Perception or Reality?

by Bill Brenner on July 10, 2013

A couple friends who were at the 1992 Lollapalooza show I recently wrote about agreed with my general retelling of events but experienced something much different than I did.

Said one: “I guess it’s true: Perception is reality.”

Mood music:

I couldn’t agree more. It reflects a point I’ve repeatedly tried to drive home: The events I describe in this blog are based on my own personal truths, the most accurate retellings I can offer. But I know my perception of things isn’t exactly the whole picture.

I’ve heard from family and friends over the years who have suggested that my take on particular events was different from how they remembered them. One family member whose privacy I’ll respect here told me that most of my childhood memories are fabrications.

Many people tend to see the world in black and white. Something is either the truth or a lie. Nothing in between. I’m not one of those people.

From my perspective, we all see things our brains try to interpret as honestly as possible, but there’s no objectivity. We have built-in biases and perceptions of the world around us. The result is that if you put 10 people in a room and something eventful happens — a fight or medical emergency, perhaps — two people will tell you what they saw and it’ll differ from what three other people saw. The rest of the room will add different perspectives to the story. This is especially the case if you ask those people to describe the event a year or more later.

In the case of that Lollapalooza show, what I saw was filtered through a brain that was off-balance and sick, which made my memory one of terror. Others will tell you that they were there and were not afraid. They just had a good old time reveling in rock and roll. Some will have seen events through brains that were also unbalanced at the time, but in different ways. I suffered from heightened fear, but someone else could have been prone to death wishes and such.

To really get at the truth, you have to get multiple perspectives from multiple people. The real truth will usually be something in between the opposing perspectives.

This case is no different.

Lollapalooza II

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