Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Linda Downing

Perceptions reveal who we are

Published:   |   Updated: May 6, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Perceptions of life differ greatly from person to person. How we look at things can bring either victory or defeat. Perceptions reveal who we are.

An anonymous story illustrates. Once while St. Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, "What would you do if you were suddenly to learn that you were to die at sunset today?" He replied, "I would finish hoeing my garden."

Forty years ago on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took the first moonwalk. His words touched the world: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." In "The Day The Earth Stood Still," Dennis McCafferty conducted interviews (USA Weekend, July 10-12, 2009). Scientist Neil Tyson, a 10-year-old at the time, saw the Apollo mission as a great adventure to unlock bigger things. Sen. John McCain, a POW in North Vietnam, heard after the fact and was "boosted by the optimism of unlimited possibilities." Newsman Bob Schieffer said the walk made America No. 1 again. This columnist, struggling through college, balancing the care of a 2-year-old with studies and work, rendered 30 seconds awe and no thought whatsoever.

Irish Catholics are swarming St. Mary's parish in the village of Rathkeale. They discern the Virgin in what's left of a recently felled tree. Meanwhile, the bulls are running again in Pamplona, Spain. Humans accompanying them envision adrenalin highs and fame, forever surprised at gorings and deaths. This columnist sees, in order: a tree stump, brute victims, and human stupidity.

Those stepping onto the 1,353 feet high balconies of the Sears Tower in Chicago feel they are standing on nothing. In reality, the glass floor is substantial. So are the poles and other objects people are running into as they lose themselves text messaging while walking and driving. The Tampa Tribune's astute, front-page observation: "The more electronically plugged in people become, the more likely it is that they literally will collide with the real world" (5/30/09). This columnist's view: Amen.

Rhesus monkeys in captivity live about 27 years. Canto, age 27, old, thin, tight, caged, stares sadly out his glass door, deprived of 30 percent of his normal calories. Owen, age 29, old, plump, droopy, caged, appears equally bereft, though at least allowed a normal diet. Application? Maybe humans can live longer, healthier lives eating at subsistence level. This columnist's take: Maybe, especially those descended from apes.

A story from Acts 12 in the New Testament comes to mind. The madman Herod jails Apostle Peter. The church people vow to pray until he is released. God hears, sends an angel to break Peter's shackles and to lead him out. When Peter gets to the house of the prayer meeting, he knocks and yells to identify himself. A woman named Rhoda hears, getting so excited she fails to unlock the door, but runs to tell the others. Although praying, they have no perception of answered prayer and tell her: "You're out of your mind ... It must be his angel" (verse 13 NIV). This columnist's insight: Who we say we are better be who we really are or we will never see clearly.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at


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