Friday, October 3, 2014

Wonder and Perception

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Family vacations are the source of new experiences, fond memories, and often enlightening moments. They also often deal with fights between siblings from too much time spent together and crazy hospital trips -the last statement holds true at least to my family. However, I’m not writing today to tell you about the fond times or even the crazy but one almost mundane experience that made me think and keep thinking. 

It was summer time and my family and I were taking a stroll down whatever street in whatever town and state we were visiting that year. I’ve since forgotten where this happened, but the location isn’t what’s important, what happened there is. 

We were trying to figure out which little shop to go into next and that’s when I spied it, the pawn shop. I’d never been to a pawn shop before so I was naturally curious about what actually being in one would be like. Would it be like a treasure hunt or a step into the past? I insisted we go in and after some badgering on my part my family finally agreed to head in.

All of my imaginings and fantasies vanished the moment I stepped into the pawn shop. It was like walking into a graveyard, cold and distant. Objects lined the walls staring down at me accusingly, and my skin took on a chill that wasn’t due to the air conditioner.

I wanted to bolt out of the building, and every second I was in there felt like an eternity. My head swam with the thought of so much history in one place. Where had it all come from? What stories came attached to each item in the shop? Were they good stories or sad ones? 

I had a feeling that most of them would be sad.

This experience was so unlike what I had expected. In my ever curious mind I had thought it may have been a treasure trove of undiscovered jewels. Instead I ended up walking into the complete opposite. 

Later after I’d left I began to wonder what it would have been like if I’d first visited a pawn shop as a young child, wide eyed and full of unquenchable curiosity. I would have seen the shop in a completely different light, one more akin to what I’d been imagining. I may have danced around the building exploring the twists and turns of the isles or I might have touched everything examining it with my ‘expert’ eye for the sure to be magnificent stories hiding just out of sight. 

If you hadn’t guessed it already I’m talking about perception. As humans we see things differently than one another, but we also see things differently as we age. What would life be like if as we grew older we didn’t lose our curiosity to the world? If the colors didn’t fade to grey and every yard sale, auction house, and pawn shop held secrets itching to be discovered?
What kind of life would we live if we never lost our wonder? 

I know I sound whimsical and silly, but which would you prefer, walking into a graveyard or a hidden trove of mystery? Somehow in the process of growing up we decide that imagination and pretend have no use for us anymore. We leave daydreaming about adventures at the door and instead whittle away the hours at our desks imagining the dinner we are going to have. 

If we could somehow wrap our minds around the fact that the world isn’t as grey as it’s often been painted we can begin to view things in a different light. What kind of things would be said, done, or even created if we looked through a different set of lenses. Pull off the old perception and try looking at things in a new light. Instead of counting down the hours until you can clock out try finding joy in the little things about your job. Instead of viewing a pawn shop as a graveyard for things long since forgotten view it as a treasure chest full of things just waiting for a new chapter in their lives. 

Changing one’s perception doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen. So what’s the harm in trying?

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