships that notion of perception is huge. Long ago there was a book, Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars (John Gray, 1992). It dealt with the reality that men and women are different. We are not alike in how we see the world or how we deal with what happens in the world. Men and women have different skill sets. In business the good leader knows how to take those skill sets and help them compliment each other while still giving recognition to the uniqueness of each.
In marriage as much as possible there is no “his problem” “her problem” but rather a recognition of “our problem” and how we are going to deal with it together. When confronted with a difference of perception we immediately go on the defensive to protect and relate our “truth” of the situation while the other person does the same thing from their vantage point.
Too often neither side will back down. Personal perception of “Truth” has become so deeply ingrained in the person nothing else is possible. Compromise is the term we have created to attempt to deal with this seemingly impossible situation. How do we work with an alternate perception, until we can see some glimmer of agreement between the two points? This compromise requires a movement away from the drama of the great “I” toward the possibilities “we” can create.
What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.” (Winston Churchill)
After reading The Splendid and the Vile by Eric Larson, I better understand the horror of the blitz over England.The courage of ordinary people was amazing. There was no talk of returning to “normal” because the “new normal” was what they were living through in that moment.
These days I find I have a great deal of time to consider what is the “new normal”. It will be different for different people. There will still be families and caring for each other. We will still have communities to operate, economic issues with which we have to deal. Although the function doesn’t change, the form may. The 9/11 bombings in 2001, changed our sense of security. The world was no longer the safe place we thought it to be. Now a simple unclaimed package was a potential bomb threat. I bought an airline ticket at the last minute due to a change in plans and I was red flagged and checked multiple times until I reached my destination. Terrorism and terrorist attacks became a part of the world scene. The idea of terrorism is to spread uncertainty and fear and it certainly has.
As we gradually find ourselves thinking about the future, we first have to remember those hundreds of thousands who have died from the virus around the world. In my mind I will always have the picture of the mass graves filled with unclaimed bodies and for the poor in New York City in 2020, reminiscent of the mass graves of the victims of plague throughout the world at various times in history; the unmarked graves of those who were incinerated in 9/11, and the millions of victims who disappeared into the gas chambers and ovens of the concentration camps of Europe. This generation will be identified as those growing up and living in the time of the pandemic and it will be a defining moment in how we see ourselves and what we become for the world.
One of the issues of the quarantine has been communication. On the positive side the creativity of religious leaders, school teachers, business and government leaders and a host of others to use the Internet in a positive way to do business and stay in touch has been and will continue to amaze. The floodgates have opened on a myriad of ways to meet together across distances, to learn outside the classroom, to pray and do charitable works together as a distant faith community. The scientific community has come together across borders and oceans to find a vaccine and researchers are sharing and working together in ways that only mean good for the world.
Our political process and government will be in transition. The democratic process was thwarted by the end of primary elections during this time. The use of fear, conspiracy theories, and power grabs are ways of controlling the election process unless every voter is alert to that most precious of gifts — a fair and honest vote.
In economics, the “slush” fund that was headed for big business and the money grabbers will now hopefully go to independent businesses and the unemployed. During this crisis our federal system has been bent and is close to breaking unless we all become more aware and let our leaders know we are aware. We have seen the virus hit minorities, those in prison, those in elderly care centers and the poor the hardest. When businesses re-open there will be a ‘restructuring’ . The economics of the pandemic will take a long time to shake out and there will undoubtedly be a painful re-ordering.
All of this is why we have to be there for each other as this “new normal” becomes a part of our everyday. This is the season of resurrection to new life to hope and a promise of a better world to come. We must pray this will be so.
None of it is funny, but there is a sense of amusement at human nature in this situation which is “unnatural” to our species. Because we are watching television and using the internet there is so much more coming across our screens and into our thoughts. One piece of humor said, “I always said I would clean my house when I had time. Now that I have time I discover that wasn’t the reason. I just don’t want to do it!” Visiting with folks via e.mails and texts there is a real sense of boredom at the mundane chores which confront us. Author Kathleen Norris wrote a series of essays once on the Spiritual nature of the quotidian or (everyday) things we have to do. But right now, I don’t think many of us see the “Spiritual” nature of the work before us in this place in which we find ourselves.
I painted my guest room the beginning of this week. I decided it needed to be done and I have nothing but time, so I bought paint and started the process. It is amazing how much larger the room seemed as I stood, paint brush in hand, ladder in front of me. Edging between the ceiling and the wall and between the base boards and the wall were a real challenge. After hip surgery in late November I am still not totally balanced and need something to hang on to when going up and down. My vision is not the greatest for things up close and delicate and getting down on the floor to clean paint spills takes a lot of serious thought. I made it however, and by the time I re-arranged pictures and got rid of a few things, it was quite an achievement. I have a second room to do, but I will approach that further down the road. I see it as another good exercise in down-sizing.
Several of us, as we have talked on the telephone, have chuckled at our vision of The Attic here in town when things do open up again. If every person who has said they were cleaning corners and closets and basements follows up on that mission, the volunteers will have enough sorting to do for months to come. The used furniture room at Zion Lutheran Church will be another place to take household items if cupboards and linen closets were on your list of chores. But for now the bulging plastic bags and overflowing boxes sitting in the basement or garage will sit patiently until all of us are ready to start moving around again.
Being housebound is enough of a challenge when you are alone. I cannot imagine parents and children cooped up in the house these many weeks together, especially if one or both parents are trying to work from home. When we kids were home in the summer time, in the “old days”, mother would tell us to “go outside and play” with the neighborhood kids. Now of course you can’t do that and the library where we spent many wonderful hours is also beyond our reach. Fortunately I have books stockpiled on that shelf where sit all the books I have been going to read, but never get to.
I also do jigsaw puzzles. Several years ago I discovered jigsaw puzzles ‘on-line’. I think it is the greatest invention ever — what are the two greatest frustrations about jigsaw puzzles on a card table in the living room — one is losing pieces and the second is what to do with the masterpiece when you complete it! On line puzzles are every size from 50 pieces to 500; you never lose a piece of the puzzle; you can enlarge the pieces if they get too small; and when you are done you simply push “delete” and its gone. I’ve gotten hooked on the 150 piece puzzles. I can do them in about an hour if all goes well. When I am done, I like to study the puzzles of famous paintings and other vintage pictures.
With the ice and snow gone I have enjoyed more walking and the people going past my house to Makoshika Park is really phenomenal. It is fun to watch the parade each day.
Well, we know we are pretty well going to be social distancing until the end of April. After that, who knows? Any re-entry into the stream of life is going to be painstakingly slow. Life will be different after these months, like 9/11, our lives will be forever changed. Handshakes, hugs, tight crowds, huge affairs or Mardi Gras? But, one day at a time.
After a nice long walk in Makoshika Park. Enjoyed being out in this time of Corona virus. We are so fortunate living where we do and I am blessed to be able to be walking so well after my surgery the end of November. Prayers for all the unfortunates and the first responders. (April 6, 2020)
I am wondering just how long folks can handle our current isolation with trying new recipes, searching online for long-lost friends, trying to find unique ways of occupying the kids or the dog or cat or the spouse. We are not geared to entertaining ourselves too well. In the days gone by, isolation was the way life was. You worked all week and then if you were like my grandparents on Sunday, grandpa would put on a clean shirt and shine his shoes and he and grandma would go visiting. And then you came home to a week of routine chores -- baking bread, washing clothes, plowing fields, tending cattle and so it went. That sense of community that was a part of their lives was supplemented by an occasional church service and programs at the school in their township. In these days people are working from home, finding their entertainment on the internet and contacts are via various internet sites.
I was reading some articles from the NYT this morning and their prognostications of the coming days are grim. No one knows what is ahead, but the emotional stress on people in the midst of crowded hospitals and moral and ethical choices no one should have to make raise stress levels to the max. Economists say the economic fall-out world wide is going to be far-reaching and long lasting. As Bette Davis said in one of her classic lines, "Hang on, everybody! It's going to be a bumpy ride!" There are many with inner courage who pronounce, "We will get through this." And I am a believer, but not before we are going to have to make some sacrifices and adjust to a new "normal".
I am especially concerned about the Third World Countries where poverty has already caused huge problems of disease and death and many of the poor suffer from underlying health issues already that make them fair game for any disease that comes along. The World Health Organization has said we are fighting a world war. Survival is what we are dealing with right now, until the scientific community can get a handle on the virus and how to deal with it. We need science more than ever and we need the wise men and women who work with the newest tools and discoveries. One researcher said it was so great the way scientists were trading discoveries and theories and working together to help the world.
Probably we need to start wearing masks in this country as the virus continues to spread. More than ever we need to be sensitive to the needs of the people around us. As do most folks I fear for those I love rather than worrying about myself. My family all lives in larger cities while out here in Eastern Montana we have practiced social isolation for a long time. I noticed I was looking at license plates the other day and wondering about some I saw from Washington. A clerk in a gas station convenience store was more adamant that travelers should keep moving. Now Governor Bullock has put a travel ban on people crossing our borders. The spread of the disease is insidious, you can't see it, you don't even know if you have it yourself. You can be a carrier and that is frightful in its own way.
As a species we have always had to deal with epidemics of various kinds. Now we are going to have to live with epidemics like this for a long time to come. One vaccine is not going to wipe out the disease world wide as long as we have people traveling to all points of the globe. It will be a reality in the lives especially of generations to come. Being alert to the maintenance of our basic freedoms; upholding the rights of all human beings; maintaining a sense of justice and compassion are the real new "normal". President Franklin Roosevelt at another time of great panic in the world said, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." The inhumanity we humans practice comes most often from fear. Caution is very important, but it must be part of a larger picture. This is not about the color of a person's skin, their gender, their age, or if they are rich or poor. It is about preservation of the species and some sense of compassionate relationships in the new world in which we daily find ourselves.