Say Cheese!

Say Cheese!

Pentecost 63


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 something we think we know.  On one hand we are confident in what our eyes have perceived but then again, do we really and truly see what is in front of us?  Any chef will tell you that presentation is everything and that we taste first with our eyes and then with our taste buds. 


Perception can be a tricky concept.  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.  Historians, philosophers, and spiritualists believe 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.  That can be very scary; it asks us to believe in the unknown.


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 that we discussed recently, 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.  Last year 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.


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. 


It is fun to make up stories and imagine “what if”.  I am a writer so you might say I peddle “what if’s”.  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.  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.  The face we present to the world is the face that the world will see.  Every day the world challenges us much like a photographer does with his/her subjects:  “Say cheese!”  The image we project is the image that will color our perceptions and influence how the world reacts to us.  Find what works for you; use what makes you the best possible version of yourself today.   Live your vision of possibilities and put your best foot forward. 



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