I stood at the corner of Ashland and Wellington whilst waiting for the light with an XL Dunkin coffee in my right hand, a Vitamin Water in my left and a banana in my pocket. I literally had a banana in the left pocket of my gym shorts. I found this highly amusing due to my sophomoric sense of humor and began thinking about how perfect it would be to run into an old flame on my walk home so I could tell her, in all honesty, that I both had a banana in my pocket and was also happy to see her. Highly content with myself, I stood there smiling, sipping on my Vitamin Water next to a mom, dad and young boy in a stroller. As we awaited our green light a car turned in front of us with a smiling dog sticking his head out the rear passenger window. The little boy excitedly pointed and happily shouted, “Doggy!” And just like that my thoughts took a 90 degree turn away from boner jokes and things got all 5th dimensional. (*Note to self – single at 31 beginning to make more sense by the day).
I started thinking about that moment. A seemingly meaningless moment around 9:30 AM on a grey Saturday in September. But it’s the collection of all these seemingly meaningless moments throughout our lives that make us who we are. Our personal experiences, these moments, are what create our entirety…the Self. These first hand accounts, more specifically the way they make us feel, each go into the invisible ledger of our Mind. They collectively form not only our personality but determine how we interact with, and relate to, everything else in existence. We are simply conscious observers on an endless journey of self discovery. Perception creates reality, and our perception is most strongly connected to, and shaped by, our totality of personal moments of existence and the emotions attached to each. That boy just had a positive moment with a dog. Moving forward in life he now has a more positive view of dogs than he had before. One would assume that he already had a positive relationship in his mind with canines based on his excitement when he saw the aforementioned mutt, but regardless, this moment only further confirmed within his Mind that dogs are good.
But on the opposite end of the spectrum the same is true. What about the child who has a bad experience with a dog at a young age? Perhaps he was bitten, barked at, scratched, knocked over, saw a dog hit by a car, etc…this child will have a very different relationship with dogs throughout his or her life. And it doesn’t even matter if the dog was doing something bad, just that the child perceived it as such at the time. Perhaps as a toddler a dog excitedly chased a thrown toy and accidentally ran into him, knocking the child down. The dog’s true temperament doesn’t even matter, only the way the situation made the child feel. That’s what shapes and paints his lens of consciousness moving forward. It’s not until one has enough positive experiences with dogs to come to the conclusion that not all dogs are bad, he just had a negative experience with one dog or some dogs. Until he faces that fear he will be shutting himself off from all the wonderful things about the relationship between dogs and humans.
And that’s just dogs. Throughout our lives we have moments with innumerable animals, people, plants, objects, activities, etc. Our perception of each is skewed by our random interactions with these things. But is that the only thing that determines our perception of reality? What about our thoughts and beliefs regarding things we have not personally experienced or with which we have only limited experience? When there’s a gap in our knowledge we feel uneasy due to a primitive fear of the unknown. So in order to feel secure we tend to fill in these gaps with hearsay and what is socially accepted as “truth” i.e. prejudice. Nietzsche once said there is no truth, only interpretations. While that’s a very extreme statement it does carry within it some merit. What do we truly know for sure? Perhaps the dog was smiling because he just ripped a real nasty fart and was stinking out the others in the vehicle, amused at their expense…that dog could have been a real asshole. The truth that exists is the truth we create in our Mind; a truth that changes from person to person and from moment to moment. Trying to force your truths upon others isn’t only a real dick move, but it’s also completely illogical. You’re never going to change someone’s Mind until you first change his or her heart. They need to feel differently about someone or something before they believe it. There’s simply no lying to the heart.
So what can we take away from all this cognitive gymnastics? We all need to stop giving a shit about what anyone else says or thinks and discover our own truth. Start living in the present moment and paying attention to the way things make you feel. Let go of your concrete beliefs and be open to change. Our personal truth is malleable and that’s a very good thing. It means that regardless of what has happened, might have happened or will happen we are always in control of the way we choose to see it. Inner peace is simply a choice of perception. See every situation as a beautiful experience or a wonderful lesson and that becomes your reality. The key is to pay attention to as many moments as you can and open yourself up to new ones, or things that you’ve closed yourself off from experiencing for whatever reason. I recently read somewhere that depression means you’re focused on the past, anxiety means you’re living in the future and peace exists in the present moment. When you stop fretting over things you can’t change or control and focus on creating uplifting moments within your everyday life the human experience turns into a masterpiece of joy. I don’t know the truth about that dog, nor do I know what the future holds for that little boy. True happiness comes only when you find peace with knowing that these and many other questions exist and in being ok with not always having the answers to them. Confucius and Socrates both said that true wisdom is knowing how little we can ever truly know. And what I don’t know could fill the oceans many times over.
So what do I know? Once upon a time there was a doggy…