Oh, perception. That strange realm that no two people will ever exactly share, but some get close. It's a looking glass, magnifying glass, binocular, and kaleidoscope all at once. It's not the experience itself, but how we see the experience itself. So who can ever know the absolute experience? Welcome to humility and curiosity.
Perception is what makes or breaks trauma, suffering, PTSD, depression, and any other chronic stress or anxiety state. Perception is in the ego because it's how we identify events and people, which creates the sense of "I know" and then "I believe". If you're open to changing your perception, you're open to changing your entire life, which is simply what we think we know and believe about ourselves and others.
For Americans, we are on a particularly different journey of perception and identity. You see, culture was/is the antidote for perception. Culture is more than just shopping and art. It's the food we eat, the colors we wear, the spices we cook with, the music we dance to, and the language we speak to one another in.
Culture adheres to a set of rules, orders, rituals - thousand year old rite of passages and daily cycles that give its people identity and sense of self. Not much to argue with or to try to understand. There's belonging, there's identity, and there's an agreed upon way of life. I think of the Hasidic community in north Brooklyn who dress alike, eat alike, and carry on much like a school of fish. One large concept, form, and flow moving as one. But even within such confinement, some perceive safety and some perceive threat. Just read Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.
America is the youngest culture on the face of the Earth. It's a melting pot of thousand year old cultures slowly transforming into being American - whatever that means. I find this particularly interesting because our perceptions are so wildly different from one another and we are trying to figure out why our democracy isn't working. There's no agreed upon culture! So without culture, we're in a beautiful and brutal frenzy of perceptions trying to be proven, understood, and passed. Laws that work for one group of people and not another. Religion that works for one and not the other. Politics that work for one and not the other.
So what's the antidote to that?
For me, it's the practice of understanding other's perceptions so that I cannot be so angry, disappointed, or afraid of the "other side". The use of curiosity instead of defense as a tool to learn and become open to understanding the perception of the other side. If you're a democrat, learn and understand the perception of a Republican. If you're a man, learn and understand the perception of a woman. It's not about losing your own perception, it's about growing it.
I don't think we should be segregated culturally. Even if I did, too bad. It's done. We are mixing faster and faster and I find that to be the great enlightenment of our time as human beings. The ability to understand vs. go to war. Understanding is the antidote for war. The war within and the war out there. When I understand I cannot hate or fear. All I can do is accept and, if I stay still and feel that, forgiveness comes naturally and I hit a peace of mind that is so delicious and is a much more effective place to come from if I'm trying to connect, communicate my needs, or make change.