My coaching coach suggested I look at the ideas of contemplation, thinking and perception for my blog this week. My father used to call me "a photographer's photographer." In his world view that meant I was so "into" photography that I had reached the point where some of my photography could only be appreciated by other photographers. In our relationship, I think it really meant he acknowledged my work was technically very good and he couldn't make an argument against it, but he didn't like it. I would say I have taken his phrasing and simply apply it to people who are so deeply in love and involved with whatever they are working with, they can lose track of time within it and sometimes can't see beyond it. Viewed that way, in addition to being "a photographer's photographer," I am undoubtedly "an over-analyzer's over-analyzer," "a thinker's thinker" and I've been "a worrier's worrier." My coach's suggestion was right in my wheelhouse. It is an area that is one of my favorite playgrounds, as well as being the area which gets me into the most trouble in terms of personal growth, the Law of Attraction, and any journey to enlightenment.
Let's start with René Descartes. "I think, therefore I am." The problem with pithy little quotes which have been around since the 1600's is that we hear them and our logical brain says to us, "I get it." Without reading Descartes' work, we run with the idea and draw all sorts of adjacent conclusions including many which elevate humanities importance over other species as well as somehow equating our own importance as to our ability to think and the quality of our thoughts. Meaning a greater thinker is a more enlightened or important human.
I'm not trying to be the greatest human or thinker when I say, what Descartes meant was "I think, therefore I exist." In other words, he was thinking in a way philosophers and stoners do all the time. In case you are neither, think of it like the movie The Matrix or consider this quote from 1982's Swamp Thing, "Everything's a dream when you're alone." You perceive the world through your senses. You only experience the world through you. In the absence of you, FOR YOU, there is no world. In other words, don't ask when the world is going to end. It ends every day for somebody. Once Descartes' mind went down the rabbit hole of "how can I prove what exists and what does not," he concluded that a human's capability of thinking about whether or not he or she exists proves existence in itself.
If you google it, most of the internet agrees the average human thinks anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day which breaks down to 35 to 48 thoughts per minute. If you were to try and lasso all of those thoughts and write them down, you could never do it because about 95% of them are thought by your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind's thoughts are generally about things you do and think habitually. They are a product of your beliefs and mindset. They contain the warehouse of thoughts you acquired by observation from your parents, teachers and other people who influenced you. In the five steps of the Law of Attraction, your subconscious thoughts also contain the limiting beliefs which hamstring your efforts at building the life of your dreams. For those who use affirmations, your subconscious is where your habitual negative thoughts and worrying run rampant.
Your thoughts are colored by your perception of reality. Perception is defined as "the state of becoming aware of something through the senses," but for humans, it doesn't stop there. We aren't just aware. We label whatever it is we are aware of as either being good or bad based on our past experiences or our belief system.
We step outside. Goosebumps form on any exposed bits of skin and our breath is visible. Snow is visible on the ground. It is cold. Perception + awareness. Some of us smile with delight and go have a snowball fight. Others shiver and have furrowing brows as they retreat back indoors for a warm drink.
We go to an amusement park and look at the newest roller coaster. Some of us grimace, put a hand in front of our mouths and claim, "I get nauseous just looking at it." Others grin and shiver with excitement and can't seem to get into line fast enough.
For some people cold and roller coasters are bad, while for others they are delightful. Our individual perceptions create our reality.
Here's one I thought about a lot after my father died. He and I occasionally had what you might call a volatile relationship. We actually agreed on a lot of things, but we disagreed on even more. I found him to be critical, judgmental, and occasionally, just mean. When I was growing up and while my mother was alive, my parents kept very much to themselves. They never attended any school functions. My father worked, but he commuted about 45 miles to work each day. Neither of them "hung out" socially with other people in the small town where we lived. So my experience of my parents was generally one on one with only them. In other words, I wasn't normally around them in the company of other people. After my mother died, I began including my father in events that also included my friends. In the beginning, inwardly I braced myself, prepared to apologize for his behavior, but I found that other people saw his behaviors as funny and charming. Where I saw someone "just mean," they saw a funny old curmudgeon. The worst thing I ever heard anyone call him was "a rascal."
Our individual perceptions create our reality.
I don't know when my perceptions about my father switched my reality toggle to "just mean." From what I've heard, while he might have been completely onboard with having a baby, actually being around one, particularly when she was crying, was harder for him. I've been told he sometimes resorted to simply yelling "Stop that!" at me. At the same time, if it is a picture of me when I am young and I am crying, I am almost always with my mother. Either way, it was only after my father died that I was removed far enough from the situation to contemplate it (or look thoughtfully at it for a length of time) and consider that perhaps my encounters with my father had been stuck on a treadmill of always experiencing him as I did because that was the only lens through which I could see him.
As I've gotten older, I've noticed how my opinions of what something means seem to age with me and change. Sometimes they occur as "aha" moments where I think I suddenly understand a meaning that should have been clear to me in the first place.
How about the saying, "it's always in the last place you look for it?" How many of you experienced that saying for the first time like it was a Murphy's Law for lost things?
"Yeah, why can't things be in the first place you look?"
In the words of the comedian Billy Connelly, "Of course it is. Why would you keep looking for it after you've found it?"
Oooops. A diatribe about the irritations of life reduced to a joke.
How about the saying "only the good die young?" I have to admit that one mystified me for years. I'd hear my parents say it after a young person died and I'd think, "Well it is sad. They had their whole life ahead of them, but why say that person is 'good?' Does that mean that everybody past a certain age is bad and those deceased young people just didn't live long enough to turn bad?" It was only after I experienced someone dying, who really wasn't that young, but who everyone seemed to miss on a level of "too soon. We lost this person too soon" that I had an 'aha' moment of clarity. At the time, it was liking finding an answer to the secret of life. I thought that my understanding, which was "only the good die young means that only people who are perceived as good and loved by others are missed in a way where people say, 'it was too soon or he/she was too young," was THE meaning of the saying. In other words, I had stumbled onto one of my beliefs (aka a firmly held opinion or conviction) and like anyone with a belief, I was absolutely gobsmacked when I proudly presented it to a friend and was met with "well, that's your opinion."
It all comes back to those philosophers, stoners and Descartes. Whether you are pontificating about your beliefs, contemplating, thinking deeply or simply musing, you perceive the world through your senses. Other people can report to you about their perceptions, but you will hear what they say through your ears and your mind will filter the details in a way that makes sense to you.
It's like an optical illusion. Have you ever seen the one where you are either looking at a skull or a young woman admiring herself in a dressing mirror? It's only after viewing it a small amount of time AND knowing there are two images possible that our eyes find the pathway to see the picture we didn't see in the first place.
So consider this.
Every day. Every minute. You are witnessing the metaphorical equivalent of skulls or young women admiring themselves in a dressing mirror. Except there is no one to tell you there is another image possible for you to see.