Have you seen a tamarind fruit hanging from its tree? When my father-in-law sees these fruits, he sees little people living on a tree.
Medically, he is hallucinating because of his Parkinsons, but putting it spiritually (yes, that is how we learn to look at things from the other side), his perception of the world around him has changed. At 82 years, he has either lost his sanity or gained a new perception. For when I looked at the tamarind pod from his point of view, the shape of the fruits did make them look like tiny people.
My father-in-law also very firmly believes in what he sees. We have tried pointing out that the man who promised to buy him a new recliner simply does not exist. But his reaction to our statement was filled with anger that dared us to question his sanity.
He reacted the same way my son reacts when anyone teases him. Over the years of observing my son, I have grown to realize that his anger is his way of protecting himself – the soul’s way of preserving itself. This is similar to what we medically call the brain’s “survival instincts.”
How are perceptions built?
A couple of years ago, I had undergone an MRI scan. The image analyst explained that every brain is wired differently, and no two wirings are alike. And this different wiring is what defines our interests, talents, intelligence levels, and is essentially responsible for our individuality.
Our individuality is what makes you different from me. It is what makes you and I see the same things in a different way. And that is how we form our own perceptions.
Last week, I had drawn out a doodle and showed it to three kids to get an understanding of how they saw the cat that I had scribbled out. While my son saw a cat, my niece saw a dog, and my friend’s son saw a mouse. You see, that is how different is perception.
Where my friend sees a world full of possibilities, I see a world full of problems. And neither of us is wrong. She wants to explore the possibilities, and I want to figure out the solutions. But neither of us is right either. That is because, it is simply impossible for one person to do everything, or for another to solve everything.
Since most of us are taught the same things as children, we grow up sharing similar beliefs and ideas regarding certain issues. Which means, there will be a lot of things that you and I see as the same – the shape of a star irrespective of the fact that stars don’t have five points, world peace, privacy issues, parenting ideologies, etc.
At the same time, there will also be many things that you and I differ in. And this is where the brain’s unique wiring comes into play.
Now, how do perceptions change?
Imagine an electrical wire sticking out of its cable in bits and pieces. The electrical connection will obviously be just as disconnected as the wiring. The brain’s wiring works in a similar fashion.
As my father-in-law’s brain wiring becomes increasingly disconnected, his brain’s ability to form and retain neural connections grows increasingly lower. But it is these neural connections that are responsible for learning and more importantly remembering what we have learnt. With a severe loss in his neural connectivity system, the presence of my father-in-law’s alternate reality has begun to mess up the connections his brain has made with reality. That is how his perception of things around him also changed.
How did this happen?
People who change their lives automatically change their perception of things, and vice-versa.
In my father-in-law’s case, it was his job working continuous night shifts in a factory that changed his perception, because when he went towards a nightlife, he also went against nature’s way of work during day and sleep during night. While not everyone who works the night shift falls prey to Parkinsons or similar such conditions, my father-in-law’s inherent unique wiring was disturbed when he changed his pattern. And if we begin to observe people who alter their lifestyles drastically, we will notice a change in their attitudes and behavior over a period of time.
While this is how the brain changes our perception silently, we can also do the same thing quite loudly.
Why do we need a perception change?
Because it is fun.
As a person who has changed her perception of things, I can guarantee that life will become more interesting. One thing about a change of perception is that you will understand yourself as much as you will understand others. And with a different take on things, we can introduce a bit of colour into our lives along with a dollop of illumination. A change in perception brings about an awakening of sorts.
So, how do we do it?
It is quite simple really. You don’t even have to meditate. All you have to do is, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and imagine life through his mind.
I tried it out with the three kids I have mentioned before. When I slid into my niece’s shoes, I saw a free world, where anyone could do anything they pleased including staying at home, watching cartoons and talking about futuristic gadgets.
When I jumped into my friend’s son’s shoes, I saw the world jumping along with me, constantly moving, experimenting, playing, and having fun. The ride with this kid was a thorough one.
And when I walked the world in my son’s shoes, I saw a world full of equals, irrespective of age, creed, money or colour. I also saw the power of justice and fairness in a one world that was brought together by the sense of equality.
As I pulled myself back into my own shoes, because our shoes are always the best fit and there is nothing like home, I sighed at the kids’ idea of perfection in an imperfect world. It was at this moment that I decided to wear another shoe. It belonged to the Earth. And when I wore her shoe, all I saw were perfections – in flower petals, in the crow’s wings, in every coconut tree, on the tiger’s stripes, in the perfect blue sky, the perfect white clouds, and the perfect blue and white waves dancing together, continuously. It was also at this moment that I realized that we humans are the imperfections in an otherwise perfect world.
Other animals don’t crave for food that is not their own?
But ever since we plopped our finger into burnt animals, we have been chasing imperfections, the imperfections of domestication and society – and all the things away from nature’s way.
We see the sun-sets and sun-rises and get bedazzled over the sight. And yet, sun-sets and sun-rises simply do not exist. It is just the earth going around herself that is making us see these sights. Maybe it is the Earth’s spinning that is causing us to feel dizzy ourselves, seeing and imagining things that are not there. So, how different are we from the man who sees little people on a tamarind tree?! Yes, we definitely are the imperfections in an otherwise perfect world.
A change in perception does that to you. It makes you feel the earth’s movement rather than see the illusion of sun-sets and sun-rises. It leaves you humble and intelligent in the truest sense (how oxymoronic was that line!)
Here’s to finding, changing and keeping your perception!