Perception and Reality

The Life of Trees

We tend to think of trees as largely inanimate, but maybe this is merely because our human lives move so fast. If we could observe the world at a tree’s pace, we might see something entirely different.

Imagine speeding up time so that months pass before us like seconds. What do we see? First, there is no darkness. Daylight merely flickers as the sun passes overhead about 30 times each second. Seasons still exist, but they each last only three seconds and appear more like breathing. On every inhale (i.e. spring and summer), the trees draw in water, nutrients, CO2, and sunlight. They also produce leaves and hold them up to the sky. On every exhale (i.e. fall and winter), the trees let go of their treasure. At this pace, the forest appears far more animated. It is like a big party, with the trees acting in unison, magically producing leaves and letting them fly. They are magicians,.. throwing confetti!

This exercise illustrates the power of shifting one’s perspective. Reality is not merely some objective or absolute truth, and contrary to what most people believe, things are not always as they appear. Reality is a subjective experience shaped by our values, biases, and assumptions (i.e. our perspectives). Of course, there are objective truths to behold, like the existence of trees, but these truths only provide the framework for experience. It is the layers of subjective perception that give our experiences flavor, substance, and depth.

This means that, to the extent that we can challenge our own perspectives, we may also be able to change reality. Unfortunately, challenging life-long patterns of perception is no easy task. We tend to believe that our usual way of seeing IS the truth, and our commitment to this belief is often a more profound barrier to change than any objective truth.

What do you believe is true about yourself, other people, life, and the world around you? What are your root assumptions and biases? We all have them, and as children, we all start off with beliefs that we absorb from family, friends, and culture. Learning to question these beliefs and choose for ourselves is one of the great rites of passage into adulthood, but it is also a rite that many people never actively pursue or realize.

Everything around us, including the trees, can be seen in countless ways, and it is possible that there is no objective measure of which reality is best. If no subjective reality is more right or true than any other, then perhaps it is simply a matter of choosing the reality we want most, based on our personal values. It sounds silly, but it may actually be that simple, even if it’s not easy. So, what reality will you choose?

Personally, I choose a reality where everything tends to work out as long as we don’t get in the way, where respect and honor guide behavior, and of course, where trees are magicians.