PERCEPTION and OPINION

machine-1776925_1280© 2018 Bill Murphy

Newton’s third law of physics states that: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The output reaction force can be readily calculated by knowing the force of the input action as stated in the measurements of mass (weight), speed, and the direction of the force.

It would appear that Newton’s law can also apply to HUMAN interaction. Some call this karma. However, the input and output forces in human interaction are not as easily calculated, owing to the vast amount of variables which always occur with human interaction. Perhaps the greatest of these variables is PERCEPTION.

The word ‘perception’ has its root in the word ‘perceive’ which usually refers to perceptions in vision. However, one can also experience perception in all of the human senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing as well as sight. Perception is basically defined as : a mental image of something, or your personal concept of something.

The origins of opinions lie in perception.

Perceptions are not necessarily true and factual. Perceptions are based upon past experience and or beliefs and personal observations. One’s concept of what is true reality, by nature of its origin, is susceptible to change and modification.

A personal example: The commonly accepted opinion is that paper mills stink. I, on the other hand, based upon pleasant and happy memories from my childhood, of visits with my favorite aunt who lived in a paper mill town – love the ‘pleasant’ aroma of a paper mill. My perception has become my opinion.

Perceptions vary widely from person to person and from item to item. It’s much like attempting to define what is ‘up’ and what is ‘down’ or what is ‘hot’ and what is ‘cold.’ Because these are relational items, they are perceived differently from one person to the next. It is therefore impossible to judge which perception (which opinion) is more or less ‘correct’ than the next. We tend to accept the ‘average’ or ‘norm” of an opinion as being as being ‘correct.’

But truthfully, in the arena of perception and opinion, few things are absolutely ‘correct.’ What is too loud for me can easily not be loud enough for others. What may be too salty for you, may not be salty enough for me. And abandoned soft drink soon becomes ‘hot‘ whereas the forgotten cup of coffee beside it has become ‘cold.’ Perception is important!

This does not mean that I am wrong (in my perception/concept/opinion) and you are right. No! Neither does it mean that I am right (in my perception/concept/opinion) and you are wrong. It does mean, that these divergent perceptions are just that – opinions.

It has been said that we all have a right to our opinions, and that may be true. But rights, MUST have certain restrictive limits, otherwise, my ‘right’ could trample over yours, and yours could trample mine. A degree of give and take is required to maintain peace, harmony, and goodwill.

Yes, we all have rights. But all rights come with responsible. And here lies the roots of discord, resentment, and misunderstanding. Many find it difficult to recognize the fact that others, with perceptions other than their own, have a right to those personal perceptions. And some, who believe their own perceptions to be superior to those of others, discount the perceptions and concepts of others – based purely upon their personal opinions.

This is the result of personal opinions crossing the line from observations, concepts and opinions – and becoming judgements. And we know what God says about judgement.

 

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MY NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE

Grim Reaper 2© 2017 Bill Murphy

I wrote of death in March of last year… DEATH AT AN EARLY AGE. It focused on the death of others.

Few of us, with the possible exception of combat military personnel, law enforcement, and firemen to name a few, ever face death up close and personal – then to have him turn and walk away.  I have, and it was a sobering experience.

I can’t remember the year, but Carol and I were on a weekend a trip to Birmingham to visit my sister and her family. Just east of Meridian, we stopped at the visitor’s center near the state line. It was around 9 or 10 in the morning, a bright and beautiful day. Numerous cars were in the parking lot as we parked and went inside. An elderly gentleman stood in the hallway outside the restrooms, no doubt waiting for his wife. NOT. He was the lookout. I walked past him and into the restroom.

It all happened in a flash. Out of nowhere, a rough hand grabbed my shirt collar, shoving me roughly against a sink. Something hard and cold was pressed against the back of my neck. A gun? It could have been a wooden dowel for all I knew, but his words convinced me not to take a chance on gun or wood.

“Quick,” he shouted, “gimmie your wallet, and your keys. Don’t turn around.” he said harshly, “and make it quick – or I’ll kill you, dude, ya hear?” He repeated this threat of death 3 times within the short space of time the attack was underway.  I complied.

What was I thinking you ask? Amazingly, it was NOT fear. Nor was it anger. Actually, what I felt was SURPRISE. I distinct remember thinking, So this is the way my life ends?

Then he yanked me backwards, and shoved me into one of the stalls. “Stay here,” he shouted again, “Stay for 5 minutes. Peek outside, and I’ll kill you dude!” And then there was silence. I think I waited only a minute, maybe less. Then I walked outside where Carol stood.

She will tell you that I can be easily rattled. But not that day. She said she could not believe how calm I was! “I just got mugged,” I told her. And relayed the whole story.

We quickly found the security guard, who’d seen nothing. The sheriff was called, who helped us get back into our locked vehicle. Carol’s purse was inside, so we still had keys. We drove a few mile up and down the highway, thinking we’d find my wallet the thieves had tossed out the window, but we didn’t. They got maybe $20 in cash, and no more. We immediately called and cancelled the credit cards.

This was an amazing learning experience for me. I was brought face to face with death, and yet, just as God promised in His word…

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

During the whole episode, I was NOT acting and thinking like Bill Murphy normally acts and thinks. The harsh and threatening words of the thief didn’t bring dread and fear – instead, they were miraculously overshadowed by peace and calmness!

There were not two in that bathroom that day, but THREE. Although I entered empty handed, God brought me His rod and staff!

 

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WE DODGED DHS

My Family@ 2017 Bill Murphy

In our home state of Mississippi, DHS stood for the Department of Human Services, which was once tasked with the awesome responsibility of protecting innocent children from neglect, abuse, and sorry parents. Today that agency is the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Carol and I somehow missed their attention on numerous occasions. Whew!

Our 4 girls are rather close in age, averaging 20 months between birth dates, so ‘big sisters‘ were never all that big, nor helpful. It was often like having quadruplets.

Our first parental semi-catastrophe occurred in 1970 when Lois was around 6 months. Carol and I attended Southside Baptist Church in Jackson, and were Sunday School teachers for high schoolers. Down the hill behind the church, was a softball field. We’d planned an after church picnic and ball games for the class. The teenage girls clamored over who would ‘take care of’ baby Lois.

This day, in the hectic rush to change clothes, transport food and equipment to the field, etc., Lois somehow ‘fell by the wayside.’ At the ball field, a full 15 minutes later, someone asked, “Where’s the baby?” She was just where we’d inadvertently left her, in her carrier, on the back steps of the church! Oops.

Several years later, it was Molly’s turn to be abandoned.

We were then attending First Pentecostal Church. Sunday night service was ‘the’ service of the week. We were present and accounted for at 6 PM, and considered it a ‘short service’ if the final amen came by 10. Sunday nights didn’t end there. It was either a late meal at Shoney’s, or else 3 or 4 families gathered at someone’s home for coffee and sandwiches. That particular night, we were the host. Molly as about 3 or 4 at the time.

All of our girls had friends from church, so they often as not rode to the after-church gathering with another family. We’d been home several minutes before anyone counted noses – are realized that Molly was not accounted for! The last time we knew where she was, she was fast asleep under the pew. Oops again.

A quick call to the church, and the person locking up for the night made a dash to the already locked sanctuary. Molly was none the wiser – still sleeping peacefully under the pew. Poor neglected child.

Some time after this, we were on vacation in the Smokey Mountains. See the photo above. The kids loved to hike, and we found a trail. Earlier, it had rained rather heavily, but we braved the soggy path anyway.

Shortly, we came to an ‘obstacle.’ The trail crossed a brook, with no bridge. A large, round log, perhaps 12 to 15’ long spanned the water. And what had once been a picturesque babbling brook, now, because of the heavy rain, was a mighty torrent rushing down the mountain side. Yes, we did. One by one, Carol and I walked our precious children across the wet log, several feet above these mighty rapids. If we’d slipped and fallen, our bodies would not have been found for days – and then, many miles away. Yes, we all made it. And no, we never told our parents about this foolhardy adventure.

We also lost Liz in crowded New Orleans in the French Quarter, for a long, long 2 or 3 minutes – when she turned left at an intersection and we walked straight. She was around 12 at the time. That was a heart stopper!

I’ll save the best (or should I say worst) example of our parenting decisions for last.

I can’t remember the exact year, but Tricia and Liz must have been around junior high age. Carol’s sister, Mary Ellen, and her family lived in Humble, Texas. We made the 450 mile trip several times each year, often leaving after 5 PM of Fridays and returning home in the wee hours of the following Monday. It was during this period that Carol developed her NASCAR/Indianapolis driving skills.

We left Mary Ellen’s late in the afternoon on our way home. This was in the days before cell phones and mobile internet. We had a CB RADIO! It was fun talking with the truckers.

While still inside Texas, we happened upon a trucker going our way… his destination that night was Jackson, MS! He was driving at a good, steady, speedy clip, so we stayed in his dust, chatting away continually. Soon we knew all about his kids and family. We even stopped for coffee, and met him face to face. I think he enjoyed our human company a few yards behind his rig. He had his dog beside him as a traveling companion.

Somewhere along the way, one of the kids made the remark that they wanted to RIDE WITH THE TRUCKER. You see where this is going.

It was finally decided that this utterly foolish idea was, perhaps, plausible. At the next truck stop, we pulled in, and exchanged two of our children for his dog. Looking back, I’m thinking what you’re thinking – WHAT WERE WE THINKING?

At the time, it really did seem like an educational adventure for the kids. I’ve never ridden in an 18 wheeler myself! But my 4 daughters have. Oh, we did have his license tag number!

After Liz and Tricia had their turn, and were safely returned to us, Lois and Molly had their turn in the big rig! The story doesn’t end there.

Sometime just before midnight, we arrived in Jackson. We followed him to the truck stop, not far from where we lived at the time, and brought him home with us, where Carol made a hot breakfast for everyone. Then we returned him back to his truck.

Amazingly, all 4 girls turned out amazingly well, in spite of their ding-a-ling parents … and without assistance from DHS.

 

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Peter B. Green

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Who was your favorite teacher? Who was the most memorable, the most unusual? Who was the one most likely NOT to succeed as a teacher today? For me, that could only be Mr. Peter B. Green, 8th grade science, Enochs Junior High, Jackson, MS.

Mr. Green made school FUN! Mr. Green made life fun. I apologize for the poor quality of the WWII era B/W newspaper photo, but it clearly illustrates Mr. Green’s quirky, mischievous grin. That’s how I remember of him. It’s the only photo I have of him.

Green.Smokey.Big copy

Today Mr. Green wouldn’t last a day in a public school classroom.

1950s classrooms were far different from what they are today.  More expectations were placed upon students. We were expected to pay attention, participate in class, be punctual, be respectful, study, succeed and of course, obey the rules of the classroom/teacher. In Peter B. Green’s classroom, it was understood that he was the teacher, and we were the students. If we wished to live and do well, we accepted our ‘place’ in this ordered, classroom society, where authority was recognized, not challenged. Amazingly, we were happily comfortable in this setting.

Mr. Green had a strong arm and a long wooden paddle. His ‘board of education’ was about 18” long, with a broad, flat business end. It was designed so as to leave neither scars nor bruises. Yet it could inflict a maximum amount of pain per square inch.

There was a firm belief in the 50s that pain was undesirable. It was also believed that students who did not follow the rules, and then received pain upon their softer hinder area for breaking afore said rules, would be deterred in the future from breaking said rules again. Amazingly, this simply cause and effect principle worked 99.9% of the time. It’s a lost art today.

Yes, I sometimes pushed the .1% upper limit. Or would that be ‘lower’ limit?

Rule #1 was the simplest rule of all. BRING YOUR SCIENCE TEXT BOOK TO CLASS. It’s amazing how many students often ‘forgot.’ The book-reminder ceremony was simple: Step back to the doorway, face the hallway, bend over and place hands on the knees. Hold still and receive your just and deserved reward – a single, powerful swat on the seat of knowledge – ‘sending you on the way’ to retrieve your book. I can’t vouch for Mr. Green’s racial beliefs, but I do know that he wasn’t a ‘sexists.’ Boys and girls alike received the SAME book-reminder-retrieval sendoff.

LEAVING an errant book (or gym shorts/tennis shoes) earned a different reward.

Mr. Green surely checked under every desk, every class period. He always knew from which class period a particular item was left. After we’d been given a reading assignment, and our heads dutifully bowed in study, he’d retrieve the offending object, then taking careful aim, throw it at the culprit who’d left the offending item/items. I know this because I peeked. I’d never wanted to miss this ceremony, and witnessed many a pair of tennis shoes bouncing off unsuspecting heads!

Believe it or not, no one ever called the school board, parents, or police.

Did I mention that he really was a great teacher. In addition to teaching us awe and respect for authority, he also taught us the awe and wonder of science. I always looked forward to his class, even test days! Until… One day it became my turn to be on the receiving end.

At the time, I dabbled some with 8th grade level writing, and wrote a clever little poem about Mr. Green. It described his untimely passing on. Not making the heavenly grade, he descended into the great fiery below. I mentioned that he was issued a pitchfork.

But I made the insane mistake of passing the poem around in class.

You guessed it. The gleeful work of Bill the Poet was intercepted. Strangely, he didn’t say a word. I was terrified. I could only imagine what wrath I had kindled inside him.

The next day, I crept into class, literally shaking in fear. Still, No reaction from Mr. Green.

Shortly after class began, he gave us a multi-page reading assignment. Oh no!

I propped my book on the desk like a drive-in theatre screen, to give me some small degree of forward vision. It’s a good thing I did.

Over the top of my book – I saw Mr. Green, fire in his eyes and a devilish grin on his face, marching toward me – A PITCHFORK in hand!

Quick as a flash, I jumped from my seat, and dashed for the door, Mr. Green in hot pursuit. Down the hall I ran, and out the school building door. He was still after me. I ran across the school yard, across the street in front, and into Poindexter Park across the street from the school.

By this time I was winded. Deep down, I reasoned that in all probability he wouldn’t actually run me through with the pitchfork. Probably he wouldn’t. Maybe.

I stopped. He didn’t spear me. Whew!

We walked back to class side by side, laughing together most of the way. I think he even remarked about the cleverness of the poem.

It was one of those rare moments in life that one can never forget – when you’re glad to be alive, and you’ve just experienced an event that is truly rare, memorable, and totally unbelievable. And yes – that pitchfork chase actually happened.

Thanks Mr. Green!  And as Bob Hope said and sang, Thanks for the memories!

 

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Ole Bill, Horse’s Butt

© 2017

I’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of things in my life, and that’s not a boast. It’s a simple fact.

Some of those things might read like a creative ‘bucket list,’ that is, things to remember with pride. Others… well, not so much. Let’s forget those, shall we?

Tonight I was looking through an old photo album from childhood, and found a most interesting photo. My mother, always with camera in hand, or in easy reach, recorded everything. It was like my sister and I had our own personal paparazzi. I’m sure that Dad’s household expense ledger had a column labeled PHOTO PROCESSING. Oh if Mom had only been in Dealey Plaza that fateful Friday in December of 1963. Her photos would have quickly settled any and all controversy.

A few nights ago while watching TV, Carol and I viewed a commercial for fabric softener. The scene showed 2 guys in a horse costume. The guy in back was fortunate enough to have on the front end, a fellow with sweet smelling clothes. Now I ask you, what is the percentage of people in the world today who have ever supplied the legs to a horse costume?

I have. And here’s the photo to prove it!

Horse

That’s yours truly in the southern most portion. My baby sister, (older than my wife Carol), is in the stroller, admiring her big brother.

Mark another one off the ole bucket list!

 

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Oh Come, All Ye Faithful

© 2017 Bill Murphy

It’s said that experience is the best teacher. Yet have you noticed that we usually learn fastest through comparisons? Why is this?

We tend not to appreciated health until we’re sick. We don’t value wealth, until we’re broke. We don’t recognize the value of friends, until we’re friendless and alone. What were we thinking?

Years ago, a stark comparison-lesson taught me the meaning of that old familiar Christmas carol, “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.”

This is a carol of praise and adoration. It welcomes the faithful to come worship and rejoice in His presence… to praise Him for His endless deeds of love and mercy. And who would come to this praise-fest? It would be those with thankful hearts, of course.

Thankfulness is the fertile soil on which faithfulness grows.

It was Christmas Eve during high school. This was in the 50s, when ‘commercial’ Christmas was not as out of control as it is today. Merchants closed their doors early on Christmas Eve, so that employees could go home and spend quality time with their families. How thoughtful. But that was the norm back then.

My main squeeze and I were driving toward my family home, for our large Christmas Eve meal, to be followed by the exchanging of gifts. We were traveling down Gallatin Street, within a few blocks of my home. This is a rather rugged neighborhood today. In the late 50s, it was just beginning to see the effects of ‘urban decay.’

As we drove past a large boarding house, I noticed a man sprawled in the gutter!

Drunk

I immediately stopped, as did the vehicle behind us. The man in the other car rushed with me to the man’s side. He was a sorry, smelly sight … passed out drunk.

We rolled him over, and he aroused, slightly. With a feeble hand, he pointed toward the boarding house. We lifted him to his feet. Each taking an arm, we walked him to the house. A man came to the door. “Joe. Joe. Joe. Not again Joe,” he said. Then the fellow at the door thanked us, and took control of Joe.

We returned to our vehicles, and were soon on our way again, to family, friends, food, and all the many joys of Christmas. I suppose Joe simply slept it off that Christmas Eve night, alone.

But that night, far from being alone, thanks to Joe I learned the true meaning of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” I saw my life in a whole new light, as my life was vividly compared to that of poor Joe.

Before I saw Joe there in the gutter, I thought of myself as faithful, true to the words of the song. And I also thought of myself as thankful. But seeing Joe there, in the gutter, made me re-think my opinions of myself. It was a sobering lesson.

Looking back now across the years, I’d like to say, “Merry Christmas Joe, where ever you may be today. Thanks for showing me the path to faithfulness and thankfulness. As my teacher that Christmas Eve, I’m sorry that my lesson was so difficult for you. May God bless you!”

 

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