Things Appear Differently Depending Upon Who Is Looking

I am always inspired to take notice and pay attention when certain, I don't quite have the right word for it, themes or ideas, repeatedly present themselves to me in non related situations. It's almost as though a message is being sent to me and will keep being "sent" until I digest it. The latest "message" is the topic of this month's Muse.

Last Thanksgiving we invited ourselves to spend it with my mom, aunt and cousins who live about 3 hours North of us. It was great fun. Having all sorts of time on a holiday, since I wasn't hosting, I had time to take a peek at the books in my aunt's computer room. I admit that I am a world class book snoop. Some folks are into nosing about in the medicine cabinets of those they visit, but I much prefer a full bookshelf! I gravitated toward a little paperback that looked like something one of her kids might have purchased through the Scholastic Book order in grammar school some 30 years ago. The book was Winners and Losers by Sydney J. Harris. Oh what a find, as it consisted mainly of cartoons and quotes which were mesmerizing to say the least! I asked to borrow it so I could study it a bit more and order a copy for myself. As I have been in the habit of doing lately when I become enamoured with an author, I visit and see what other books they have written, and then buy a few for a fraction of what I would pay for them new.

The books soon arrived and I started reading The Best of Sydney J. Harris, an anthology of some of his columns. It was just too good to keep to myself, and I began reading snippets to my hubby, who also became intrigued. He did a bit of research and learned that Sydney J. Harris wrote a syndicated column, Strictly Personal, from 1944-86. All I can say is that this man is brilliant and his essays are so very thought provoking. I will surely read everything he has written.

On page 39 of the book, I landed on this essay, "Nobody Sees What Is There". Here was my mystery message put so beautifully into words! I must share this article with my beloved Muse readers and I certainly hope Mr. Harris wouldn't object with my doing so- I don't quite know how to go about getting proper permissions from the nether world.... I do not know which year this was written- just sometime between 1944 and 1986......Timeless....

Nobody Sees "What Is There"

By Sydney J. Harris

We used to think, in our naive way, that the act of perception consisted of two independent things: the perceiver and the thing perceived. The act of perception simply meant "seeing what was there."

Perhaps the most important advance in the behavioral sciences in our time has been the growing recognition that the perciever is not just a passive camera taking a picture, but takes an active part in perception. He sees what experience has conditioned him to see.

We enter a restaurant, and six persons are sitting there. What do we "see" beyond the mere fact that these are six human beings? Do we all see the same picture, either individually or collectively?

A European will note that these are six Americans, by their dress and attitudes. A woman entering the room will probably note that the six consist of two married couples, and older woman, and a single man. A Southerner will see one man who could possibly be a light-skinned Negro.

A Homosexual will single out one of the men as a fellow deviate. An anti-Semite will immediately label one of the couples as "Jewish." A salesman will divide the group into "prospects" and "duds." And the waiter, of course, does not see people at all, but a "station" and "food" and "drinks."

What perceiver, then, "sees what is there?" Nobody, of course. Each of us perceives what our past has prepared us to perceive: We select and distinguish, we focus on some objects and relationships, and we blur others; we distort objective reality to make it conform to our needs, or hopes, or fears, or hates, or envies, or affections.

In the physical sciences we have long been aware that the very act of examining and measuring some physical phenomenon changes the phenomenon itself: What the scientist sees during his experiment is not the same object that it would be if not under scruitiny.

Now we have begun to learn that the behavioral sciences contain this same subjective element: that our eyes and brains do not merely register some objective portrait of other persons or groups, but that our very act of seeing is warped by what (in a deeper sense) we need to believe.

And this is the main reason that communication is so difficult: We are not disagreeing about the same thing, but about different things. We are not looking at the same people in the dining room, or on the picket line, or around the conference table. How to correct this built -in warp may very well be the basis, and ultimate, problem of mankind's survival.


The next day this quote was in my in-box at work:

"Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." --Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. president

Another way of eloquently phrasing this phenomenon.

And then, of course it had to be "demonstrated". I was away from home conducting a training, and called home to make sure all of the kiddies had made it home on the rainy day. Buddha Boy was expecting his pellet gun package, and I was concerned that no one would be home to sign for it. I was hoping that it would arrive during the 40 minute interval during which Soccer Boy would be home, but it did not. Princess picked up the phone, and mentioned that a package did arrive and was sitting on the porch when she got home from school. Though the package was quite small, Buddha Boy was certain it was his pellet gun and wanted to open the box, even though it was clearly addressed to his dad. Princess decided to assist so as to prevent the possibility of Buddha Boy damaging the contents of the package in his frenzy. The box did not contain the pellet gun. Ironically, the pellet gun package arrived an hour later. Hubby arrived home one half hour after that, and whisked Soccer Boy off to their Tuesday evening meeting. I arrived home minutes before they returned from their meeting. The first little package, the one that Princess had opened sat on our entry piece. Inside were several champange glasses which were unexpectely gifted to my husband and me. I thought that he had already seen them (and one broke in the mail!!!) since he had come home at 6:30. I assumed he had opened the box since it was addressed to him and Buddha Boy already had his pellet gun. Hubby assumed I, the all knowing one who was gone all day, knew who had opened his box, and upon learning that Hubby hadn't opened the box, I figured Buddha Boy had opened it hoping to find his pellet gun. When papa bear had learned that Goldilocks had sampled his oatmeal, he began to bellow. The more I tried to explain, the more irritated he became. Not until much later was it determined that Princess had actually opened the box! That unexpected little package was so differently perceived by all of us that I just had to chuckle. So there we have it.

No one really knows what the hell is going on- it's the collective experience blended up that makes life what it is.

Happy Saint Patty's Day. And if you didn't get a chance to view the mystery link- just click on the picture of the freaky tatoo man face to view it. It is well worth the six minutes to watch! Quotes


Irish Trivia

• The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, in County Galway.

• An odd Irish birthday tradition is to lift the birthday child upside down and give his head a few gentle bumps on the floor for good luck. The number of bumps should allegedly correspond to the child’s age plus one.

• So long paddy wacker. Wooden truncheons, which have been carried by Irish police since the 1800s, will finally be phased out this year, and replaced by lightweight retractable batons. The truncheons, with notches, fancy carvings and names cut into them, were often passed down generations of gardai.

• The original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease on it's property, at a perpetual rate of 45 Irish pounds per year.

• IRELAND FACT: A ROUGH HANGOVER CURE...I’ll just take the hangover, thanks: One traditional Irish cure for a hangover was to be buried up to the neck in moist river sand.

• The island of Montserrat is sometimes called "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean," and has a shamrock carved above the door of the governor's home, areas called Cork and Kinsale, and people with names like O'Garra and Riley. This is because the island was originally settled in 1633 by Irish-Catholics, who came from the nearby island of St. Kitts. (After a major volcanic eruption from 1995 - 2003, Montserrat is now partially open to tourism again.)

• Celtic rock group the Pogues were originally called "Pogue Mahone," which translates into "kiss my a**" in Gaelic.

• The "Oscar" statuette handed out at the Academy Awards was designed by Cedric Gibbons, who was born in Dublin in 1823. Gibbons emigrated to the US, and was considered MGM’s top set designer from the twenties right on through the fifties, working on over 1,500 films. Besides designing the coveted prize, Mr. Gibbons managed to win a dozen of them himself.

• The Irish Academy of Engineers has recommended that a tunnel be built under the sea linking Ireland and Wales. The IAE has offered a futuristic vision of trains running at speeds of 150 mph between Rosslare and Fishguard, Wales. Currently, there is no financial backer for such a project.

• Couples in Ireland could marry legally on St. Brigid's Day (February 1st) in Teltown, County Meath, as recently as the 1920’s by simply walking towards each other. If the marriage failed, they could "divorce'" by walking away from each other at the same spot, on St. Brigid’s day the following year. The custom was a holdover from old Irish Brehon laws, which allowed temporary marriage contracts.

• One of the most popular radio shows in rural Ireland is still the weekly broadcast of local obituaries.

• An old legend says that, while Christ will judge all nations on judgment day, St. Patrick will be the judge of the Irish.

• The last witch in Ireland was supposedly Dame Alice Kytler, born in Kilkenny in 1280. All four of her husbands died, and she was accused of poisioning them. Today you can dine at Kytler's Inn in Kilkenny, which operates in her old home.

• The word quiz was allegedly invented in the 1830’s by a Dublin theater owner named Richard Daly, who made a bet that he could make a nonsense word known throughout the city in just 48 hours. Legend says that Daly gave his employees cards with the word “quiz” written on them, and told them to write it on walls all over the city. Some historians argue that the word was already in use at this time, but most agree that it did not acquire it’s current definition – "to question or interrogate" – until sometime in the 19th century.

Catherine Kelly, who died in 1785, was allegedly the smallest Irish woman ever. With a total height of just 34 inches and a weight of 8 pounds, she was known as “The Irish Fairy.”

The first Irish Constitution was signed at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. The Shelbourne, a favorite spot for sophisticated travelers to stay or dine, is currently about to reopen after a major facelift.

According to one rather obscure Irish legend, a ringing in your ears means a deceased friend stuck in Purgatory is ringing a bell to ask for you to pray for him/her.

Ireland’s Saint Fiacre, born in the sixth century, is the patron saint of gardeners.

The original seven “Celtic Nations” are: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany (in France) and Galicia (in Spain).

Montgomery Street in Dublin was once the largest red light district in all of Europe, with over 1600 prostitutes plying their trade. An old Irish song called “Take Me Up To The Monto” memorializes this era.

According to some historians, over 40% of all American presidents have had some Irish ancestry.

Saint Brendan is said to have discovered America 1,000 years before Columbus.

The Newgrange passage tomb in County Meath was constructed around 3200 BC, making it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge.

“Cemetery Sunday” is a lesser-known tradition still practiced around Ireland, although it seems to take place on whatever date is most convenient for local church leaders. A mass is celebrated for families of those buried in the local church graveyard, after which an effort is made over several days to clean up the churchyard. Special attention is traditionally given to the graves of those who have no one left among the living to remember them.

In olden days, a pig was often allowed to live in the house with the family on an Irish farm. He (or she) was commonly referred to as "the gentleman who pays the rent."

A single day of good weather that pops up in a long stretch of bad days is known in Ireland as a "pet day."

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Next Post date: April 5, 2010

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March 1, 2010


"The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations." Benjamin Disraeli

St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time - a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic.  ~Adrienne Cook

You've heard I suppose, long ago,
How the snakes, in a manner most antic,
He marched to the county Mayo,
And trundled them into th' Atlantic
~William Maginn

If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?  ~Stanislaw J. Lec

Anyone acquainted with Ireland knows that the morning of St. Patrick's Day consists of the night of the seventeenth of March flavored strongly with the morning of the eighteenth.  ~Author Unknown

For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way -
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.
~Author Unknown

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing

Oh, Paddy, dear, an' did ye hear the news that's goin' round?
The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground!
No more St. Patrick's Day we'll keep, his colour can't be seen,
For there's a cruel law agin' the Wearin' o' the green.
~Author Unknown

When law can stop the blades of grass from growin' as they grow,
An' when the leaves in summer time their color dare not show,
Then I will change the color, too, I wear in my caubeen;
But till that day, plaise God, I'll stick to the Wearin' o' the Green.
~Author Unknown

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
~Irish Blessing

So, success attend St. Patrick's fist,
For he's a saint so clever;
Oh! he gave the snakes and toads a twist,
And bothered them forever!
~Henry Bennett

Saint Patrick was a gentleman, who through strategy and stealth
Drove all the snakes from Ireland, here's a drink to his health!
But not too many drinks, lest we lose ourselves and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick, and see them snakes again!
~Author Unknown

Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don't want to press your luck.  ~Author Unknown

Oh, the music in the air!
An' the joy that's ivrywhere -
Shure, the whole blue vault of heaven is wan grand triumphal arch,
An' the earth below is gay
Wid its tender green th'-day,
Fur the whole world is Irish on the Seventeenth o' March!
~Thomas Augustin Daly

When Irish eyes are smiling,
'Tis like a morn in spring.
With a lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
~Author Unknown

He was a terror to any snake that came in his path, whether it was the cold, slimy reptile sliding along the ground or the more dangerous snake that oppresses men through false teachings.  And he drove the snakes out of the minds of men, snakes of superstition and brutality and cruelty.  ~Arthur Brisbane

O, the red rose may be fair,
And the lily statelier;
But my shamrock, one in three
Takes the very heart of me!
~Katherine Tynan

If you're enough lucky to be Irish, you're lucky enough!  ~Irish Saying

There's a dear little plant that grows in our isle,
'Twas St Patrick himself, sure, that set it;
And the sun on his labor with pleasure did smile,
And with dew from his eye often wet it.
It thrives through the bog, through the brake, and the mireland;
And he called it the dear little shamrock of Ireland...
~Andrew Cherry

And about her courts were seen
Liveried angels robed in green,
Wearing, by St Patrick’s bounty,
Emeralds big as half the county.
~Walter Savage Landor

The shamrock on an older shore
Sprang from a rich and sacred soil
Where saint and hero lived of yore,
And where their sons in sorrow toil.
~Maurice Francis Egen

Oh, while a man may dream awake,
On gentle Irish ground,
'Tis Paradise without the snake -
That's easy to be found.
~Frederick Langbridge

For 'tis green, green, green, where the ruined towers are gray,
And it's green, green, green, all the happy night and day;
Green of leaf and green of sod, green of ivy on the wall,
And the blessed Irish shamrock with the fairest green of all.
~Mary Elizabeth Blake

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