Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Perception Vs. Reality (again)

On the heels of a controversial IMF report, a popular newspaper in the United Kingdom has run an inflammatory piece on the state of the U.S. economy speculating we are on the brink of a depression. To illustrate the article, editors dug up a file photo that depicts a long, hopeless ribbon of poor folks standing in line. The bleak picture looks like a contemporary dust off of the soup kitchen lines of the Great Depression.

Commentators quoting economists here say the problem with the article is that its analysis of our economic situation is alarmist and simply wrong. Problem with the photo is that it goes back a number of years and was taken at the scene of a free coat exchange in New York City presided over by the mayor, himself. Uh, hence the long lines?

So, we have a situation--shocking, I know--where what we see in the world's press is not exactly as it really is. Reality redacted.

I heard a psychologist on the news talking about the harm that could leak out of this type of news story. He said that what we take "harvest" from the media--even if we rightly doubt it--can penetrate our psyche and begin to influence our perceptions and even our behaviors.

I have loved ones who are going through "stuff," and I'll leave it at that. Though their stuff isn't my stuff, I can't help but run a parallel track with them in my heart and my mind and absorb some of what they are experiencing even though it is not directly applicable to my own life. When this transference begins to affect my perceptions, my attitude, and, ultimately, even my behavior, I enter into kind of a "shadow land" where someone else's reality almost becomes my own. (Is this my weirdest post since the dark days of pondering Pascal?)

All to say: seek to understand the truth. And when reality starts to look like a fogged up bathroom mirror, recall this:

Finally bretheren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Phil. 4:8)

2 comments:

Beth said...

Sarah, I can so relate to your thoughts on struggling with being pulled into that "shadowland." A friend of mine once said, "If life isn't bittersweet, you're not paying attention!" It's a very real struggle to find that God-pleasing pathway that balances helping to carry one another's burdens with releasing the heavy-hearted weight of those burdens continually to the Lord and meanwhile living the life He has for YOU. Sometimes I feel that I'm in a perpetual classroom on this one. Interestingly, the very same verse you landed on is the one I've had posted on my refrigerator.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Beth... so eloquent... I should do a flip flop... put my post under "comments" and your comments where my post is!

Love that quote... "If life isn't bittersweet, you're not paying attention!" That resonates deeply on a couple different levels. A lot of us go through life in pain avoidance or denial... as a result, we fail to fully, meaningfully live our lives having learned and grown from the trials. (BTW... where's the class on this?? Can I sign up??)

Oh, it's a great verse for the fridge! (... and the bathroom mirror... kids' lunchbox... purse... computer desktop... next to the phone... above the television... )

Love, Sarah