Sometimes a change in environment can also bring on a change in perception. After going to Arizona and Nevada for a couple of weeks, I decided I would finally travel for a little while.
Nothing is holding me back at home. I had a hard time realizing this before because it’s not hard for a person to fall into a routine.
The pattern becomes deeply ingrained so it becomes dogma, something you don’t question, ever.
A new place, a new environment, a new location, and different people around can change the perception of your old way of doing things almost immediately. It’s crazy.
In George Orwell’s book, The Road To Wigan Pier (which I covered recently), he says you don’t know what your beliefs are until you visit another culture with different views.
I think this is one of the reasons why people attribute wisdom to traveling.
Christoper Hitchens wrote just that in his memoir, Hitch-22. Despite all of the differences in culture, the vast majority of human interests are all the same.
People are worried about their relationships, romantic and platonic, their education, whether people like them or not, and what they’ll have to eat that day.
It’s sad that human beings fight over so much because we all have so much in common. We have more similarities than difference.
Back to the point, getting used to living is easy. After spending a lifetime in a cold climate, the freezing temperatures are just a new normal.
However, after visiting a state like Arizona when it’s 26 degrees Celsius in February – although that’s unusual temperature for the state at that time of the month – a person suddenly realizes that they don’t have to stay where they live.
People have argued that our idea of reality is socially constructed, which means our culture, perspectives, beliefs, and views of how things work color our perception of reality.
There’s no way of escaping it. However, as a side note, it’s easy to fall into nihilism from this view, because if everything is merely a product of culture, what is the point of doing anything?
Are my thoughts, hopes, beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and emotions just a product of my environment and culture. We’re all just marbles bouncing around in the universe with no purpose or cause?
(Here’s a pretty good parody of social constructionism on BoJack Horseman, although I doubt it was intentional)
Nah, you shouldn’t be willing to accept that. Moreover, how this concept relates to change is less easy to grasp.
If you can take something positive away from the idea of the social construction of reality, you can come to know that what you do with your life is entirely of your own accord. If a person’s actions are, in some way, co-related to their environment, then it’s possible for you to leave and experience new stimuli which in turn contributes to the capacity for change.
You can decide what is meaningful to you, and where to take your life. It’s not up to anyone. No one can tell you what to do, how to feel, where to go, what school to go to, or whether you have to go anywhere at all.
I think that’s where the old cliché comes from, the idea that each person has to figure out what’s important to them, and that’s what life is all about.
Everyone has a different idea on how to go about living, and for some, it’s relatively simple, while others strive. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Type A Personality-type, someone who has a goal in mind.
However, if you’re not careful, life can become a grind. If you stick with a job or a relationship for too long, you might find yourself in a rut and not even know it.
That’s one of the positive aspects of traveling. It opens you up, and allows the light in the front door, illuminating all of the things you’ve been ignoring and permitting a more precise vision of what path you’re on, and what one you should be on.
Additionally, the people you meet on the road have stories to tell and can, through osmosis, show you what you could be doing with your time. I encourage anyone to take a week’s worth of vacation to get out of where you are at the moment.
From there, you can decide if your old way of living is right for you.
A piece about changing your perception can’t be whole without mentioning marijuana and drugs like Mushrooms or LCD.
It’s worth mentioning everyone is affected by drugs differently, with some people describing the experience entirely different from the next.
Take, for example, Marijuana, which for some people is a drug that relaxes them. For others, and especially when you smoke it by yourself, it can force you to analyze things in your life that you typically ignore.
It’s not uncommon for marijuana to make you re-think past experiences with others, things you said; things you did, and how you treated people, and realize your wrongs.
However, as noted above, your way of life and thinking can become like dogma if you’re not willing to have new experiences and continually challenge your preconceived notions.
An unusual but, in my view, a compelling example: a person may judge obese people, for instance, and hate them with a passion.
I’m sure you’ve met individuals like this before. They think fat people are disgusting, and on some level, they’re correct. Gluttonous behavior is revolting.
On the other hand, like everything else in life, there are two sides to every coin.
Smoking weed can force you into someone else’s shoes leading you to realize that people deal with their problems differently than others, with some people getting addicted to things like pornography, drugs, alcohol, food, or even fitness.
(Fitness is much better except if you take it to the limit and wear out your joints by the time you’re 40-years-old like someone I’ve met in the past.)
I found the obesity-example compelling because I learned it’s not uncommon for victims of sexual abuse to compulsively eat junk food to forget what had happened to them as a child. It’s tragic.
Whether or not you agree with that idea is beside the point. The point I’m making is that altering your perception can help you understand the other side which you may have ignored before.
Marijuana and drugs can help you see the other side of the equation; they can teach you compassion, and expose your blindspots, much the same way as traveling.
Three or four years ago, I took acid with a close friend of mine, and the experience I had was entirely unlike anything I’ve felt before.
When I tell this story, it sounds like a clichéd joke. After we dropped acid, it took about an hour to feel the effect, and by that time, my friend left.
I lie in my bed listening to ERRA’s “Moment Of Clarity” EP, and I could feel something happening to me which was hard to put into words.
First came the euphoria, then the heightened sense of well-being, then the different perspective of everything.
It wasn’t hallucinogenic, per say, but the feeling made me look at what I had done in the past through a different lens.
I started thinking about how I felt, and slowly came to the realization – somehow – that man’s interpretation of God, the man in the sky, as they say, is a mischaracterization of what is meant by “God.”
God, is just a metaphor for a human being’s capacity to love and care for another person, and the biblical and doctrinal interpretations of God are just metaphors and stories which are meant to symbolize that truth.
When I was laying in my bed, following the feeling of happiness, I started to feel guilty for all of the bad things that I’ve said and done, and even all of the negative thoughts I had about others.
There’s no other way to put it without sounding embarrassing, but when I was laying there it felt like God entered into my body and concentrated all of the love in the universe into my soul at once, and that’s when I had the epiphany I mentioned above.
I suddenly felt I had been forgiven for all the things that I had done as if having God enter into my life absolved me of my sins, like the crucifixion of Jesus absolved the sins of humanity.
Then, when the high wore off, while I was wiping the tears away from my eyes, I thought, “What in the fuck was that?”
I promised myself that I wouldn’t be mean to someone or think negatively ever again, but once all of it was out of my system, I went back to my old patterns of thinking.
Today, I’m not even sure what that was all about. I was probably just high.
Either way, going back to the point of what I’m writing if you’re trying to break old patterns, obviously, change is what you need. You can’t change just by living the same way every single day. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll continue getting what you’ve been getting.
I guess what is being preached here is common knowledge once you break it down, but like I’ve mentioned many other times, there’s a difference between truly grasping something and then just repeating it without internalizing the meaning or taking steps to implement it.
Do something different because it’s the only way you’re going to improve, and its the only way to challenge old beliefs.