Monday, January 5, 2015

Importance of Perception

At the time of the Sewol tragedy,a group of college students planned a festival and the religious sisters in charge wanted to change the program to one for reconciliation. In the column on the Electronic and Book World in the Catholic Times, the columnist wants us to use this situation to reflect on the word perception and its meaning.               

The sisters asked the 180 students what they wanted to do considering the disaster the nation was dealing with. They told those who wanted to continue with the  festival to go to the basement auditorium. They were hoping to see little movement, at least only half, one third .... They were  mistaken for without  hesitation almost all left for the basement. Only about 20 remained. And of those 20 were some that didn't enjoy the prospect of singing and dancing; this group spent time in silence, conversation and meditating. While the others enjoyed singing and dancing in the basement auditorium.

The sisters  alternatively spent time with each group coming and going, and were able to determine the spirit of each group. Surprisingly, they found  the faces of the smaller group seemed to have more joy. They were entering into themselves, hurting and sad but at the same time showed great peace and joy. The students that were singing and dancing also were enjoying their time together but their joy was stimulated by something external and different in kind from the other group. Dancing and singing, money and honor can bring only temporary joy.  Persons can be in pain, and sad, and yet can be at peace and have joy.

Perception in all these cases makes the difference.
Perception grasps the totality of the situation, knows what is important, puts order in thought and comes to understanding. She quotes one of the famous Korean philosophers of the past who maintained perception was at the center of our mental faculties. We are able to distinguish all the stimuli that come from the outside. When we hear, and see, our faculty to perceive uncovers what is important. We look for reasons and results, examine our experiences, and express our emotions. When we read we don't assign the knowledge to the store house but respond with perception and emotion that becomes part of the basis for the way we see life.

Consequently, when we hear a lecture or read a book one person is energized and another person finds it boring. We are not all living in the same kind of world. We respond to the same stimuli in different ways. How did the students receive the news of the Sewol tragedy and perceive what happened? Was it only news? Does having the festival mean the young people will not have time to grieve? Or are we dealing with a situation in which the young people see so many atrocities, and natural disasters that they have become unfeeling?

Perception is something more than reading and seeing the news and having knowledge of a situation. Perception is the meeting of sensation and our experience, giving us meaning and understanding  which becomes the bases for our introspection and contemplation. Perception does not mean to look upon the world as an object of our perception but to  meet and have direct contact with the world. Isn't this why, she concludes, we say real experience is the experience of perception?          

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