Things Are Not Always As They Appear

The perspective of time changes as one gets older. In other words,  studying history in grammar school the Civil War, the American Revolution and the Roman Empire all seemed  to me to have occurred an equally, enormously long time ago. Beyond that, the Biblical characters Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, King David and Jesus seemed like folks from a single story, even longer ago.

Now that I’m approaching eighty years of age I can better relate to the characters and stories of Civil War battles, since they happened in the same range of years as the experiences of my life. Likewise my father lived to be almost ninety. Go back ninety years before his birthday and you can be watching George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jeffferson leading a brand new nation. (I can now better relate to those Bible characters too, especially the imperfect ones, but for much different reasons!) 

Most elderly people will tell you (even if you didn’t ask) that past events are recalled more and more as if they happened more recently than they actually did. Ironically, the older we get the younger things seem. My grandparents and their entire generation seemed to me to be classic “old.” They acted like old people when they were in their sixties and seventies. Quite the contrary, I still view myself and most of my peers as young. I behave differently now, and yes my joints ache a bit more, but I think pretty much the same as I did when I was forty or fifty.

Often things actually are not what they appear to be, and since events and experiences seem to appear differently to different people anyway, it follows that communication about important realities in life are sure to be difficult.

There is a concept of listening which can be sacred observation. It’s a discipline where we humans choose to stay completely objective as we see or hear things going on around us. I think animals are probably better at sacred listening than we are.They just do what they were created to do, whether its a bee collecting nectar and pollen or a dog reminding us of the value of positive attitude. But with a little practice, sacred listening and its many benefits can be relearned and become habit. Re-learned, because young children do it naturally; they watch their older siblings and adults to figure out motives, and to learn how to do things for themselves. It’s natural for them because in the very young years, they respect elders without question. But for some reason, when exposed to wider society and its adopted values, and the concept of ego develops, we elder humans become more skeptical, less open, less candid. We gradually, unconsciously become different from the person we were created to be/. We become more competitive, judgmental, impatient. 

An interesting experiment would be to have folks live with the value of sacred observation for a while to see if it improves things. Those who are willing, could began to train themselves to see others as the original core person they were as curious tykes living inside, trapped inside, an outer shell of persona formed by years or even decades of wounding, scarring layers of both positive and negative experiences. God only knows the quantity of events that contributed to that outer shell persona. But if we each assumed for the moment that still hidden inside the person we are observing there is an inner core – an attractive mix of kind, careful, inquisitive, appreciative and humble attributes that reflects mutual respect, compassion and willingness to forgive, we can set the framework for sacred listening. In other words, to practice this idea, charge yourself with the task of developing the skill of looking past the outer person, which is where subjective opinion and socially-acquired values and behaviors impact us, and see what lies behind that screen. Quietly accept the lessor known inner person as “good” regardless of their reputation or how they appear at first glance. Acquiring this skill can be difficult, but can be done in the private thoughts of your head, even when evidence seems scarce. It helps to move away from repetitive, socially acquired judgements, some of which were not intentionally acquired. It should at least open up a less rehearsed, more genuine, objective pattern of thought.

About hamiltonstation

I grew up in New England, went to college in upstate NY, spent a few years as a small boat officer with the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific, then worked 35 years as an industrial automation engineer. My retirement job was teaching for 8 years in a public high school as a special needs educator, 3 years as a kayak guide for a small cruise ship company on both the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes, 10 years as a ocean kayak guide for a large outdoor outfitter corporation in Maine. I finally moved to full retirement in 2019 and relocated near Boston. For 30 years, I have been volunteering in maximum security prisons, helping inmates with literacy, developing of the spiritual side of personality, and learning mature social skills - all to eventually assist with their future re-integration into society. My wife and I have 2 adult children. We are now living in a community of friends our age and continue our craft and outdoor hobbies of hiking, biking and sea kayaking.
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