Have you ever tried to explain an event that you saw and realized that the same event, described by another person who saw it at the same time, sounds very different? It seems to be a factor of humanity – two people can see the same thing in a completely different way. It isn’t that either person is wrong or not paying attention. We all have different things we notice. Some notice more specific detail. Some notice what they felt. There is no one right or wrong way to see an event. It is just the way our brain works.
Life, in so many ways, is like a trip to the eye doctor. The doctor flips a lens inside the giant viewfinder. Clearer one? Clearer two? Is this more sharp? Or is this? We have to choose. Our eyes working together with our brains, allow us to say what we see the clearest.
I think that is a good metaphor for life as well. Our brains, and the lenses we have acquired throughout our life times, help us see and experience the world. Our interactions with people are shaped the same way. Something about a person may remind us of another person we know and form our opinion of them without conscious thought. A pattern of speech, a particular word a person uses, a mannerism, or a physical characteristic reminds our brain of how we see another person we know. We are either more inclined, or less, to like a person based on some of these experiences.
For example, your grandfather, one of your favorite people, uses the phrase, “I’m as fine as frog hairs,” whenever anyone asks him how he is. As part of your love for your grandfather, anyone who says this same phrase has makes you remember your grandfather and think of him fondly. The new person you meet has a warm spot in your heart just because they say the same phrase as your beloved grandfather.
The same line of thought goes to a remembrance that is not so fond. A rape survivor smells the perfume worn by his rapist associates that scent with his rape and instantly dislikes the person wearing it because of the association.
I have been giving a lot of thought to how we see people and react to them. Our lenses and experiences of a person and life can be completely different than someone else’s. If you saw a “upstanding citizen” kicking a dog in an alley and no one else saw it, that has an impression on you. When this person runs for mayor, you probably feel dislike and repulsion to this person, but everyone else looks at you like you are out of your mind. You saw an instant in another person’s life that gives you a different perspective. It may be one you cannot even explain. But the dislike you feel is real, even though no one else can validate it.
You experienced the person outside their shining spot light. And how do you live your life with the knowledge and reality of what you saw and what others have not seen? Our experiences are not always that extreme, but it can just be a feeling or a perspective about another person that makes us uncomfortable.
The lens through which we see is not always a magnifying glass that allows us to see clearer. Sometimes, unfortunately, it clouds our vision and we can’t quite figure out why. Seeing and viewing should be clear and simple, but then it seems, life should be clear cut and crisp. For me, at least it isn’t.
I have tried to make it as clear as possible, but much like my vision, it is complex and I need special lenses to help me see things clearly. We aren’t issued special glasses when we are born and we have to sort a lot of it out as we go. That’s where friends and people we trust can help us. I hope you have people you trust who help you sort it out. I also hope you can sort it out in your own mind. That is often the hardest task of all.
How do you sort out these complex lenses and experiences in life?