DISCLAIMER: This post will read like a long rant and I’ve been told it’s all over the place and it’s understandable since I literally vomited whatever out from my mind. My bad.
For these past few days, I’ve been thinking a whole lot; I’ve been ruminating a lot, wrestling within myself thoughts after thoughts. Additionally, for these past few weeks, I have completed a couple of books on the genre, Psychology—perhaps the very reason why I thought a lot. It isn’t so much of technical Psychology where the content is as dry as bone but rather, insightful and helpful psychological suggestions or ideas I think are crucial—and key, too!—to living a good life—as perceived by you and you will understand why in a while. I shall try my very best to convince and persuade you to think likewise.
I’ve always believed the difference between successfully convincing someone and not at all, lies in the way words are used and how sentences are constructed; I believe there is always this perfect string of words that when put together, will undoubtedly be the most harmonious way to put it out there—thereby easily absorbed and most persuasive.
I feel this topic is beyond my understanding and thus may not have been written as cogently as I would have liked it to be, so do pardon me if it is in any way incoherent and confusing. I had initially wanted to just fuck it and trash this idea, but I felt that this thought, opinion, idea or belief—Perception is Key—is a vital knowledge and will certainly, if read carefully, help you in your transient time on Earth.
My only hope is that upon finishing, you allow this indispensable wisdom, Perception is Key, to be introduced into your mind and go on reading more about it yourself.
To be really really honest, I remember coming across this very notion, somewhat faintly, somewhat differently, that Perception is the Key—the key to unlocking the enigmatic door to a well-lived life. Perhaps it was 18 when I first came across it. Since, I’ve often stressed the need for open-mindedness, or receptiveness of ideas or thoughts, with my closest friends, as being open or receptive will unlock the library of perspectives—though a different kind of perception. Wider and varied perspectives lead to better perception; I believed by gaining more perspectives it allows one to better handle any given situation as they will be able to find the appropriate perception to any given circumstances—or acquire the ability to have the right frame of mind for the corresponding situation.
However, the idea wasn’t as impressed upon me as it is now. Perception is Key, and I shall try my very best to convince you so.
“Nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” — Shakespeare
This Perception I’m referring to is the very idea that one is able to conceive [sic] a particular situation, in a particular way, in a particular manner. Perception is the very ability to conjure something up differently from Tom (Dick or Harry) next to you, of the same exact situation. If anything, it’s the one superpower we are able to obtain, with enough practice that is.
To explain it better, take for example an unfortunate incident: Your friend betrayed you and stole your grand idea for this project you both needed to submit.
Tom could have experienced it but perceived poorly of the situation and went, “Fuck that bitch. I’m so done. What am I gonna do? I’m gonna do so badly now,” and proceeds to throw in the towel and give up on everything.
However, the right and helpful perception might be something like, “Hey, that isn’t right. Oh well, I guess I found out early that she isn’t my friend after all. I guess I can do better and shall use this opportunity to come up with a better idea then!”
Though I agree life isn’t all sunshine and roses, and if your mind isn’t primed to perceive positively, it will be difficult for you to think in that manner. However, this is where your values and principles you use to guide yourself come in. (We shall talk about this in a while.)
Rumour has it Siddhartha Gautama (or, widely known as the Buddha) led a privileged life of luxury and high status. His father was a king. As the king, Buddha Sr. wanted his son to have it all, to live a perfect life—happily ever after without experiencing any kind of suffering or problem. Thus, he built high walls to ensconce Buddha Jr. from ever knowing the pain and suffering of the outside world. In short, he spoilt the child with whatever he wanted; servants at his bidding at every beck and call, every whims and fancies. Buddha was rottenly spoilt and grew up totally unaware of sufferings on the outside.
You wish you had such a childhood, wouldn’t you? But wait a minute… Buddha became dissatisfied even so, and had actually felt everything was pointless.
You can only perceive something as good if you had experienced or know the bad.
Which was why everything he had, everything he felt, everything he experienced never meant anything to him; he grew up knowing the scale only from 1 to 1, not having the ability to recognise the golden (not silver, mind you) spoon he was fed with.
So, he promptly packed his bag and left Hotel Palace for the local village nearby. Culture shock, as we would call it today; he was horrified and stricken to death as anyone would expect. He, for the first time, realising his lap of luxury; he saw hobos and ill-ridden people; he saw pain, he saw suffering and even people dying. Immediately, he turned tail and scooted back to the Palace. However, back at home, and definitely to everyone’s surprise, instead of being grateful for all that he has, Buddha decided it was Buddha Sr. that caused his unhappiness and misery. Junior blamed Senior for the very things his father had tried to do for him.
“It must have been the riches that made my life so meaningless,” Buddha thought, and again, he decided to run away. This time, he ran away from it all; he gave up his royalty, his family and all he is entitled to. He lived on the streets and starved; eating discarded scraps of food and dressing in filthy rags. He suffered.
(Similar to the life Buddha led was Greek Philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope.)
Buddha suffered, and suffered greatly he did—you’d think.
However, years followed after years, and Buddha realised one day: Suffering isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s manageable.
Next, rumour has it that while sitting under the shade of a bodhi tree, he experienced enlightenment while meditating for 49 days—consecutively without leaving that spot. The realisation? Suffering is an inherent part of existence from birth, through sickness and old age, to death. The knowledgeable suffers from his knowledge, the ignorant suffers from his ignorance; the rich suffers from his wealth, the poor suffers from his poverty. Life itself is a form of suffering; suffering is inevitable.
The point is: Suffering is inevitable (if you can’t already tell). By correctly perceiving suffering, or have the right perception that suffering is part and parcel of life—no matter where you are, no matter what you do and have—you will not only feel better, you will also be better able to handle the sufferings. In short, it’s about accepting your sufferings. It is how you choose to perceive—life, the obstacles you go through, the imminent sufferings you will face and any other experiences—that eventually determines your well-being and happiness.
Above is an example of perception of suffering, objectively compared by Buddha as he went through both the impecunious and also the luxurious life. Goes to show suffering isn’t necessarily caused by how deep your pockets go, and the correlation between Money and Happiness is actually very weak (if you hadn’t already known.)
Side Story: There was one day when I went out with a couple of friends; pride and greed were our topics of discussion. I argued against having them as I believe by indulging in them, one will without a doubt, find himself in an equivocal situation where one’s values will be easily violated because of such ardent desires to fulfill their pride’s need and greed’s want.
Point being: To perceive Success, as purported and further falsely perpetuated by the media, as the equivalent of possessing tangible things, is everything but the right perception. When one overvalues material success, personal values will be easily compromised. To perceive Happiness to be a derivative of material acquisition, or put it simply, to think things can buy you happiness, will not only lead to you being unsatisfied and discontented, it will lead to your ruin.
Point refuted: However, I still agree it is both essential and necessary to have pride, but only in one’s own character, the work he’s done and his own accomplishments. As I believe by doing so—deriving pride from one own’s standard, the quality of work he’s able to produce and the excellence he’s able to reach—it will compel one to constantly strive to exceed themselves of yester-, improve, and produce greater and better work. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing anything if there’s nothing to relish in, right? But the danger lies in the overindulgence of this pleasurable pride of thinking one has achieved a lot or is already ‘there’ and doing so will be one’s downfall—leading to stagnation of one’s ability from the reluctance of listening to anyone else.
Material comfort is also condoned if it’s within one’s boundaries, yes, but how often do you see people striving to prove success by acquiring things? How often do you see people taking up loans after loans to keep up with their credit as they surrender themselves to their pride’s need for status in this society?
Pshhh! Take that, Jon!
My point from this: Incorrect perception of Success and Happiness will be detrimental to one’s well-being.
So far, as you can tell, perception does not apply only to the negative side of life—thinking suffering is an inevitable part of life. (Btw, thinking positively is actually harmful to your emotional health. Read about Forced Positivity by this Harvard Psychologist if you don’t trust me.) It also applies to the positive side of life—success and happiness requiring healthy perceptions, so does love and relationship too. 1600 words in and I have yet to discuss about the perception of obstacles, difficulties and failures; and I will not go on to do so because someone told me how long my posts are. But I do hope you find them out yourself.
Remember, Life is only exciting and worth living when you experience both the ups and the downs, the infatuation and the heartbreaks, the success and the failure. Life is but a bundle of joy and sadness.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change,
the courage to change the things I can,
the wisdom to know the difference.
0000, and already 5 hours since I started this piece. If you don’t recall, I mentioned how one’s values and principles will guide your perception, above. Values are about prioritisation. Only when you have steel-forged values and steadfast principles, only when the standards you hold yourself to is high, will you not falter and crumble at the sight of worldly desires; only when you are definite of your purpose and person, will you be clear of the ambiguous. Only then, will your life be clear and worth living.
Life is akin to that of sculpting a sculpture.
The Act of Sculpting is the Meaning of Life; the sculptor hammering into and improving the sculpture, as you would improve your character.
Then there’s you, the Sculpture.
The Chisel being the Obstacles in life, striking onto you but changing you for the better.
The Hammer being the Deliberated Effort you put in.
The Sweat obviously the metaphor for the Determination, Persistency and Perseverance.
How worthy your life is, is dependent on how much effort you put into sculpting that sculpture. How magnificent the sculpture turns out to be, is dependent on how you decide life should be.
Remember, Materiam Superabat Opus. The workmanship was better than the raw material; the quality of your life isn’t dependent on the things you have, but the work you do for yourself.