I thought the day I discovered toilet paper missing from the shelves of the grocery store, the country had reached a level of absurdity I never thought possible. But now I am learning that people are messing with the United States Postal Service and I am reaching beyond absurd to find a word that describes how I feel. I guess for me the USPS is as close to sacred as things can get in this country. When I enter the post office I feel as though I am entering a tradition that is as old as our country. In some ways it is more important than Congress because its sole purpose is to link the people — that is us. The Post Office is about serving US. A current book on the history of the post office by Devin Leonard notes: “The United States Postal Service is a wondrous American creation. Seven days a week, its army of 300,000 letter carriers delivers 513 million pieces of mail, 40 percent of the world’s volume. It is far more efficient than any other mail service–more than twice as efficient as the Japanese and easily outpacing the Germans and British. And the USPS has a storied history. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, it was the information network that bound far-flung Americans together, fostered a common culture, and helped American business to prosper.” That old adage "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." I believe it. In Glendive you see the rural mail carriers heading out on their routes, getting stuck in snow drifts and fighting through blizzards; in town there are the icy streets, the snow-covered sidewalks, the dogs, the heat of the summer sun. I mean nothing stops the U.S. mail from being delivered. Postal carriers know the people on their routes and they are often the first to notice when something is wrong. We can depend on mail service in spite of everything else that goes wrong.
The national news tonight (August 14) brought in Montana for reports from Missoula, Billings, Bozeman and Helena concerning the removal of mail boxes from various locations and this is happening throughout the country. Senator Tester spoke first and then Daines and Gianforte followed with letters to the Post Master demanding an explanation. The upshot was they stopped taking down the mail boxes and said they would reconsider this after the election. Because of the news reporters in Montana, the USPS stopped this nation wide. No one knew why they were being taken out. They were just gone making mailing more difficult.
The slowing down and back log of mail we are hearing about is holding up prescriptions, pension checks and social security checks, all of which are life blood to many people. There is a new postmaster general who appeared out of the grab bag of multi-billionaires who seem to have more influence in this country than ever before. He has no experience and he immediately started to make changes of some magnitude which will slow down the delivery of packages and mail. The Postal Union is bringing all of this to our attention.
I have heard some folks say that with the Internet so important these days we don’t need the post office as much. Certainly the big semis with USPS I see on the highways tell me mail is still important. I find I use it more than ever and if I order something from the internet I need the post office to deliver it to me.
Hand writing letters and sending cards to people are very important in this time of pandemic. It shows you care when you take the time to write, address and stamp an envelope. Many people still pay their bills by mail and this year more than any other time we will vote by mail. The USPS is one of those things in our lives to which we pay no attention, just assuming it will always be there and always operate as it has for over 200 years. I believe in our Postal Service and I think most Americans agree. Leave it alone.
Years ago the Coca Cola company had a Christmas advertisement. A choir of rosy-cheeked children holding candles would sing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…”. You can’t miss with kids, Christmas good will and a choir, but somehow, no matter how much we devoutly wish for peace, it never comes quite as we would like. And “perfect harmony”, well, not in this lifetime.
I never could understand why so many people say they “hate history”. Having taught history I get that no student likes to be told they “have” to learn something for which they can see no immediate value. But as we gain a little history of our own, as the years fly by and the grey hairs appear and the aches and pains multiply, a study of history should be central to our understanding of how human beings operate and the role of the individual.
There never has been a time of “perfect harmony” on earth. Humans’ earliest civilizations were characterized by war and conquest, by murder, torture and slavery. From the evidence found there has been a constant rise and fall of civilizations - the victorious and the defeated. Some people disappear into the mists of time, are swallowed up by other peoples. The gene pool adjusts itself and time marches on.
Even though peace is an elusive concept, humans seem to never stop working toward that ultimate goal. To be able to bypass color of skin, cultural differences, religion, gender is something devoutly to be wished for. How to get to that point, however, that’s the problem. In the middle of these disturbing times people say to me, “What’s happening? Things have never been this bad before. How do we ever get back to what we once had?” History tells us life has never been perfect. Every generation has faced what they conceived to be Armageddon. And history is linear — it just keeps moving forward.
In our own time growing up as a ‘Baby boomer’ life was pretty good. The soldiers were coming home from World War and settling in to marriage and families. After the atomic bomb was dropped people really thought that would bring people to their senses, but within a few brief years the Korean War and the Cold War piled disaster upon disaster. The assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King; the Vietnam War which made everyone uncertain — should we be there or not; “End the war” riots in the streets; Civil Rights and the burning of Detroit and Watts among others; the following years brought us into Desert Storm, the Oklahoma City bombing, Isis, the 9/11 horror and a group of presidents who grew in power, but not always in truth telling, justice and honor.
We are once again being challenged to look at our history. The pandemic has given us time to examine our world and the rough spots we have ignored in our mad dash to nowhere and nothing. The greater part of courage these days is recognizing where we have failed and being willing to bend our backs to begin again. History shows us every generation is called to practice justice, love kindness and walk in humility. How well this generation does depends on — guess what, each of us.
Covid quarantine has given me lots of time to listen, to think and to read and in so doing begin to shape a philosophy for the last years of my life. A favorite Spiritual author, Richard Rohr, quoted: “As we experience discomfort in this time, let’s begin to dream of a new normal, a new normal that addresses the weaknesses and problems that were going unaddressed in the old normal. If we’re wise, we won’t go back; we’ll go forward.” —Brian McLaren.
McLaren addresses our thoughts on the “new normal”. We can’t go back to what was and everything we experience changes us. How comfortable will any of us feel walking through huge crowds of people, for example? Or attending sporting events like the State Basketball tournaments in Montana? Church worship is being tweaked to better meet the needs of people who don’t want to sit shoulder to shoulder in the pew anymore. In meeting the needs of friends, neighbors and family we will have to adjust and not just assume our way is the only way. Loving, sharing and caring requires us to follow the old saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It is a two-way street.
Visiting with a friend of the same age recently we observed that as we came to adulthood in the 1960s we were surrounded and influenced by the Civil Rights leaders of the Black Rights movement of that time. Our eyes were opened to “Jim Crow” laws, separate drinking fountains, restaurants, swimming pools and bathrooms. There were people who still tried to tell us that it was a “separate, but equal” nation. Just read the book “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett to quickly dispel that myth. But there was a beginning and my formative years were part of that time.
Now we are moving into Phase Two of the Civil Rights movement when the laws that were passed and the promises made must be fulfilled. My own perceptions need some upgrading as well. I am struggling with the meaning of “systemic racism” and what that means on a personal level. The other day I was writing something and I used the words “black and white” to mean “right and wrong”. I stopped as I realized that statement meant that anyone who was black is being told they were “wrong”. White is good, black is not. Sitting back I thought long and hard about my own mental wiring. Many of us have said, “I am not a racist.” No, you are not. But we have to remember that by virtue of being white skinned — something we can’t help — we are privileged and people look at us differently than someone who is black or brown-skinned. It cannot be helped. It is the way we are wired.
So, how do we re-wire. Through prayer; long, thoughtful moments of inner examination; and open, truthful discussions with family and friends.
I don’t know where to start or what to say.
First I will listen/read/watch. I will speak against injustice.
I don’t want to get it wrong or get called out.
I will make mistakes. No doubt about it. I will be grateful for the lesson.
It won’t make a difference what I do. Nothing is going to change.
Things happen when I take risks and become part of something bigger.
I don’t get involved in politics. I don’t have time.
This is a human rights issue. This matters so I will make time.
Light differs from place to place. I think you especially notice light when you take pictures. Makoshika Park is one of the loveliest places to take pictures, but not at noon day when the light is flat or on a day that is overcast. There are wonderful colors and myriads of details in the formations and the wildlife and flowers, but you have to be out in the early morning or late afternoon or evening. That is when the light from the sun seems to catch the colors at their best and sharpens the details in nature.
Pictures of people’s faces have to be exposed to the light or you will only have a dark shadow where a face should be. Pictures need special attention — to the world, to your subject and to the play of light on the simplest things. The sunlight streaming in my windows at the house will create works of art out of my house plants, the dishes in the drainer, the patterns on the floor.
All of us in the colder climates love the winter sun on a frosty morning. The ordinary becomes a fantasy thanks to the light. Today, in the middle of summer, the sky is a cloudless, washed-denim blue. The shadows are on the west as the earth is moving slowly in its daily orbit. The contrast of green trees and vibrant summer flowers, is amazing.
In books of encouragement we are called in our darkest hours to always “look to the light”. See the details the light reveals. It is an intense Fourth of July this year. The pandemic is keeping us away from the light, away from people. Here in eastern Montana, while we social distance and wear masks, we can get outside in our yards, in the parks in our community, and in the countryside. In the midst of our frustration and anxiety, nature provides a way of holding on to the light.
Thinking of “light” today reminds me of the places where the light of freedom is growing dim. The pictures from China where the people of Hong Kong struggle to be free in the face of increasing military control are frightening. Or in Russia where Putin has controlled the elections, hardened his dictatorship and is always seeking to diminish the light of freedom elsewhere. Or in places in our own country where the right to vote is being limited in whatever ways the people in power can find. Those in power fear the voter. Fear lives in the shadows. Hatred cannot exist in the light. It is in the dark places where the free exchange of thoughts in the universal marketplace of ideas is prevented. The light of freedom is a natural light burning in each human being. It cannot be extinguished. One hundred years ago women finally won the right to vote. As one woman said, “They didn’t give us the right to vote. We took it.” For the light of freedom to keep burning we must remain alert to those who would suppress it and we must speak for those who are voiceless. The freedoms we cherish are universal, but for all to live in that light our determination must be relentless.
This morning my devotions had a verse from Lamentations 3.22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lᴏʀᴅ never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23). It is a good way to begin each day, to pause in the middle of the day, and to end the day. I have always liked the hymn based on this verse (Great is Thy faithfulness). "Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand has provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."
A morning meditation gave this glimpse of what life is really all about — I wait for the ruby-throated hummingbirds to arrive. They drink nectar from flowers and eat bugs caught midair for protein. The Wild Red Columbine blooms in time with the arrival of these hummingbirds. These two species are in a mutually beneficial relationship, tubular columbine flowers are pollinated, hummers are fed. I like to understand how God has encouraged this. God seeks nourishing relationships.
One doesn’t have to be religious to sense the connection between the flower and the bird. As the author noted they are “in a mutually beneficial relationship”. All of us are weary — tired of quarantine, of caution, of politics, of messages of hate spewed in anger. We know that racism is in us and around us. We are learning new terminology like “social distancing” and “systemic racism.” Stumbling around these new terms it is difficult to know where we fit.
The image of the flower and the hummingbird remind me of the actual simplicity of how this world operates. We are in relationship, comfortable or not, with every living creature on this earth and we are in relationship to Creation and the earth and the universe. There is no escape from this tightly woven net of how we survive.
Western society, in the days of the Renaissance and following, found a great pride in what was seen as the intellectual power of humans (particularly white and mostly male). There was a belief that all the achievements of society whirled around this select group and all “others” were meant to serve this group in some way. For centuries it was a tyranny of the rich, well-born and able. Even in this country the founding fathers had the same basic guideline that only property owning white males could vote. The 14th amendment gave the vote to freed slaves in 1868, for Native Americans, after the passage of the 1924 citizenship bill, it still took over forty years for all fifty states to allow them to vote. Women, after the passage of the 19th amendment, were allowed to vote in 1920. Each time, the establishment trembled and forecast the world was doomed.
Power resides in a relationship between the weak and the strong. To remain in power you must unite those afraid of losing their position against those seeking to achieve more power. There is an ebb and flow in history between the powerful and the powerless. Historians tell us that Germans gave power to Hitler and his followers because there was power in that group and since the end of World War I Germany wanted only to feel powerful again. The rise to power is a slippery slope.
Being in relationship with each other means we share power, trying to help each other maximize our hopes and dreams. It is easy to forget we cannot survive without these many and varied relationships. To work together it is possible to achieve a common bond in our humanity.
The first two weeks in June have gone by. We are still in a semi-quarantine thanks to Covid 19. Many states, Montana included have tried partial opening. For some it has not gone well. The numbers of sick people are still high. Opening has become political -- again -- the government has dropped concern for the virus and its victims and has moved on to the economy which, of course, is not good. There are millions unemployed because their jobs ended with the quarantine and many places have not yet opened. Some Governors are pushing opening for the sake of the economy while others are keeping a tight lid on.
The rule of thumb is wearing a mask and remembering to distance. But that again is political. I saw a survey. People who wear a mask are usually Democrats, voting for Joe Biden. People who don't wear a mask are Trump supporters and 82% of them do not wear masks. "Trump doesn't wear a mask, so why should we?" Washing your hands and using hand sanitizer are other ways we are trying to meet the virus. There is no hope of a vaccine anytime soon.
If that was not enough, a man named George Floyd died in police custody. A policeman held his knee on his wind pipe when he was down on the ground. The man yelled, "I can't breathe." And he died. This was in Minneapolis in early June. People caught it on phone cameras and it went viral. There were protests in all fifty states and also places in the world. There was some violence and looting, but for the most part they were peaceful. Some protests have continued and there is a strong movement to alter police behavior. There is a long list of black men and women who have been killed by police. It really is a signal of the lack of equal justice in this country. More Confederate statues are coming down. The talk is to defund police departments, meaning money would go to social agencies to assist with a lot of things police have to deal with and really aren't equipped to -- things like mental health, domestic violence, teen gangs and other social issues. The rationale is then they could tend to crime. George Floyd was arrested for supposing passing a counterfeit $20. He did not know it was counterfeit and the police over reacted because he was black. The protests raised the names of many blacks young and old who were shot by police.
The protests were in every state and in all sized cities. Nearly everyone is in favor of a strong reexamination of our justice system. People are trying to be aware of our racism. Maybe it is step 2 of the Civil Rights Movement. It is difficult to understand why people are racists. White supremicists are all over. It surprises me to hear the words that come out of some people's mouths.
So the country is really dealing with a lot -- besides personal illness and death, the upcoming national elections with Trump and Republicans trying to stir up voting issues. Voting by mail has become a possibility because of the virus and the need to avoid crowds. Joe Biden is the Democratic presumptive candidate and of course Trump is the Republican.
People really don't quite know what to do. No one wants to get sick. The virus is really deadly.
Two roads. . .
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
History repeats itself and our age is no different than other times when humanity has had to reset itself. We leave behind cherished ways of thinking, about how things “should” be done and find ourselves walking on a different path. Right now our country is facing racial unrest not seen since the 1960s Civil Rights movement; unemployment greater than the Great Depression of the 1930s; and a pandemic that equals that of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. It is not surprising we find ourselves stressed, restless, and lacking in that basic necessity of human survival — hope.
These issues before us are not easily managed and the world looks for leadership to show us a way to begin rebuilding some measure of what we feel we have lost. There is a long held belief that the world is always getting better, that life is improving in living standards, in length of life, again in that hope that life will be better for our children, for the generations who will follow us. That makes us vulnerable and our vulnerability makes us fair game for those who would divide us and manipulate our fears thus turning us against those of a different color, gender, economic class or part of the world. That manipulation is most often for personal gain as we have seen the disparity in our own country with the loss of the middle class and the financial power settling in just a few pockets.
Life is not easy and there are many voices that would pull us into other camps that breed dissatisfaction, and, yes hatred. Great thinkers for centuries have talked about a world where all people could work together for the common good and promote peace among the nations. Our own Constitution, a dream our founders thought had been realized with the settlement of this vast continent — to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility and promote the common welfare — has always been on display as a great and noble experiment. But the experiment is still in a trial stage and not looking too promising at this moment.
Jesus gave us two commandments to live by — just two — love God with everything in you and love your neighbor. The Great Teacher said everything hangs on these two rules. It is really that hard and that simple.
Poet Robert Frost wrote,
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Former teacher friend with a tree business is digging out some of my bushes today that succumbed to blight last fall. I gave them this Spring to see if there was any life, but other then for a few limp green leaves they were done. My favorite was a strawberry hydrangea bush. Every year the cone shaped blossoms would start out a creamy white and end up an antique rose color. And they dried beautifully! I have several sitting in vases around my house from previous years. So it was heartbreaking to lose the bush. I also had white lilac and purple lilac bushes that went as well. Normally you can't kill lilacs, but this blight or whatever it was was a dangerous attacker. Other people have huge lilac hedges but these had lasted for only five or six years so this was the year, I guess. I also had a couple of berginia plants that reminded me of rhubarb, again not a favorite. So there will be some new bushes. Also lost a bleeding heart to the blight and had to replant that. It was very sad as the plants you labor over become part of the look of your house, your yard and you greet them each Spring and look forward to seeing them appear.
I have a couple of buds on my Winnipeg Parks rose bush. That is one of the first to bloom in the Spring and the last to go in the Fll. Then there are a number of day lilies, yellow and purple, a white hydrangea or Anna-Belle and some ornamental grasses which I enjoy. This year I planted more in pots, but there are Asian lilies, poppies, and some other odds and ends I threw in the ground.
I have the best friends. One built me a raised garden bed for my deck (the kneeling and bending isn't going too well this year). He made it out of scrap cedar and I told him it could be a buffet in my dining room it was so pretty. Right now I have potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes as well as some sun flowers growing well. By the time the season is over I should have learned a lot. I already had to replace the tomatoes as the first batch I lost in a frost.
Most folks around here are adapting pretty well to the Corona Virus restrictions. They are easing a little. Churches still are not rushing into worship -- just small numbers. Graduation was parents only, was outside, with the graduates sitting six feet apart. There are a few who rudely attempt to change the rules for themselves in the restaurants. Of course there are always some folks for whom the rules don't apply. As an old school teacher I have seen a lot of that before.
A cousin from the Anderson side of the family is attempting to put together a family reunion in Spearfish. People are still adjusting to travel restrictions and not sure what they will do. I can drive down, visit Cole and Margy in the process and then we will see what else transpires
Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic candidate made an appearance for the first time since Covid. He hasn't selected a Vice President yet. He promised it would be a woman, but there are lots of good choices Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, governors of New Mexico and Michigan. All pretty savvy politicians in their own right, but he has to be careful. Lots of disappointed Bernie Sanders' loyalists in the Democratic camp so Elizabeth Warren is a possibility if he is trying to keep them happy. We will see what happens. There is a lot to lose if he doesn't get the right one.
According to statistics there are 100,000 dead for the virus. The U.S. has the largest outbreak in the world. Staggering and scary. Epidemiologists say there will be a resurgence in the fall about the time our regular flu season begins. So we have that to look foward to. Adjusting to the virus is changing a lot of things around the world -- people are much more cautious, international travel will probably not be as widespread. Education is shifting to on-line both at the public school and college levels. More tele-medicine. The "new normal" we are all facing promises to shake things up for a long time to come.
Where to begin? The virus seemed to appear suddenly. Without warning we were in quarantine and wearing masks and cancelling all our haircuts, elective surgeries, church worship services, face to face visits with friends, handshakes and hugs. Gone. I am amazed at how easily we stepped into this new life. It wasn't what we wanted, but we knew it had to be. Because we could have church on the radio and live streamed, our pastor held worship to an empty church. Two other people and myself were the only ones in the sanctuary. I sat way to the back on one side as pastor delivered her message to an empty room. I did a funeral graveside with 6 people. No large gatherings allowed. Weddings are streamed to family and friends. Vacations to Europe are cancelled. The big cruise ships that were everywhere have been docked when they became floating virus breeders.
As the time progressed we have grown to accept most everything that has come our way, for the most part. There is now a vocal minority prompted by Trump that carries around loaded machine guns, demands businesses open and bad mouths any idea of a vaccine. Closed churches have suddenly become a cry for "religious rights" from people who mostly could care less about God's house and living the life we are called to live as God's people. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Washington and several other states have been real leaders in dealing with the pandemic in their own States and thus being effective for the rest of the country.
Shortages have been one negative of the quarantine. The first to go was toilet paper -- yes! Toilet paper. I walked into the grocery store and went to the toilet paper aisle -- empty shelves!! I really was amazed. People figured they might have to be quarantined for two weeks and they wanted to be sure they had plenty of what they needed. After a few weeks, investigative reporters told us there is tp for home and there is tp for work. Because no one was going to school (all online classes) and most people were working from home, the industrial tp was not being used and you cannot convert from industrial to home quality easily. Now we have tp for the most part, but it has taken awhile AND you do not take a supply of tp for granted. Ramen noodles, frozen pizza, white flour, yeast, and eggs have all at one time or another been on the missing list for a variety of reasons.
The worst shortages came when the U.S. realized we were unprepared for a medical emergency such as this and medical personnel were without gowns, masks and ventilators to help those in distress. The virus affected the lungs so ventilators were a must. Hospital emergency rooms and wards were full to overflowing and there were not enough nurses and doctors to stay alert to all those in distress. It was a medical super emergency. Lots of people were making masks, sewing them to help hospitals and other agencies where people were in need of protection.
The food supply chain has been stretched pretty thin the past couple of months. Major corona virus break-outs have occurred in meat packing plants across the nation. Many of these plants have been staffed by low wage, immigrant groups or large scale black or Latino populations. One word was in a plant in Sioux Falls SD there were 15 languages spoken. The virus has hit hardest in areas of high population density and is hard of people who are fragile elderly or anyone with pre-existing conditions. Because the food chain is being messed with, the chain has broken to the point of food surpluses being destroyed just as in the 1930s. Milk dumped on the ground, animals slaughtered rather then provided for sale. And everything is predicated on a chain that no longer exists or at least is broken. Food pantries are in high demand, many people are going hungry because they have no pay checks.
Within the more densely populated states nursing homes, Veterans' homes and prisons have had high numbers of deaths. State governors have been trying to get tests going. Tests are in short supply. Testing allows medical personnel to trace the virus, place folks in quarantine and hospitalize when necessary. So right now we are waiting for a vaccine which may take up to a year to produce and wear masks when we go out, state in when we can, and wash our hands and use a sanitizer.
The pandemic is world wide. France, Spain and Italy were hard hit. India is very bad. It started in Wuhan, China and then began to travel with people who were traveling. When the virus hit the U.S. it had a European DNA but that only meant it had been traveling for a time. People can be carriers and not be sick. The U.S. has the most cases, over a million and drawing more deaths daily. The disease started to appear in larger numbers in February. Some people in Glendive wonder if they had it earlier which could well have been. We would have said they were very sick with the flu. They were in the hospital with pneumonia and have had a difficult time getting strength and energy back.
The Federal government has been less than helpful. At first they tried to pretend the virus didn't exist, then when they could no longer do that, they said it would go away -- like magic. When there were medical shortages, the governors were told to take care of it themselves and figure it out. Then when some governors managed to get the supplies they needed the Federal Government hijacked them and took the supplies!! Trump is worried about the upcoming presidential election as are we all. Biden is the candidate apparent for the Democrats, because everyone else dropped out. Some elections were cancelled because of the virus. There is a real call for mail in voting these days and many are hopeful this can be a reality, although the Republicans say if they do it the Democratics will win because it is a way they can cheat.
Another effect of the virus and the shut down has been a huge rise in unemployment. There are more people claiming unemployment then did during the Great Depression of the 1930s. There has also been a drop in oil prices at the same time so many are out of work in that area. For Glendive the railroad round house closed and 85 people were transferred. This hit the economy of the town so hard. Most concern is for small, independently owned businesses like restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. They don't know if people will come out as they once did and no place that opens is allowed to pack the bar -- too many people -- too great a chance for the virus to pass around. No concert venues, movie theaters, sports events, tourist events and on and on it goes.
Where will it end, nobody knows.
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.