12 March 2011

A Great Thought

I came upon a beautiful quotation recently:  “Learn to see what is in front of you, rather than what you learned is there.”  It’s from a man named Stephen C. Paul, and it really gets me thinking about what I see and experience in life.  Sometimes I start to take things for granted because I’ve seen them so often and because others have taught me just what they are.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the last fifteen years of studying materials written and produced about life and living, it’s that what we think things are and what they really are usually aren’t exactly the same things.

What we’ve learned in life is often what other people think we should know, not necessarily what truly is.  When I was young, some people tried to teach me to accept racist attitudes.  I know that that was completely wrong.  Others tried to teach me that I should know and accept my place in life, and not try to make myself more than I was.  That, too, was wrong.  I was very fortunate because I was always questioning everything I learned–much to the chagrin of my grade-school teachers, I must say.  But that questioning helped me to see the world in a more authentic way–I wasn’t stuck with the perspectives that other people tried to force upon me.

“What is in front of you, rather than what you learned is there.”  Is this really just a tree, or is it a fantastic creation that’s giving forth oxygen so that we humans may continue to survive?  Or is it even more than that, or less?  Can it be that the tree is simply an illusion that we all agree is there, so it’s therefore created by our collective consciousness?  I don’t have a definitive answer for any of these questions, and I honestly don’t believe that there is any one definitive answer.  I do know, though, that until we’re willing and able to step outside of our comfort zones, we won’t ever see the world in any new or different–or perhaps even genuine–ways.

The people who taught us had the best of intentions, but they also had limitations that they learned in the course of their lives.  So it’s important to us to be able to shake ourselves free from the shackles of what we’ve learned to see, and see things as they genuinely are–from our own perspective.  I believe that when we do so, we’ll discover a new and beautiful and fulfilling world all around us, and we’ll see our place in it quite clearly.


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