Reality versus Perceptions

What is reality and how do our perceptions change? Sometimes it comes with age and experience and other times it’s just plain common sense. Is society so blinkered these days where reality seems so abhorrent and sad that people have to create perceptions to survive?

Who wants reality when they can live in a bubble and pretend that their lives can be like celebrities or reality television stars? Reality shows are staged and scripted by prompts; people don’t really live like that and if it gets boring or people don’t cooperate they ‘leave’ the show.

The problem is the media hypes reality to be something it’s not, and behind closed doors the persona of most people is in fact very normal and boring. Famous models and actresses do walk around without makeup and politicians and actors do take public transport. Reality is not always exciting, but is about survival and being as happy and content as possible. The media tempts and goads us to buy bigger houses, buy expensive clothes, and to eat out at fancy restaurants. If the average person can do, then we all can, can’t we is the message they portray. In society we are perceived as equal, but it’s human nature where you will always find someone who wants to be bigger and better than a sibling, neighbors, or friends. No one will admit it, but it’s true.

Our perceptions change when we yearn for something that we are led to believe we can be or have. We want to believe it’s possible, or some choose to only see what they want to see. Many don’t want to know about the homeless street people (thinking it’s their own fault) or the single parent working two minimum wage jobs, or that the elderly maybe lonely and need help. We are led to believe that these things are taken care of, but in reality they are not. What if it was you?

Reality is seen as depressing and boring, but is honest and is how many people do live or survive in this world. People do struggle to put food on the table and live hand to mouth, racism and sexism still exists despite the laws making it illegal, and people do lie and cheat. Accepting reality and acknowledging it is much better than pretending it doesn’t happen, yet the reality for the minority is that their lives can be out of touch for the masses. Even the celebrity life can be a façade—what is perceived and what is reality are two different things. The sibling of a famous actor told me that they saved their air miles to travel, even though they are a multi-millionaire. I remember well-known comedian traveling on the bus standing next to me, and a model and pop star were told that they had to give up the two tables they were using and to let me have one. That’s reality, what many don’t see.

Society is built up on materialism, and humanity, in helping others and protecting nature comes further down the list. What we perceive makes us happy, but how real is it? Are you brave enough to see reality in humanity for what it really is, or is it easier to create your own perceptions?


Losing and Regaining Faith

There will be times in an incarnation when self-doubt rears its head, or there are instances where you question things and lose your Faith. It can be in humanity, yourself, or both. I was inspired to write this as someone commented that they were spiritually tired and when that happens you can lose Faith. I do feel this is normal, because our Faith does need testing at times, when we get complacent or take things for granted. It can even happen when neither of those things takes place. I see it as if you on a voyage and lost at sea, hoping and fighting to find your way back to safety or what is familiar.

No one can tell you how you should feel and that you are wrong or faithless, because Faith can waver; one day you maybe strong, and weaker another. You must have Faith in yourself first, then that can stretch to others and humanity. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, when humans are not perfect. The media and society does create a stereotype that is an idealistic framework, but these model citizens don’t exist, and those that do, only appear for a short period of time. Life and a Soul incarnation is about learning and growing and that means developing your Faith too.

We will all have days where we question, ‘Have I done enough, could I have done more?’ or ‘What can I do to make things better?’ The lesson is you can only do what you can, some things are beyond our control, when things haven’t gone as they should have (despite perfect planning), shows us that we cannot plan everything, and sometimes bad things do happen to good people. We lose Faith because we expect things, and at times it doesn’t seem fair. That’s when you question Faith; you’re a good person but luck and good things don’t come your way, but someone you know who is selfish and mean gets a new job and gets to travel round the world. It’s not always fair, and one can question Faith if you never seem to get a break even if you are grateful for what you have.

I lose Faith in humanity when I see people in the corporate world turn a blind eye to the façades they create, lies they justify, and others that are harmed, or when people fail to help a fellow being in need because they are afraid of getting hurt or sued. The worst is when bystanders or security guards watch people being attacked and they choose not to step in, or seeing someone being bullied and turning a blind eye. These are only things one can counteract by staying true to yourself and retaining your integrity. Lead by example and do not follow others. When you lose Faith in yourself, often it is when you are at a crossroads of what you wish to do and what you want to do. You question whether you are being selfish and self-indulgent, sensible, or practical? It’s a time when your questions aren’t being answered, but they will later, or maybe you need to ask different questions?

Having Faith requires trust, and trust takes time to gain and moments to lose. On the journey of life, many of us will be ‘lost at sea’ or find ourselves on an uncomfortable road. It’s a challenge, so when we do regain our Faith, we are more prepared for the times when things are difficult or unclear. When that happens our Faith does grow, and that is part of Soul Growth.

What is ‘Freedom’?

What is freedom? It’s when we are free to act or think as we choose without any constraints, so can it really exist? We are influenced by our peers, the media, and our environment throughout our life, so are our thoughts ever truly free?

I speak as the eldest and even as a child, I would have to look out for my sibling, so was I ever truly free to think as a carefree child when I had to make sure my sibling was safe?

Our actions are limited to what is legally and also what is morally permitted in society, so again, are we acting freely or within a framework and guidelines?

My thoughts are the closest thing I get to some kind of freedom, even then they are mired with thoughts of responsibility or moral conflict. I may have a less than generous thought about someone or an incident and maybe Karma will wave its finger at me, but surely I have that freedom to think that? Isn’t that human? If someone does the dirty on you at work, then you have some rights to think ill of them, if only for your pride and self-esteem. To me, while yes, you can then turn around and say, “It’s their problem and Karma will deal with it,” a human reaction should be free to express anger or hurt. While they are negative emotions, as long as they are transient, then learning from them makes you stronger. Learning to let go of things can be hard, but we should be free to do it when we are ready.

Writing down your thoughts, whether good or bad is an act of freedom. However, should they fall into the wrong hands then could it be libelous? If it is published or distributed, yes it can be. If they were stolen or distributed without prior knowledge, isn’t that a breach of privacy? People should be free to express their thoughts in their journals as long as they keep them safe and private. What happens to them years after they have died though? When I see published letters from celebrities’ archives, I think they should be kept private; in particular the one recently published from Joe DiMaggio to his wife Marilyn Monroe. He was expressing his private free thoughts and they weren’t to be shared with anyone else. With some diaries, they have proved to be an invaluable primary source for historians, while they are private, they also depict an accurate picture of an era or event. They also show the personality of the person, notably Anne Franks and Samuel Pepys whose famous diaries have helped piece together some important moments in history. Neither would have imagined their private thoughts would have been published for billions of people to read at the time.

Then there is the internet; today it’s the same as publishing something in a newspaper except it’s harder to delete or retract. Once you express yourself online, it is recorded forever unless the site is deleted. People confuse freedom with the rights of freedom; we have rights for freedom of speech and expression in many countries, but be prepared for public backlash if it is an unpopular opinion. That’s the thing about freedom, people have the freedom to reject or oppose your thoughts. It goes both ways. With libel laws, true freedom has limits in the public and even when allowed it can still cause harm and controversy, so does freedom harm others? It can, which is why true freedom cannot truly exist if we are bound by the legal and moral laws. These exist to protect, so to enjoy freedom, some freedoms must be limited or curtailed. Therefore true freedom cannot exist in society.

Few of us are free in our actions; as a child we have compulsory education (not always a bad thing), then as adults we are expected to have a career and then a family. Those who break from this are seen as eccentrics, but freer. I have a few friends who are able to live freely without having to have a home and working job-to-job and renting in random places. I’m sure it is liberating and I have been there, but it also gets tiring. It’s not as free as people think, always thinking where to go next and what if?

Many of us yearn for freedom, but what kind of freedom, and what is it exactly that holds us back? Duty, responsibility, morals or fear? Freedom to me is to be able to do what I want without harming or affecting others and to be able to express myself without fear of recrimination. I find that in my writing though not all the time. I can see imprints of guilt that linger and moral conflict from what I feel I should be doing and shouldn’t be thinking. Then I ask, “Am I truly free,” and realize even my inner thoughts are not as free as they should be.

© 2015. The Nomadic Philosopher. All Rights Reserved.

This was first published on Great Minds and Thinkers.

Knowing and Understanding your True Self

To truly understand yourself and know yourself requires you to go back to see who you were and how you became the person you are today. That means revisiting your childhood and both the good and bad memories. These are the subconscious acts that have created and developed the person you have become. When you are able to accept what mistakes you have made, things that in hindsight seemed like a good idea at the time and know these have contributed to what you have become, then you begin to know who you are. Even those with a tragic and sad childhood, you learn from it; how not to treat others and how to survive. It can make you stronger, cynical at times and even resentful of others with a more comfortable upbringing, but as an adult you have the choice to change that and the foundations of your childhood are a reflection of how you develop.

Many of us would prefer to forget certain things in the past; the bad haircuts, poor choice of girl or boyfriend, fibbing to parents, or copying someone’s homework, but we learn what is right and wrong and how it makes us feel. I call them character-building experiences where you are out of your comfort zone and you find you can cope and survive. I’m not a natural at camping, but I thought I could cope and it was harder than I imagined. Somehow I struggled through and cursed each night as I attempted to sleep in a tent, afraid the leeches outside would get me. After a lot of whining and support from the others on the trip, including my very patient guide (who became a good friend and still is) I learned that I am stronger than I thought and also know what suits me and what I should avoid if possible. We can’t all be good at everything; that’s being human and understanding others maybe better at certain things than you, but that it doesn’t make them better as a person or you lesser as one.

I recently looked at some old childhood photos. Some I remember being taken, how I felt and the occasion. Our childhood is where we are  our true authentic selves with little influence and our real personalities show through. I was a serious child, but I could still see some elements of playfulness and joy, yet I was curious and stubborn. Most photos were taken at Christmas or family trips to the beach; back then I loved books, cooking and stuffed toys. I still like my books and cooking, but still have the soft toys in my parent’s attic as a reminder of my childhood innocence. I mean, who would want them anyway if I gave them away? They were my childhood friends and were part of my life and as long as I have room, then there is no harm. It’s amazing how uncomplicated a child’s life is compared to an adult even though an adult has more control. Its control as adults we need to regain, because then you are being true to yourself then you who you really are.

If you don’t know who you really are, how can anyone else be expected to understand you? Do you like what you see? If not, then you can change it, because you need to like yourself before you can get to know the real you.

Knowing Right from Wrong

Most of us learn the unspoken moral code of what is right and wrong in society growing up, but recently I have noticed that people are bending those rules and the generation that is emerging is ignoring them altogether. They may know it’s wrong and still chance it, for example the American tourists (with a guide) who got caught carving their initials into the Colosseum in Rome and got arrested. Of course they knew it was wrong, but didn’t think they would get caught.

Another example are the arrogant folk that tell you are wrong when there is no evidence to prove that except in their ego. I often encounter such people and while I love a good debate, I choose not to waste my breath (or time typing) on narrow-minded egos. Even when someone is wrong, unless it is dangerous, I realize people need to find out certain things alone and it’s not my place to tell them, unless they ask for an opinion. That means sometimes watching them fall; harsh you may say, but if you try to protect a child from falling, how will they know what to do when you are not there when they do fall?

There is never a blanket solution for everyone, what is right for one maybe wrong for another. Perhaps someone isn’t ready to listen to a certain point of view or is able to understand it yet? I take the approach to keep an open mind about why people think as they do and respect where those beliefs come from.

I sometimes look at forums with philosophical debates, only to find people telling each other (and me) that I am wrong or right. I don’t need anyone to tell me either, because it’s individual. What’s right for me won’t be right for another, but sharing thoughts and theories is what philosophy and spiritualism is supposed to be about. Instead, it becomes a competition to see who thinks someone is right or wrong followed by a lecture from several egos. If someone has a questionable theory, I ask how they came about it rather than tell them they are wrong, because to them that might be the only truth they are able to see.

The only person who you should listen to is you, because you know yourself and what is best for you and what isn’t.

Revenge: A justified act?

What is justice these days and is society just? Who decides what is just? The imbalance in the justice system has led to people seeking revenge; justice as they see fit and what is deemed right.

It may seem to be moral, a father who kills someone who murders his child, but is it just? Some would say that’s real justice, however justice is when society decides and convicts someone of a wrongdoing and they either accept the decision of those who represent society or request an appeal. However, the justice system is subject to corruption from police officers forcing false confessions, withholding evidence and lawyers eager to make a plea bargain to lighten their workload.

An effective and moral justice system may prevent acts of revenge and society could begin to have faith in the justice system. It’s not foolproof and as society evolves, so does the definition and boundaries of justice. All these and more contribute to a justice system in decline, hence why some feel the need to take matters of moral laws into their own hands. While that feeling may arise in many, when someone is acquitted or found not guilty due to lack of evidence, do they have a right to seek their own form of justice? We, as humans abide by the laws set in each country that is how a civilized society functions, so we cannot take the law and reinterpret to our needs.

I do believe in the law of Karma. It’s not something you can predict and can take longer than the legal system and in some cases it maybe quicker than the system. Revenge is best kept as a thought, an emotional reaction to a wrongdoing, because to act on it renders one no better than the perpetrator. True justice will find its way, as long as you trust and believe and have faith.

Dead Poets Society: A film about life and integrity

I first saw this film when it came out in 1989, when I was about the same age of the main protagonist, Neil Perry. It was responsible for the reemergence of the quote, ‘Carpe Diem’, but for me it’s more about seizing the day—the film showed me that standing up for what is right is important for your soul and your integrity. These are traits that define you as you grow older and allow you to respect yourself, even when others cannot see things from your view.

John Keating, the liberal English teacher at a boarding school, portrayed by the late great Robin Williams epitomizes the journey of life, where one discovers creativity and defies the traditional school of thought. Like all good teachers and philosophers he teaches his students to think and not only the facts; something many teachers fail to do today as their own teachers did not take the time to teach them to think. Keating’s unique teaching methods encourages the students to think and see outside the box and also to break some school rules; it challenges loyalties among peers and betrayals from the weak. Trust is earned and gained and some pupils such as Dalton never betrays his friends or his teacher despite the consequences, unlike Meeks who doesn’t hesitate to protect himself.

The pivotal moment is when Perry, played brilliantly by Robert Sean Leonard, decides to follow his passion for acting, but knows he must hide it from his family who would disapprove. His plight, atypical of many ambitious families who decide the lives of their child, that do not listen to what the child wants, recognize their abilities or their individual personality. Despite trying to reason with his father, he feels he can only turn to Keating with whom he has a bond with and is someone who understands him, is willing to listen and also respects him. Teachers such as Keating are rare these days, but it is often the parent who barely knows their own child still to this day.

The recurring themes of loyalty, family values and society expectations are viewed through each character and how they react and develop. The result is that Perry’s parents failed to understand their son and his needs and the loss of his life inspires his former roommate, Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke to stand up for himself, for his own self-esteem and to do the right thing. Failing to stand up to his parents and signing a a false statement, he eventually finds the courage to lead his classmates in standing on his desk and declaring, “O Captain! My Captain!to Keating as he leaves. By standing on a desk, you can see life from a different perspective, which many of us fail to do and the mantra, “make your lives extraordinary” rings loud, because you are entitled to live your life how you wish, not one to make others happy. This is a poignant moment in the film where a teacher can touch a life and change it by sowing the seeds of strength and made a difference.

The film provokes many deep thoughts about how you choose to react; that some rules are there to be broken, because they need to change for society to develop. Are you brave enough to challenge the unspoken rules? Sometimes we have to; I challenged my college’s policy on writing references and told my Vice-Principal (in a very direct manner) that their policy was ineffective and unfair. I wasn’t suspended, but I did write a letter of apology and they did agree the policy did not serve the best interests of the students and it was changed, for me at least. Living your life with the courage of your convictions can lead to change and sometimes there will be consequences, but that is the challenge, called life.