Perception Change

Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner in their book “Teaching as a Subjective Activity,” present the following for our contemplation: “The ability to learn turns out to be a function of the extent to which one is capable of perception change (21).” What this means is that your learning something is dependent upon your capacity for imagining yourself to be other than you are or aiming to properly imagine yourself into the situation that you are faced with. How many times have our perceptions of ourself stifled our potential for taking action or for challenging ourselves in new ways?

Or, said otherwise, when approaching a situation, are you capable of opening yourself to the potentialities of the situation? This seems to follow along the lines of living a great life and being the person that you want to be, becoming the person that you want to be. I remember a meeting with a respectable person, a person whose work I had studied for years prior. When that person told me that, “yes, we could meet tomorrow,” I was overcome with anxiety and fear. However, luckily, I was able to push the fear aside and take the risk of meeting this respectable person. In this kind of situation, what is the nature of the fear? What triggers the panic the could potentially crush the hoped-for situation? In retrospect, it is amazing to find that the panic on my part was severly over-exaggerated. What seemed like a great chasm, was merely a crack in the sidewalk.

It seems that one’s existence is not simply “in one’s head,” but in fact stretched out to the people that one meets and the objects and situations that one is surrounded by. Perhaps we come to know ourselves through the interaction with our environment and with the people in our environment. Our interpretations of how things are are perhaps more important than the things themselves. Perception change can come from wiping off the table or from listening to the wind in the afternoon. However, perception change sometimes does not come easy and it is difficult at times to will ourselves to see things differently. Perhaps, the thinking process returns to an obsessive fear or a hindering shiver of doubt (this is also a mode of perception change). In these times of gloom, it may be necessary to force our body into action, to change our normal routine and to risk “losing face” in order to break the moldy habits that have consumed us. The beautiful thing about a human is that a human is incomplete and in this incomplete existence we can work to change ourselves and to change our lives over and over and over again.