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\”Perception\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (PERCEPTION): The capacity for insight.

American publisher, Roger Birkman, wrote, “The reality of life is that your perceptions – right or wrong – influence everything else you do. When you get a proper perspective of your perceptions, you may be surprised how many other things fall into place.”

Our perceptions and our misperceptions affect how we view the world around us and affect how others view us. A former mentor once described how perceptions can affect someone. He said that it is extremely important to make a good first impression. If one does, then one’s subsequent behavior would be viewed from the lens of that impression. For example, if someone is viewed as a good person (student, worker, etc.) and makes a mistake, others will tend to discount it as simply a mistake made by a good person, an aberration. However, if someone is viewed as a bad person and makes the exact same mistake, others will see the mistake as proof of their initial impression. “You see, I told you that person was bad, and this mistake proves my point.” Unfortunately, our initial impressions are sometimes wrong. An educated person knows that we must take people one individual at a time and not associate group characteristics to individuals.

A while back, I received a report from a concerned citizen that claimed a group of our college cadets had damaged some property and generally made a nuisance of themselves. When I inquired about the specifics of the incident, I realized that the concerned citizen was obviously mistaken. I knew this for a fact because I was with the cadets at the time and place in question. Now, I realize that our camouflage fatigues tend to make us all blend in. Although we were a mixed group (age, sex and race), the concerned citizen only saw a large group of black men and “assumed” that they were up to no good. When I challenged the citizen’s report and told him that I was present with the group, the story abruptly changed. I do not think that the citizen lied, he was simply a victim of distorted perceptions that led him to assume something that was not true. Sometimes we need to look beyond appearances and our own preconceptions for a clearer view of reality.

British poet, painter and visionary mystic, William Blake, wrote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thru chinks of his cavern.”

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone. Martina Navratilova

True science investigates and brings to human perception such truths and such knowledge as the people of a given time and society consider most important. Art transmits these truths from the region of perception to the region of emotion. Count Leo Tolstoy

Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated. George Santayana

Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world. Hans Margolius

A primary function of art and thought is to liberate the individual from the tyranny of his culture in the environmental sense and to permit him to stand beyond it in an autonomy of perception and judgment. Lionel Trilling

Science is nothing but perception. Plato

Do what you know and perception is converted into character. Ralph Waldo Emerson

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us