Looking Glass – Reflection/Perception

When you read an interesting/provocative piece, do you see how the contents could directly relate to you, or  have the “perfect example” of someone who fits the contents? If you personally know the writer, do you attempt to read and understand the work for your own value, or decipher the writer’s life through his/her words? This essay examines how we see others and ourselves while absorbing external information. 

There are matters we hold dear to our hearts, known from birth and adopted as adults. Values are ingrained through experience and exposure and serve to define us against a general framework of family, peers and society. They are geared toward our general understanding of others and self. One aligns with like-minded individuals––taking up opportunities expressed by peers and organizations. We align according to our values and moral fibre.

What we find along life is a confirmation or lesson about our initial belief system. Our ideology may be well grounded,  require revision or complete abandonment. There’s a common misconception that to abandon initial stance is an indication of fickleness, and it first germinates in us.We assume others may perceive our change of mind as two-sided. 

This idea that we should be unable to change our minds or views is a well masked component of Fear. If we are to start changing our minds on some things, what of others, and what if what we believed shaped our relationships with others, how do we explain our changes to them? Better yet, can we simply live without people and ideas we have cultivated as Us, should a redirection in thought/action mean irreconcilable differences?

This may be the reason why reading or watching something that triggers a reaction within us may be quietly acknowledged and quickly destroyed. To accept the thought that has entered our head, and/or to see and completely understand a different point of view is scary for it Demands self exploration. In a world where things need to be done and people taken care of, there is no room to entertain “other-worldly” thoughts.

For example, a Christian who believes that s/he largely follows and practices the preaching of the Bible, may at first glance feel excited about the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Should this Christian happen to reside in a country that has felt the negative effects of radical Islamic laws first hand, the news of the death will elicit nothing but pleasure and feelings/thoughts of vindication. There are numerous Biblical verses to support the defeat of Christ’s enemies. These all serve to warm the Christian’s heart, that the battle is well under way, and Already Won.

The Christian in our example however, is faced with a few undeniable facts. The first is that his/her understanding of Islam has been largely shaped by his/her environment’s interpretation of what Islam and Muslims consist of. There are numerous written works and proclamations on the similarities between Christian and Muslim beliefs, however, these pieces of information take a back seat, as society, family and peers endeavor to show just how dissimilar the two religions are. Taking the word Religion out of the equation, an undeniable fact is that these two spiritual concepts rely on the glorification and servitude of One God. The God has different names and manly understanding of the entity, however, what can be agreed upon, is the sole supremacy of the Ruler. A good Christian is one who follows the teachings of the Bible, and a good Muslim, is one that follows the teachings of the Koran.

A “bad” Christian or Muslim is explained in these books, and interpreted by man. These interpreters may wear clothes that assign this responsibility, or through their lives and life work earn the responsibility. The truth is, God/Allah’s message is in the Bible/Koran and open to interpretation. There are those who are assigned the responsibility of speaking on and explaining the Word, however, these explanations are heavily laden with personal, political, social and environmental ideologies. Due to the recognized standing of those who claim to speak the Word of God/Allah, the listening individual’s own Voice is silenced successfully by personal and social Voices.

In our example, the Christian may harbor thoughts that consist of: Who am I to see or feel differently on the situation? Am I being a “bad” Christian for not being elated at news of this man’s death, even though, through his actions (as told to me by media, governments and organizations) I have lost people I knew and loved. Why do I feel saddened at the blood-thirst and proclamations of victory by various leadership circles that have instilled in me the Urgent need to make these politically motivated Religious conventions my own Personal burden. At the heart of the matter, do Muslims not do what they do in Allah’s name, and do Christians not do what they do in God’s name? Is it possible that while I believe and know my religion to be supreme against all others, the believers of other religions hold the same stance? If by God I make the assertion that what I believe is true, what of my neighbor who makes the same assertion by Allah. Am I saying my religion, hence revenge, hence hatred, hence lack of love and compassion is justified?

The Christian in our example will not want to think or consider these things, afraid to even verbalize the thoughts, and will turn to the Bible to find supporting evidence against loving one’s enemies.  As mentioned before, the Bible is open to interpretation. Here is a simple test: read a verse of any book and ask someone else not in your direct sphere of influence (family, friends, and coworkers) to read the same verse, and ask what message s/he got from it. You will believe in your heart that your interpretation as heard elsewhere so many times is true. As explained before however, we are subject to our earlier instinctual alignment with like-minded individuals and organizations. So of course it should come to no surprise that “everyone” thinks and believes what you do. Everyone? Well, most certainly the people who count. Well, who are those people? The ones you aligned yourself with? Is it not true that the other person who interpreted the exact same message Differently believes the same thing about his/her interpretation? Instead of acknowledging and understanding differences in an effort to learn and grow, we would be involved in a useless argument whereby one endeavors to indoctrinate the other to believe what s/he read and understood, and the various reasons behind this belief. Why wouldn’t this happen? Is that not what Religion teaches? Spread the word, Convert the pagans.

The Christian in our example finds and reads Biblical verses and stories that support the hatred and elimination of evil and feels contrite for having harbored feelings of compassion toward the enemy. What the Christian is unable to silence however, are the thoughts and questions that still spill and pour forth. Why is it that when looking at the picture of this slain man does s/he not see evil in his eyes? Why does s/he not see what could be defined as cold hatred, but instead just the face of a man? Again, the Christian will look up and read explanations on this, and follow up with more Biblical verses that serve to remind that evil is beautifully disguised. The key word here is beautiful. The Christian notes however, that even in pictures of war raging crowds, what s/he sees is not evil or hate, but absolute conviction. Whereas this can be evil in its nature, who determines this? The One who created the people, or the ones who interpret the look?

Through a conscious decision to find supporting evidence for the stance taken (in mind), the Christian then finds conflicting passages and stories in the Bible, told by Jesus Christ himself that state, “I desire Mercy, and not Sacrifice”. Passages such as Romans 14 that support a different approach to viewing people labeled as “evil” , even against the verses that support these peoples’ demise and damnation, culminating in, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men”. The Christian in our example will decide to go with the Voice in his/her heart that advises on spreading peace and love, not hate and war, of leaving the judging to the one God s/he professes to believe in, acknowledging that the mysteries of life and the universe are far greater than his/her understanding of God’s paradigm and purpose of life. The difficulty now lies in whether the Christian in our example will view this opinion as a public or private concern in his/her own direct sphere of influence.



As earlier examined, we align ourselves with figures that best represent us and our goals in our lives. These are initially shaped from birth through the direct care givers, and further cultivated or created in childhood through our alignment and experiences. It is expected by the time one reaches adulthood that clear forms of thinking are established. One is deemed not to care about the society s/he lives in if s/he is unable to decide on a political party. It is expected that one should be aligned with at least one of the parties, most preferably the party that the individual’s family and friends are partial to. This is not something that is consciously done or discussed, rather it happens as a direct result of the relationships formed throughout our lives that are in complete alignment with our mind frame and view of society and the world. Should one deviate through thought and action from what has now become a standardized way of thinking and living, it creates a visible imbalance that is usually immediately rectified by societal Voices that demand the banishment of such rebellious thought/action.

This process is not easily identifiable and usually occurs without either party being aware of the exchange. A quick example is reflected in an individual’s choice to quit smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. The comments that will first be heard before the congratulatory remarks from like-minded individuals will either deflate or encourage the individual’s stance to continue giving up the habit. The comments however ultimately remind the individual that s/he is segregating him/herself in a bid to live a “better” life. The reminder to the individual is that underlying all relationships formed is one common factor, like-mindedness. This element comes to the forefront when an individual goes “rogue” in thought and deed, and threatens the existing delicate balance, because through his/her changes,  individual self exploration and growth or refusal is demanded, and not a lot of people are physically/mentally ready for this process. Bearing this information in mind, and as earlier intimated, the question begs to be asked: Are we willing to live without the people and ideas that fundamentally shaped most of our lives? As we continue to give strength to the Voice within us that questions what society presents as truth, are we mentally strong enough to realize the origin of criticisms leveled at us? Or, will we attempt to read into the lives of the authors, people around us and anything else that deflects from turning the mirror inward to examine internal convictions and where they are derived from.

The usefulness in self-awareness is in the growth that would take place. By analyzing writings and statements that jar our emotions,  we are able to understand where our internal framework of self originates, and explore whether our thoughts and actions are still useful to our continued growth and success. By continually doing this, we instill in ourselves self confidence that permeates our very being and allows us to listen and understand contrary points of view. What this means is that we are not easily afraid of being “corrupted” by contrary points of view. We would be looking forward to either learning or reaffirming an individual truth. The standard of “expected” actions and reactions would not be society driven, rather, would be derived from a deep instinctual Truth that would not operate from Fear. It is this last element that keeps us from growing and sharing. It is this last element that strives to silence those whose inner voices are becoming stronger and louder by attaching needless labels such as idealists among others to the many unfounded criticisms. This last part is better explained in the various discussions held with direct sphere of influences whereby an individual truth is shut down by comments such as “You can’t”, “No-one does that” and “Everybody knows this” etc. By honestly acknowledging then examining our reactions to things that provoke us, we open the doors to self-knowledge. If we walk in unafraid, we can expect that the inherent tools for success within us, silenced by a myriad of irrelevant Voices, will take over and begin their work.  
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Looking Glass – Reflection/Perception

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