20 May 2015


I've seen the quotation many times in different forms:  We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are.  In other words, our perception of what we see is strongly influenced by what we are as people and what's going on in our lives.  The same action by the same person can be seen in various ways by different people who are leading different lives.  If I pick up a piece of trash on the street, one person may see me as a civic-minded citizen, while another will see me as a do-gooder who's just trying to impress other people.  Someone else may see me as an insecure person who's trying to make other people like me, while a fourth person may see me as a clean freak, a person who's so obsessed with cleanliness that I even have to clean the streets.

What does this mean to me?  Quite simply, it warns me that I need to be very slow to judge others.  If I have an argument with my wife this morning, I may have a problem later in the day when someone does something that I don't like.  I may judge that person or his or her actions based upon what I'm feeling about the argument.  This is why I really appreciate the concept of being an observer, and not a judge.  When I see someone do something that I don't like, I can remind myself that there may be many different reasons for which that person has done that something.  Once I remind myself of that fact, I can also withhold judgment, realizing that I really don't know which of the reasons is correct.

Of course, some actions are just stupid and obnoxious.  A person throwing a bag of trash out of a car window as they drive by is doing something horrible, and a person stealing money is also doing wrong.  The filters caused by where I am in life aren't giving me a wrong message in these cases.  But they are still unique messages.  A different person will see those two things in a different way.

I suppose that my reason for pondering this idea is that I want the way that I am to be positive and compassionate.  I want the way that I see the world to be fair and as impartial as I can imagine.  I don't want to leap to harsh judgment just because of something in my own life--if I do that, I'm affecting myself just as much--and probably more--than I'm affecting the other person.  And I don't want to do that.

And on another hand, I also want appreciation of beauty to be a part of who I am so that when I see sunsets and rainbows, I can recognize their beauty and feel awed and inspired by it.  Some people do little more than glance at miraculous sunsets, for they don't see the beauty in them--for they don't see the beauty in themselves.

11 May 2015

My Declaration of Independence

When, in the course of my lifetime I find it important to define just where I fit in in this world, I start to realize the incredible number of people, organizations, and businesses that want me to be simply a walking, talking, spending automaton, and I realize how important it is to declare my independence from the forces in the world that seek to downplay and even denigrate my individuality and beautiful uniqueness.  With these forces that threaten my ability to be myself firmly in place, I find it necessary to declare my independence from these very forces through a firm declaration of what I am and what I am not.

1.  I am not simply a potential customer with cash and credit cards, able to purchase anything I want whenever I want.  I make purchases based on my perceived needs, yet I must stay independent from the advertisers and marketers who seek to create artificial needs in my mind.

2.  I am not simply a member of a demographic group.  I am not a Gen-X'er, nor am I a member of a certain age, ethnic, or geographical group.  I am a unique individual whose uniqueness is one of the most important aspects of who I am.

3.  I am able to think for myself, and I am able to recognize when people are trying to manipulate me into thinking as they wish me to think.  It is very important to me to recognize the logic that others are using to determine whether they are being honest and truthful or whether they are using false logic and/or facts to try to affect my thoughts and opinions.

4.  I am a member of several communities, but none of these communities defines who I am as a human being.  I am independent of such superficial definitions, for I know that it is impossible to define or categorize any human being based on any superficial criteria such as the town I live in, the language I speak, or my nationality.

5.  I am not defined by my work or my chosen profession.  Once I allow myself to be so defined, I am subject to many preconceived notions, prejudices, and biases on the parts of others who are unable to see past their own ideas of what people who are so defined are actually like.

6.  I am created equal to all other human beings on this planet in the eyes of God.  Other human beings may be better writers, athletes, or teachers, or they may earn more money or enjoy more fame, but those factors in no way makes anyone "better" than me.  I will not be devalued or looked down upon based on any other people's definitions of success.

7.  I am important, and I can affect other people's lives to varying degrees.  I can encourage and motivate, inspire and lift up, but I also can discourage and harm if I am not careful.  I will not be convinced that I and my opinions and thoughts do not matter.

As the technological age advances and marketing techniques and strategies become more invasive and insidious, it's important for me always to remind myself of my own value and individuality.  If I'm unable to do so, I face the danger of having my thoughts begin to conform to the ideas of who I am that are put forth by people who do not know me and who never will meet me and get to know me.

I am independent, and I am a part of an interdependent culture that covers the entire world.  I am responsible to myself, and only in fulfilling that responsibility to myself will I be able to fulfill my responsibilities to the rest of the world.  Those who seek to put me into a niche and keep me there are not harming just me if I allow them to convince me that they're right; rather, they're harming the entire world by causing me to keep down my beautiful uniqueness, for then I will be unable to share it and my gifts with others who just may need to have them shared.

I am I, and I am happy and proud of that fact.  I make mistakes, and I hurt people; I do good things and I help others.  I am human, I am unique, and I have many gifts.  Only I can define who I am, through my thoughts and actions and prayers.  I am not open to definition from others.