Pentecost 167

Pentecost 167
My Proverbs 17

Magnificent Mysteries

Subways are a great place to hear interesting conversations. Strangers exchange comments about anything and everything and occasionally, so do friends. Recently, an acquaintance overheard a commuter offer an embroidered handkerchief to a young child who was happily smearing chocolate ice cream all over his face. The frazzled young mother hurriedly pushed the heirloom handkerchief away from her son’s outreached hand. She thanked the stranger, graciously refusing the offer and referring to how the chocolate would have stained the linen. The older woman laughed and she herself wiped the little boy’s face. “This is why I made it,” she explained. “I’ve carried in my pocketbook for several years, hoping that one day I would have the chance to offer it to someone. Now I can go home and remember. I do hope there is a little stain because it will be like the smile on your son’s face and brighten my day as I remember.” What seemed like a marring stain to one was instead a remembrance of the joy of a child to another.

Perception is an interesting thing and, depending on where one stands, lives, worships, breathes, etc., varies second to second. The word comes from The Latin “perception” which meant to sense and today refers to the organization and interpretation or identification of things sensed. The purpose of this is to identify what our environment is, to understand it, and to determine what it represents.

The five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound are physical and/or chemical consequences of things that have affected our sensory organs. These organs are directly a part of our nervous system. The perception is that someone with an acute nervous response is a “nervous Nellie” or a jittery person, overly emotional and perhaps a tad unstable. The person with great sensory responses, though, is someone who is finely tuned to the nervous responses and interpretations of their senses.

A telephone rings. Sounds simple but is it really? How the phone itself produces the sound is but one part of the equation. The airwaves are received by our auditory senses which then convey the stimulus to our brain which in turns interprets it based upon known experiences. Take our subway commuters in the first paragraph. Most if not all were wearing shoes. We would have known that through the sense of vision. The faraway or distal stimulus of the shoe is seen in the form of light (or the absence thereof) which is then received by the retina which serves as the proximal or close stimulus. The brain interprets this stimulus and a format of a shoe is recognized. This final stage is called the precept. And all of this occurs literally in the blinking of an eye!

Perception often determines our response and when we are confronted with the unknown, that response is often fear. We sometimes forget to be delighted by the unknown. Instead of relishing the chance to learn something new, we respond with distrust. A new kid in school generally has a difficult time until someone finds a common element between themselves and the new kid. Those not looking for this common element who will ignore that we are all human and indeed share a great many common things, will sometimes turn to bullying or gossip.

Death Valley is a wonderful place of contradictions. One might think since very little grows there that the starkness of the location would render it useless as a tourist destination but that would be incorrect. It is one of the most popular locations for people to visit in the United States of America. The perception of nothing there belies the wonder of its creation and its grandeur.

Death Valley has long been the location of one of the country’s greatest topographical mysteries. For years, scientists have attempted to both prove and explain the so-called sailing stones. Within Death Valley National Park is a location known as Racetrack Playa. The area is a scenic dry lake. Once filled with water from a glacier or other prehistoric body of water, the area is now a dust-laden flat area. The name Racetrack was given to it when scientists and park rangers noticed lines that appeared. The lines seemed to be made by boulders, some weighing as much as seven hundred pounds or three hundred-plus kilograms. These lines or tracks reached lengths of over eight hundred feet or two hundred meters and were both straight and curved.

About eight years ago a scientist from the National Aeronautics and Space Agency decided to compare the meteorological settings of the Racetrack Playa with that of a lake on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. Instead he became fascinated with the legends and lore regarding the “sailing stones”. Theories to explain the movement involved everything from aliens to ghosts and the general perception was that something out of this world or common science was the reason for the movement of these stones which seemed to move all on their own.

One theory offered for the sailing stones had been the wind but winds alone could not account for the movement. The NASA research team, after several years seem to have arrived at an answer. The research team deduced that, under certain winter conditions in Death Valley, enough water and ice could form to float the rocks across the muddy bottom of Racetrack Playa in a light breeze, leaving a trail in the mud as the rocks moved. Thus the mystery of this sailing stones of Death Valley seems to have been solved. However, to some, this is too simple an answer and their perception is that other forces outside of our knowledge or world must be involved.

We all encounter those incidents, those sailing stones of life. Sometimes it is a perfect plan that ends up in failure without explanation. Sometimes it is an unexplained detour in life when we thought things were going great. We need to rely not just on our five basic senses but also our sense of faith during those times. Our understanding of the spirit of life and the empowerment we gain from our beliefs will provide us with a precept for living successfully. We need to trust that whatever the distal stimulus, our beliefs are enough to withstand the proximal and lead us to the right path. When we allow our heart to be the eyes of our soul, then our perception will lead us to a productive, peaceful life. With faith we can sail through the dry, desolate periods of life.

My Proverb 17

The only mystery of life is why we complicate the basic act of living with love, peace, and respect with ego and greed. A life lived with integrity can weather any storm and survive to thrive. Life is too magnificent to waste.


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