Friday, 19 June 2015

It's All About Perception

The idea of different points of view catching different facets of a person or situation has always fascinated me.  Everyone perceives things a little differently and changes in information can make radical shifts in how we view things.

A classic contemporary example is Bill Cosby.  As information came out that he may have drugged young women and then done things to them without their consent (I say may as there has been no trial to settle the matter), his reputation underwent a dramatic shift.  A few years ago, very few people would have thought twice about leaving a young female relative with him.  Now I doubt many people would be willing to take the chance.

The part that interests me is that the truth of Cosby himself and his personality have not changed.  If he was a predator, he was always a predator.  He just hid it well.  The other parts of his personality, the humour and charm, those are still real and true facets of who he is.  He is not a complete monster.  Indeed, if he had been, he would never have risen to a position to be able to take advantage.  It's the blend of the monstrous with the attractive which I find fascinating.

We rarely know all the facets of those around us.  It can actually be a little scary to realize how little we truly know.  When my eldest son first went to school, I realized I was entrusting him for three hours a day with a perfect stranger, someone I had met only once and only knew very basic details about: her last name and that she was employed by the school board.  Even our friends don't know everything about us, there are incidents and aspects which we dismiss as trivial or hide as embarrassing.

I suspect this is a trend which will pop up often in my work: peeling back the layers of preconception and ignorance to gain a better understanding of the people we meet.  It was certainly a theme in Revelations, as Michael must overcome his preconceptions of Dani as a burlesque dancer and Dani must overcome her prejudices about the Huntress and the outside world.  I've also noticed it is a strong thread in Metamorphosis, with Lily and Ron actively hiding secrets from one another.

Our minds are designed to make quick judgments.  After all, in the relatively isolated Paleolithic times, if we saw a stranger, we needed to decide quickly if they were a threat or could be trusted.  Those instinctive judgments have their place and use.  Many people have reported uneasy feelings around human predators when they first met, feelings which they could not justify and ended up ignoring, to their regret.

But those judgments are almost always not telling us the whole story about a person.  We never know the history behind their current mask.  It could be tragic, funny, endearing, comforting or infuriating. 

We'll never know how many fascinating and meaningful stories are passing within inches of us.  Just like we can't appreciate how unique and powerful our own stories could be if we were brave enough to share them.

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