The more we see, the less we understand


I looked around the dimly lit auditorium and noted the thick cushioned seats, large stage curtain, and cement walls. I sat in an auditorium just like this one more than thirty years ago at my high school baccalaureate service. Like then, I was scrunched up close to the person next to me in the muggy room with sweat dripping down the backs of our shirts.

paint-brushes-984434_640Fast forward to today, my wife and I sat solemnly listening to our youngest son’s principal outline some of the changes taking place at the school. He talked animatedly about the new iPads each student had been given and the academic options open to the incoming freshmen. He was so excited that I whispered to my wife that I wanted to go back to high school. I wanted my own new iPad.

As one of the principal’s assistants came on to talk about the purchase of insurance and the do and don’ts, I couldn’t help but look around the room. The auditorium wasn’t all that different from the auditorium I sat in as a teenager. Several folded chairs sat stacked in the rear of the auditorium. In fact, the auditorium looked to be exactly the same. The acoustics left a little to be desired and, even when the lights were blasted, much of the room sat in shadows.

As a kid, I thought my auditorium looked huge. I sat in the auditorium during my baccalaureate and worried about what I would major in college and how I would pay for everything. It didn’t matter that everyone told me to relax, that I would figure things out, I was still worried. I looked around the auditorium and thought I was a tiny gnat in a sea of life. Looking now, through the eyes of an adult, the room looked, how do I say it, okay, tiny.

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 Life: a mountain or a molehill?

It’s funny how our perspective changes over time: what once looked big becomes small; what one looked complicated turns out to be simple.

In high school, I thought my school was huge. I remember fretting about having enough time to run from my gym class to Mr. Miller’s math class. We had three minutes to run from one end of the school to the other. To top it off, one of my teachers had lectured us endlessly about being late to class  and I took the message to heart, probably too much.

I drove by the school a few years ago, now it’s an elementary school, and I laughed. Where once I had thought the school was gigantic, the school in reality looked small. I work in a building now that probably has triple, maybe even quadruple the number of people working in it each day that roamed the halls of my school. My office puts my old high school to shame and, yes, I still fret sometimes about leaving one meeting to get on time to another. Some things really do stay the same.

In any event, what happened to my school in the 30 years? Did it shrink? Did I have amnesia? No, my perspective changed.

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Scientific fact or a slight of the hand

It really is funny how perception works.

For instance, we all face challenges. When you’re in the middle of one, it can take on extreme importance, maybe more so than really necessary. The challenge can take over your life. It’s like when you look in your rearview mirror and see a car coming fast on your tail. You dodge when you should probably stay where you are. You’ve made one of the first mistakes of driving: “objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

The same goes for high school. My friends and I were looking forward to, but scared to death of baccalaureate and graduation. Where would we go next? How would we handle graduation? What would we do with our lives?

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The same ole song

In the end, we really didn’t have anything to worry about, life would find a way to sort itself out. Challenges that seemed to be big turned out to just another curve in the road. I worried and worried about what to major in college. I thought the world would come to an end if I made a mistake, and then I learned that life goes on and on. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear, but that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome them.

In the end, perception is just that, perception.

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