Perception isn’t Reality!

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By Bill Koch

Top cops like to tout their professional perspective on life: Perception is reality, they cynically say. That means that something is true (or factual) because it appears that way. It is, after all, the only method they have to gauge life’s veracity.

That may work for them, since their job is to capture bad guys, and most bad guys have a tendency to look bad.

Politicians, on the other hand, often view life through different prisms. Perception merely affords them the opportunity to shape reality to win the next election.

Sociologists view life from a wider angle. The actions of the group determine reality, they might say, as they push their reader glasses up their noses.

Troubled by the deeply rooted notions of top cops and sociologists, psychologist are quick to assert that reality is perception, which is why they became psychologists. Your reality is somewhere in your head, which shapes your perceptions, they may say, as they reflect deeply on the human psyche.

The theologians’ take on extracting reality from perception just might be the strangest, although perhaps the most accurate.

Perception is not at all reality because we cannot surmise reality from perception, and reality tends to be fickle and annoyingly capricious, an unusually perceptive theologian might say.

My view: Perception is absolutely the worst way to determine reality, because perception is often wrong.

Cops, within their hard-nosed coteries, have no other means of determining reality. And you simply have to “determine” reality in order to bust bad guys.

In reality, all the scholarly “ologists” of the world are just moving around tabletop nutshells in attempting to ascertain reality, never knowing for sure which one has the real nut (or is the real nut). And by reality, they mean the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

But for us common folks or us wild-eyed writers with nothing else to do, the relationship of perception and reality is a good one to ignore – at least most of the time.

At this point in this column, I perceive you to be thinking in earnest: “But why, dear fellow? Please elaborate further on your most erudite observations.” In reality, however, you’re probably thinking: What the heck is this loon talking about?

Behold, my point: What we see in people, on the surface, is probably wrong. For example, a rude waitress may not be rude just because she behaves rudely. She may be experiencing some serious personal problems with children, relationships or other existential trepidations. And she’s trying as hard as she can, not quite successfully, to put on a happy face for your sad sake.

Another example. That “idiot” driver may be heading quickly to take care of a sick or dying relative. On the other hand, that extremely courteous driver or that ever-so-sweet waitress just might be contemplating doing something extremely nefarious. How else would you explain those silly grins? And should I even mention those hardy-hand-shaking used car salesmen or those teary-eyed personal injury attorneys? The nicest people in the neighborhood, right?

We all do really possess human hearts (surprise, surprise). And for most of us, we keep our hearts hidden from view.

We are all endowed with a sense of inborn compassion. When we let our spirits slumber and our compassion fade we become what the psychologists and sociologists might call neurotic or even sociopathic. We become cold and judgmental – even crusty – with no other way of interacting rightly with other people.

We also become what the theologians might call evil.

Yes, we must judge others for the sake of protecting ourselves and establishing healthy, productive relationships. But when we judge others based solely on our perceptions, we create for ourselves tainted realities.

We become, in essense, what we judge life to be. So, slap on those rose-colored glasses and commence skipping through the daisies. Who cares what the psychologists think.