When my wife was pregnant she went to a wine and art class. Now before you say what the? Don’t worry she didn’t drink any of the wine. She doesn’t like wine, but I think she went because she wanted to try painting.
I’ve never seen her draw anything and I wasn’t sure how the art would look. There was a chance of course if she didn’t like it she wouldn’t bring it home. It’s just the way she is.
Fortunately for me she liked what she painted and brought it home to share with the family. The painting (which you can see above) was of the family, drawn as cats, watching a sunset.
I really enjoyed the painting, and I hung it up in our hallway immediately.
My wife it seems is a woman of many talents.
I hung up the painting and looked at it. I thought how sweet, the family of cats is sitting together on a bridge watching the sun set.
I believed this was what it was for a few months. It seems I am the optimist choosing to see the good in everything.
My mistake was in not asking her what it was. The only thing she told me was that it was us and the kids that were the cats. Everything else about the painting I had just assumed.
Family of cats watching a beautiful sunset. Simple enough, no need to ask more than that.
A few months later we had some friends over and they were looking at the painting. I was happy to share that my wife had painted it and that it was the family as cats watching a sunset.
I focused on the fact that I was the fat cat in the picture and I mentioned that to them because I thought it was funny.
They looked at the painting and said, “I would have thought they were looking into the gates of hell.”
“I think it’s a sunset,” I said.
Luckily for us we had the artist in the house with us so we could ask what she had painted.
“Oh, they are watching the forest burn,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s us as cats watching the forest burn,” she said.
I was in shock. For the past few months I had been looking at the painting and seeing us watching a beautiful and inviting sunset.
Turns out the forest was burning and we needed to get out of there as fast as possible.
Somewhere in that time, someone I consider to be much smarter than I am said to me, “perception is reality.”
Perception is reality I thought. Okay, maybe it is.
I guess in some ways that’s true. People see things a certain way and however the perceive the issue or item is their reality.
When I looked at the painting I saw a beautiful sunset. Something happy, or romantic.
That was my reality of the painting. I shared that as the truth of what it was and I liked the thought.
Of course, if I sat there watching a forest burn and told myself it was a sunset there is a chance I would have been roasted in the fire as it approached.
It turns out that as much as I want perception to be reality, reality is in fact reality.
If you were on the Titanic and it was sinking, but you told yourself the ship is unsinkable. That’s what I’ve been told, and that must be the reality. Eventually you would be sitting in the ship at the bottom of the ocean, saying hi to whatever sea life lives that far below the surface.
It made me think about what I know. The person who told me this is by any measure a very successful person.
So why would he say that perception is reality.
It turns out there is a very simple reason. People for the most part look for the simple answer that they perceive.
That’s a sunset. It looks like one, the cats are sitting there watching it, which is what you do to a sunset. So, there you go, it’s a sunset.
Now I would have argued that it’s a sunset because that’s what I believed.
In this instance the person who knew the truth happened to live with me so I could ask her.
In most instances though you should judge things based on what you know. It’s the only way I think most of us can keep sane. We have to take what we see, along with what we know, and come up with a conclusion.
We also end up having to trust people that know more about a subject than we do.
Doctors, lawyers and auto mechanics all are experts at things most of us only know a little bit about.
The problem is when their perception is wrong.
We have all heard stories about doctors giving people the wrong diagnosis.
We have a little dog that likes to eat cat poop.
I know, it’s gross, and we have doggie breath mints for those occasions where he manages to find some.
This dog at one point got very sick. Normally he is a very energetic dog. He jumps up over the back of the couch and runs around like a little ninja.
When he got sick he stopped eating and shrank down in size. He no longer would jump and was so thin we could see his rib bones.
We took him to the vet who ran some tests and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. The vet then sent us to a specialist vet who asked us a bunch of questions and did some more tests.
Me being me, I went online and did a google search for dogs eating cat poop.
One of the items that came up in the search was toxoplasmosis. It was in cat poop and caused some of the symptoms that our little dog was experiencing.
I mentioned this to both vets. Both of whom said, “I’ve never seen toxoplasmosis in a dog,”
Their perception was that this was not something they had seen before in a dog, so it was unlikely that this was the issue.
In this case, their experience was their downfall.
Eventually as our little dog kept getting worse and shrinking in size I begged them to try the medicine for toxoplasmosis.
Annoyed with me, they eventually conceded and gave us the medicine for toxoplasmosis.
In the next few weeks the little ninja slowly went back to being himself.
I don’t blame the vets. I’m a little unhappy with how much money we spent, when we could have saved a bunch if they had just listened to me when I mentioned toxoplasmosis, but I’m really just happy he is okay.
My perception was that the vets knew more than I did. Their perception was that they had never seen a dog with toxoplasmosis, so it was unlikely that that’s what he had.
The reality was that the little dork likes to eat cat poop, and cat poop contains the toxoplasma gondii.
In the end reality was reality. No matter how much we want to think what we see, and think we know is true, we must be ready to change.
I no longer look at the painting and see cats watching a sunset. I see cats sitting too close to a burning fire, and I wonder, why the heck they aren’t getting out of there?
The only question I have left now is why do I have to be the fat cat? Oh wait, never mind, that’s the reality. :)