Do My Eyes Deceive Me?

Do My Eyes Deceive Me?

Pentecost 58

Every so often we hear something and turn around to determine what we have heard. Often we peer into the murkiness of the unknown and see ….. Many psychologists would say that what we think we see is based upon our expectations. Others claim it is simply our brain working as it does, gathering known reference materials in order to determine and postulate a response. After all, one cannot identify a bed if one has never seen a bed.

Perhaps this is why so many deities and spirits of the ancient world had human characteristics. It does no good to tell a story if people cannot relate to some aspect of the story. That said, we do have to think outside of the box in order to progress and evolve. And that can be very scary.

In mathematics there is something known as the Viterbi Algorithm. The University of Southern California Engineering Dept.’s website describes this procedure as a short cut to finding out what isn’t necessary or needed. “The Viterbi Algorithm — theoretical basis for such wide-ranging applications as cell phones, DNA analysis and speech recognition — is essentially a fast way of eliminating dead ends.”

An example is given. “Imagine you’re a detective trying to determine the point of origin for a suspect arriving at the Seattle airport. He is from abroad and has been there for no more than an hour. You know during this period that four domestic flights arrived from four cities served by flights from 30 others. One way to determine the suspect’s origin would be to go back to all 30 and make inquiries. The alternative: identify which of the four closest cities he arrived from; then investigate only places with connections to that one.”

An algorithm is a mathematical term which refers to a specific way or formula to solve a problem. Using the result of a series of events, the formula works backwards to eliminate everything that could not have produced the end result. Originally created for electronic signals, the Viterbi Algorithm is now used in cell phones, voice recognition devices, and even DNA coding to eliminate the unnecessary in determining what is pertinent.

An algorithm is based upon what is known, the processes involved that yield quantifiable results. In the telling of the mythologies of the world, the listener used what was known in imagining what could be. Recently two visitors to a park in Holland heard some knocking sounds, unexpected in the wooded area they were visiting. Looking in the direction of the sounds, they saw what appeared to be a large furry animal peering at them from its hiding place behind a large tree. Mentally they did a quick subconscious use of deductive reasoning to realize they might be in danger. One of the two quickly snapped a picture of the unknown beast and then they left, hurriedly.

For those who believe in the mythological creature known as sasquatch or bigfoot or any of the other twenty-plus names given to this large, yet-to-be documented primate, this will be a “sighting” of immense proportion. For those who scoff at the thought of such a thing, it will be a funny joke to talk about and perhaps become a scary story to be told on camping trips.

Our perception of an incident greatly affects how we perceive what our eyes are telling us. Is it egotistical to think we have discovered every single thing there is to learn about our planet, its creatures, and its possibilities or is it a waste of time to be open to the possibility of a large primate similar to man that has gone undiscovered for eons? Isn’t the the hallmark of science that we know what we know but are open to learning new things, expecting to discover what was previously unknown?

About a decade ago the planets of our solar system were reduced in number from nine to eight. Pluto was demoted to a celestial body that was NOT a planet. This past week while park visitors were being scared in Holland, the astronomers of the world were celebrating their first sightings up close of Pluto. TO their surprise, the planet was larger than expected. For many, this was proof it should once again be classified as a planet. For others, it was simply a remarkable feat of science to learn more.

Also this past week a candidate running for president in the USA denounced a fellow political party member who was a war veteran, former prisoner of war, and recipient of several medals of valor and courage. The candidate claimed the veteran should not be perceived as a hero. Of course, the candidate had never been a veteran, never volunteered for any such tours of duty nor has he ever visited a POW camp in a war torn country. And after making his proclamation, he got back in his limousine wearing his suit which was personally tailored and cost more than many veterans make in ten years of service, and went back to his penthouse to be served a catered meal in furnishings staffed by those who hopefully are paid more than the average veteran.

It is easy when reading and discussing the mythologies of other cultures to be disdainful and even easier to talk about things we really have no personal knowledge of but feel qualified to discuss. We all have opinions and those are our right. The important thing, though, is to try to speak from a point of reference, from a perspective that is not built upon imaginary foundations of nothingness.

Having been in wooded areas and park-like settings that border on wildlife areas, I can appreciate the fear the tourists in Holland felt upon coming up on an unexpected animal standing as tall or taller than a human. I can appreciate their fear because of the mental algorithm in my head that says bears are dangerous and of a similar size. I will go on record as saying I do think there are animals out there we have yet to identify and discover and one could be a large primate. I will also go on record as saying I have no idea what these people saw in Holland and am glad they are safe with no animal, known or unknown, needing to be killed.

It is fun to make up stories and imagine “what if”. I am a writer and that is something I enjoy. However, we need to remember to weed out our imaginings when we deal with each other. We need to act on fact and not supposition. Perhaps the said veteran who is now a politician and US Congressman could have voted stronger for veterans’ rights or tried to pass legislation that increased benefits and/or salaries. But does a person with no experience in either the government or the military know enough o discuss such to the point of name calling? Or is this person simply trying to write a tale of his own mythology, one in which he himself is the hero by denouncing all others?

We need to live today using our own personal Viterbi algorithm of faith and hope. We need to weed out the unnecessary pettiness in creating the myth we will live today and make our own reality. This too takes courage and is not easy. I believe in you. I believe in the story of peace, love, joy, and progress that you will write today. Don’t be deceived by the useless clutter around you. Find what works for you; use what makes you the best possible version of yourself today. Live your vision of possibilities!

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