November 30. “Much of what we see depends on what we are looking for.” (Phil Calloway)
Correction – In my original publication of this article, I incorrectly listed the community in turmoil as Henderson, Missouri. It is, in fact, Ferguson, Missouri. This further supports the idea that I don’t watch the news. My apologies for the error
I have noticed that some people just always seem to find problems or troubles in life. There are some people that just seem to see the negative side of things. They frequently have a tale about how someone has wronged them, or will tell about a product that didn’t live up to their expectations. It seems that all of their stories have sad endings.
Then there is another set of people. This other set of people always seems to be upbeat and positive. Their stories are of the great things they have found in their travels, or of the wonderful people that they meet along the way. They talk about the great deals they find on products, or the wonderful meals they have had at restaurants they discovered. Their stories always seem to have a very happy ending.
Does that second set of people lead a charmed life? Do they really always have things come up roses for them? And does that first set of people have a black cloud over their head?
Years ago my older brother told me about a “condition” that he said some people have. He called it “opti-recto-meticulousis”, which he defined as the condition where a person’s optic nerve is connected to their anus so they always have a crappy outlook on life. I remember when he told me about that made up condition that I laughed hard. But the sad fact is that there really are people who seem to suffer from that condition to one extent or another.
I am sure there are some who would say that I fall into that first camp. I am sure some people would tell you that I tend to see the negative in things, or seem to have problems crop up in my life at a higher than normal rate. Then there would be other people who would say that I am in the second set. They would tell you that I am a very positive person, and that I tend to see the best when I am living my life. The truth is that I have days when I am in each of those categories. There are days when all I can see are the problems and negatives of life, and there are days when I can see nothing but positive, and endless possibilities.
I think that Calloway is definitely right. Most of what we see is dependent on what we look for. If we look for the positive in life, then we will see the positive. If we look for the negative, then we will see the negative. There are very few of us who can really say that we see things with a blank objectivity. We might be able to do it for short periods of time, but all of our life’s experiences are filtered by our own attitude and what we choose to see.
This past week there have been terrible and violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. There have been businesses that have been looted and burned, and lives disrupted. The news shows (which I almost never watch) are a constant parade of people who have one opinion or another on the events that have taken place there. All of these talking heads on the screen are looking at the same set of facts, the same set of circumstances, and the same events. Yet they all seem to have completely different impressions about the meaning behind the facts, circumstances and events. To some there was a complete miscarriage of justice surrounded by a culture of racism. To others there was a violent youth who attacked a police officer and left that officer no choice.
When I see those news stories I can’t help but think that all of those people, to some extent or another, suffer from “opti-recto-meticulousis”. All of these pundits and talking heads have their own agenda about the events that have unfolded, and all of them seem to seek out “facts” to support their cause. No matter what happens, they find a way to have those events more firmly entrench them into their own, pre-conceived notions of the world. All objectivity seems to be lost for them.
What has happened in that community is sad. Anytime lives are shattered in the way that this young man’s and his family’s was, or the way the police officer’s has been in the months since, or the way that the burnt out business owners’ have been in the aftermath, it is a sad tragedy. What makes me even sadder, though, is how so many people have seized these events as a way to build up their own, negative, position on life.
From the vantage point of a person who lives several states away, all I see is people fanning the flames from one side or another. I don’t see anyone stepping up to talk about healing. I don’t see anyone talking about understanding. I don’t see anyone taking steps to bridge the divide and bring people together. As long as everyone continues to dig their foxhole deeper, the divide will continue.
I cannot say for certain that no one is taking positive steps. As I said, I live a distance away, and I have mostly tuned out the news. I pray that there are people looking to actually rebuild the community and using these sad events as a springboard to bring about real, meaningful, positive, lasting change.
Today my reflection is on the danger of not knowing my own filters. I want to see things as they truly are, and I want to see hope in life. I do not want my filters keeping me from seeing the positive, nor do I want to ignore the dangers. I want to be as objective as I can, and then make the choice to walk towards hope.