The last couple of weeks has been a whirl wind of emotions for me. As I have worked to get things settled in my life and continue to be a strong confident woman who trusts God over all else, a word that has kept resurfacing in my thoughts is perception. The way someone or something is perceived. What is the first thing that comes to your mind at the mention of this word? When my brother mentioned it to me in one of my conversations with him I honestly don’t think I had a complete grasp of the meaning of the word.
Perception: (Synonyms- discernment, insight)
-The ability to see, here, or become aware of something through the senses.
-The way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.
He talked about it in a military since with different ranking officers and the importance for them to maintain all perceptions of integrity. That if there is any question of their integrity being lost, they could be discharged even if the accusation is false because to many the perception of who they are has been altered. As I discussed this with him several questions came rushing to my mind: how do others perceive me? How do I perceive others? How do people perceive me in the work I am doing here? What is my perception on different religions? How do I perceive the Buddhist people I work with and their daily lives? How do the people here perceive each other? How do they perceive the roles they play in each other’s lives? And the questions continue.
“Everything is perception. In reality it’s all we have. We think we are viewing life through a camera lens recording the actual events we see before us but everything we witness is filtered through our own thoughts, beliefs, and experiences of life.” – Caroline Leon
I am not going to be able to answer my many questions through this blog. However, I do want to try and put some of my mind’s wonderings on this topic into writing as I look at the world surrounding me.
Psalm 103:15-16, says that our life is like a flower here today and gone tomorrow, yet our lives hold so much meaning. There are no ordinary people. All our human uniqueness is God’s gift to us. How we perceive our lives matters.
Perception of the Beauty of Nature
Psalms 119 says, the heavens declare the glory of God, creation displays his handiwork.
The mornings are my favorite time of day. I love waking up to go run watching the sky as color begins to make streaks across the horizon. I enjoy watching the black world around me become radiant in color as it begins to reflect the light of the sun. To me it is an amazing time to bask in God’s wonder. My perception of the world around me is that of a beautiful display of God’s creation for all to see. Often when I go and spend time with different friends here it is common for them to take me to an area that there is a manicured garden or a path the lines a forest area that is clear of litter outside of the city. The topic of the amazingness of creation is one they enjoy especially in relation to that of the mountains and rivers in their home villages. They enjoy being surrounded by the beauty of creation, yet their perception of the flowers, trees, mountains, rivers, and sky is seen through a very different lens. They do not know the creator God who loves them, yet they admire the beauty of the works of his hands.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind?
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Perception of Prayer
In my previous blog I talked to you some about the different rituals the Buddhist’s due in order to pray and worship what they believe to be true. How watching them do meaningless acts in order to gain merit often times brings me to tears. My perception of what they do to an Idol is far different than how they perceive what they do. As I was breaking down their religion in my mind I was thinking of some of the rituals they do daily and monthly.
In the Buddhist religion it is common for people to go up to high mountain peaks in the middle of creation to pray seeking to gain merit and an internal peace. In the Buddhist religion prayer as a whole is a huge part of their daily lives. A devout Buddhist here in Kathmandu often times will go to the Stupa in the mornings as early as 4 or 5 o’clock before they start their day to walk and pray. They then will go to their shops burn incense and pray over their shops. They pray before they eat, and then they end their day in prayer. The Buddhist take three days out of the month for prayer. They have their prayer days for certain events such as planting, harvesting, weddings, funerals, different celebrations of a baby, and so on. To a Buddhist prayer is very important. It may be for the wrong reasons and to a god who cannot hear them, yet they are dedicated.
My perception of their belief and what they do has been seen through the eyes of one who wants to share my beliefs with them because what they believe is so empty. Yet through this I have missed the devotedness to their belief. Honestly it has made me go back and assess my relationship and time spent with God. I don’t always get up and pray for an hour every morning before starting my day, I don’t pray over our office when I go to work, I don’t pray for an hour before I go to bed, I don’t set three or more days aside each month specifically for prayer. Yes, they do what they do for merit, how they get to their next life is through works. Yes, God’s grace, love, forgiveness is free. However, after observing how they perceive prayer it has made me look at my prayer life differently. I feel like in comparison to their prayer life mine is found lacking. Yes, thanks to Jesus we are saved by grace not through works, so we don’t need to keep a count of all our prayers (Ephesians 2:8-9), but what an amazing relationship with our creator we could have if we set more time aside just to be with Him. In my wondering of the word perception and seeing how the people of a different religion pray, I have had to stop and really go back and define prayer. Jesus taught us to pray in the Gospels his example of prayer was one to model (Matthew 6:9-13). Yet, I found that my definition of prayer has had to go back clear to Genesis and the communion God had with Adam and Eve in the garden. If my definition of prayer is communion with God like that at the beginning or like that of Jesus, why is it not a bigger priority in my life?
What is your perception of prayer?
Prayer: is a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity. (dictionary.com)
Perception of Honor
Did you know that honor is only honorable because it is valued as honorable? Did you know that honor is a community affair and that you cannot self-honor? The answers to those questions seem simple and obvious, yet what is honor to you?
Honor: high respect; esteem. A privilege.
In Nepal the society is made of the system of honor and shame.
They honor their parents, their community, and religion to prevent shame on them, as well as their, family, and community. A boy gets sent away to a monastery at a young age because it brings honor to the family. Arranged marriages are made to bring honor to the family and community. An arranged marriage has little to do with the individuals getting married if the family and community approve. Your position and birth order in the family matter on the level of honor in which you are held. A child learns the rituals and different mantras that need to be said at different occasions, not because they know the meaning behind them but because if they do not know them it will bring shame on the family. If a person would choose to step away from their faith it would be bringing shame to everyone around them.
Honor here is part of their language, you talk to a man or your superior with a different word structure than you do to an equal, and you talk to someone below you also with a different word structure. The aspect of honor and shame is literally tied into their daily conversations, let alone lives.
To us the perception of honor and shame seems horrifying because we are so used to what is right and wrong, and how we make others feel. Yet their perception is different it is their normal which is still hard for me to get a full grasp of.
Perception of Family
Here if you ask a young adult about their family it will include their immediate family meaning, father, mother, sisters, brothers. If asked details about family, extended family usually pretty quickly becomes part of the picture. To them often times a cousin or other extended family also becomes sister and brother. Yet they have very specific names for each person in their family other than a person’s name. Like a mother’s brothers and sisters are called different than a father’s brothers and sisters. You are also given a name regarding your birth order. For example, in my family my older sister is Jhati, I am Milie, my younger sister is Canchie, my younger brother is Jata, and my youngest brother is Cancha. Who you are in a family and the role you play is huge. Yet, it is common for a kid to be sent away to a boarding house to go to school at the age of 5 only seeing their parents maybe once a year. From the time the children are young they are raised outside of the family in order that they may be successful in life (here education holds power). So, these kids’ perception of family is not at all what my perception of family is.
In a cultural class that I took recently it was brought to my attention that even the perception of a mother and father has been tainted by what one thinks or perceives their role to be not in who they are. When asking them what their view of their mother or father is, they give an answer almost on what they hope to be true not necessarily on what they know. Their parents are there providers they have done what is needed to help them get through school but that is often as far as that relationship goes. So, when sharing the love of God with the people here the comparison of God and Father is not utilized because how they perceive father here is not how we or I perceive the word father.
Ones perception of how something is, is a powerful thing. It in a way is a gift because how you see things is individual to you alone. However, perception can also become dangerous if you do not let all the facts play into what you perceive.
The question of how others perceive me is one I do not think I will ever really be able to answer but I pray that with God’s help I will be seen as his daughter. How I perceive others is a question that I can answer and I ask God that he helps me see what He sees in each one of His children as I continue to grow in communion with him. The many other questions that I have in regards to perception I am sure I will find answers to as I continue to grow in God, the language, and the culture in this amazing world.
Now I turn the questions back on you my dear readers. How do you perceive others? How do they perceive you?