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This column made its debut in The Rage Monthly in January of


2011 with the intent of encouraging respectful conversation and discussion about the issues of our day that divide rather than unite us. So this month’s “THINK ABOUT IT” talks about how we balance reason and emotion, to form perceptions that honor our singular experiences, even as we seek to understand perceptions contrary to our own. When we strive to understand rather than judge those un- like us, we stand to find the common ground we share to the benefit of all. We are creatures of habit, the products of a cornucopia of environ-


ments, experiences and abilities which can tend to block tolerance, understanding and passive acceptance of perceptions different from our own. Imbedded in those perceptions are emotions that


“So, this month’s ‘THINK ABOUT IT’ talks about how we balance reason and emotion,


to formperceptions that honor our sin- gular experiences, even as we seek to under- stand perceptions contrary to ourown.”


gray. Grasp these concepts, and it is clear each of us inherently holds and is limited by our own perspectives which father the actions and reactions most comfortable to us. People of like perceptions form communities and communities seek to secure a sense of commonal- ity of purpose, protection and wellbeing. Armed with this understanding, it becomes evident that none of


CONTRARY


PERCEPTIONS &


SELF-AWARENESS: THREE STEPS TO FINDING COMMON GROUND by william e. kelly


the human experience is unique or singular. Yet, the combinations in which experiences unfold, are not only unique but highly influenced by our perceptions and behavior. Put more plainly, what is unique is not experience, but rather the intricate rich mixture, intensity and duration of the variables that comprise experience. It is this mixture that sets the stage for all we are, could or will be and the perceptions we each become accustomed to and are most inclined to rigidly ad- here. The infinite combinations, the timing, frequency and intensity of our exposure to life’s variables is what gives each of us the unique gift of self. Accordingly, there are a plethora of guideposts directing the routes we take with an infinite number of starting and finishing lines to cross. Each of us depends on the personal character and indi- viduality we develop while traveling paths we choose and paths we do not. Specifically, the unique gift of “self” largely colors the choices we make. Choice is an elastic concept that expands and contracts with our exposure to the variables of life’s experiences. Finally, the role our genetic makeup plays in the intricate dance


trigger knee-jerk reactions which impede well reasoned responses. Emotions such as fear and mistrust diminish our collective ability to address serious questions common to the wellbeing and survival of humanity. Stubbornly holding and protecting individual percep- tions that nurture negative emotions create conflict to the benefit of none and the detriment of all. Our individual capabilities evolve within the environments into


which we are born and raised. Coming to understand that our behav- ior is shaped by circumstances unique to each of us is the first step in establishing a common ground. The second is the recognition that the environments we are exposed to differ widely, so the possible combinations of “learning” opportunities and the experiences that shape our perceptions are just as varied. Thus the notion of indi- vidual choice is neither black nor white but enumerable shades of


with our experiences, adds yet another elemental twist to how perceptions form. Once such an understanding is achieved, it is possible to focus on unifying points of agreement we share with others, rather than on the divisive. That process requires we strive to objectively retrace the general evolution of our own perceptions and reactions. This methodology of self-awareness is not so much aimed at finding reasons for the past, but rather to identify the possible options for the future. It is not about finding excuses—it is about finding solutions to shared challenges. We all have much to teach and to learn about the significant roles


our perceptions play in all we do and say. Share your views on the controversial issues of our time and what influences you hold to them. I am convinced that the constructive and respectful art of con- versation and listening, can provide solutions to mutual challenges, answer questions common to our wellbeing and allow humanity to not just survive but thrive.


JUST THINK ABOUT IT!


Send your thoughts to Bill at bkelly@ragemonthly.com, and I will answer your questions as quickly as possible.


28


RAGE monthly | FEBRUARY 2012


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