I have been thinking a lot about perceptions, how we shroud ourselves in the filters they provide and often hide behind them. It is far easier to make a judgement and stand on our own moral high ground; than it is to admit to ourselves that we are afraid of understanding. Easier to justify our actions than it is to admit we might be wrong.
We perceive through the filters we have allowed life to impose on us. Faith, belief, events, even gender … everything that touches our lives grows our range of experience, and too often, I think, we allow that experience to force its way through at the weakest point of our moral fibre. Like the wall of a dam, once there is pressure on a weak point, the waters can rush through. That weak point can be a sluice gate where we have control of the switches, or simply a fault in the masonry. Should we really be allowing our perceptions to become faults in the wall? How often do we ask ourselves whether we are building on truth, or whether it is just possible that we may have misunderstood a basic premise?
“I know what I’d do in those circumstances…” We hear and say that so often. Yet, actually, we don’t know. We only know what we hope we would do, what we would like to think we would do. Anything else could mean looking too deep, and it is easier, safer to stick to the surface. Because, I have the feeling that the biggest fault in our perception is ourselves.
We too often close the doors of our minds to that which is new and challenges our vision of self, especially when it brings our good opinion of self into question. We stick to what we would like to believe about ourselves instead of examining our reflection in the mirror of the inmost heart.
Let me give you an example, if I may. On Friday a young man will be released from prison on licence. He will have served less than half the seven year prison sentence he was given for a sickeningly violent crime, while his victim will spend the rest of his life fighting the injuries and consequences of the attack. When the release was reported in the papers there was outrage. The violence of the assault was appalling and unprovoked and people were aghast that the prison term should be so shortened under the law.
However, what I found impossible to accept were the ill-wishes, the desire for revenge, the hatred and the violence that was suggested as a fitting punishment for his early release. Yet these are people genuinely moved by the story, who sincerely feel for the victim.
The victim himself said to me that he cannot understand this. People are outraged because they despise the violence of the attack… yet they imagine, speak of and even offer a similar level of violence in response to it. It makes no sense. Violence begetting violence, rather than the experience itself being allowed to highlight the consequences of such action and be a positive force for change and growth.
Somewhere there is a fault in perception. People who feel they are taking a moral stance are yet ready to sink, even if only in thought, to the level of that which they despise.
I am no saint and as I cannot forget, I cannot forgive the perpetrator of such horror. But nor do I hate or wish him ill. I hope that the young man has learned something that will change the way he faces the future. I can say this in all honesty because I am part of this story and do not have to wonder how I would feel. I know.