Lee Atwater, 80’s political strategist, is credited with first using the phrase, “Perception is reality.”
This is one of the most misused and manipulative ideas of my lifetime. Twin it with Oprah Winfrey’s “Speak Your Truth” and it is no wonder society is currently in a confused state.
When I read Noam Chomsky’s book ‘Manufacturing Consent’ these two phrases came to mind and I wondered how often we are tricked, as if by magicians, into believing the lie that is right in front of us.
A police officer might tell you that interviews with witnesses standing within a few feet of each other at an accident scene will provide multiple interpretations of what happened. How can their perceptions be so different? At University, I once took part in an Extrasensory Perception experiment but now, as I age, I am losing some of my normal senses. I feel the need to check and double check if I have heard or seen something correctly. I know from experience what is real yet being a senior puts my perception in doubt.
I love watching young children gain awareness that others see the world differently. The baby blanket over the head does not make you invisible any more than turning your back makes a problem go away, but these things must be learned. As you grow, the excitement of sharing what you have just perceived gets keener. Sometimes you want to exclaim, “Did you see that? “ We are hardwired to share our discoveries, and yet it is frustrating to try to show others what we are seeing, in reality and metaphorically, when they cannot.
These days I find myself on the look-out for prophets. I believe Mr. Chomsky to be one. The term ‘seer’ has fallen out of use but that word captures best the prescience of some individuals who may show us things that we cannot see, for now at least. It is not for the seer to cry warning but to make the way clearer for us to come to our own conclusions. The false prophet only wants to sell us something. I do not wish to be led, only informed.
The film Dead Poets Society is a work of art that has taught me a lot about perception. The scene of the youths leaning in at the trophy case only to see the photos of those champions long gone staring back at them says much about one’s point of view. Oh and what sights you can see while standing on the top of your desk!
My perception of the world is changing as I adapt my life experiences to present realities. I feel hurt by some of the things I perceive, yet I try not to rush to conclusions. I wonder if some illusions may even be necessary for my mental health. The world can seem like a magical act at times, creating distractions that divert my attention from the truth.
I’ll trust my vision while relying on others to confirm/contradict my view, what else can I do?