Perception as reality? Don't bite

Aug 19, 2012 By Randy Tucker

But visits to a comic book convention, a pro football camp, and a hospital put my theory to a tough test.

You've probably heard some inspirational "guru" tell you that perception is reality. Well, not to blow a hole in some well rehearsed self-help or feel-good seminar, but that is simply never the case.

Reality is what happens. Perception is simply how someone rationalizes cold, hard facts. Perception is most often the result of a rationalization composed partially of assumptions, memories, possibilities and prejudices.

In short, it often has little to do with what is actually happening around you.

With that little disclaimer in place, I ran the gamut of perceptual possibilities over the last couple of weeks, a sojourn composed of how the view of my own physical abilities and limitations can change with the environment around me.

We took a week-long trip to Pittsburgh to visit daughter Staci and son-in-law Adam last month. Adam and I are both fans of Marvel Comics, and one of the largest comic conventions on the East Coast was being held in a nearby auditorium.

We ventured to the site on a hot Sunday afternoon and were greeted equally by a bewildering array of comics, science fiction movie relics, and a most entertaining and eclectic mix of personalities.

To sum up the majority of people in the crowd the phrase, "They only come out at a night" kept coming to the forefront. Most of the people were in their late 20s through their early 40s, and few of them looked like they had ever taken a walk, lifted a weight or done any kind of physical labor.

Perhaps the most telling statistic came in the many t-shirt vendors in attendance that offered a wide variety of children's sizes but only offered adult varieties in XL, XXL, XXXL and in something that was usually only available through Abdulla the Tent Maker. These were big people.

Aside from one of the "celebrities" in attendance, a WWF female wrestler, there wasn't anyone in attendance that I perceived could outrun me at any distance. (And I've never been much of a runner)

Darth Vader, Spiderman and Luke Skywalker outfits patrolled the area, and lines formed to get Burt Ward's autograph (Robin has not aged well) along with Mini Me actor Verne Troyer. As I remarked earlier, an eclectic mix.

Adam and I left the Monroeville Mall feeling a bit like Olympic athletes in comparison with the crowd, a perception that plummeted back to reality a short three-days later.

Adam accompanied me on my second trip to Pittsburgh Steeler training camp at St. Vincent's College. In the process of interviewing Brett Keisel, Dick LeBeau and Steeler legend "Mean" Joe Green, it became apparent that our physical appraisal at the comic convention was rapidly dwindling.

Walking among nearly a hundred professional and wanna-be professional football players was an interesting experience.

Aside from Joe Green, who is nearly crippled by a lifetime of low blocks, and perhaps 94-year old Steeler owner Dan Rooney, there weren't many people I could outrun on the field that afternoon.

The sensation wasn't a new one. Each time I arrive at a high school sporting event, the process repeats itself as it does on the opposite spectrum when coming into contact with many of Fremont County's aging citizens.

Perception as reality? Maybe a little bit in this case.

After the trip to western Pennsylvania I found myself in a much more serious locale at the Anschutz center at the University of Colorado Medical Center.

My dad had a successful heart valve replacement procedure, and in the days prior to and following the surgery we spent a lot of time at the hospital.

Once again the perception of youthful strength, vigor and stamina returned.

The reality, the hard part, the truth in residence was that I had not changed at all, only my perceived image of myself was being altered by the environment surrounding me.

The comic-book crowd created its own problems due to their largely sedentary lifestyle. Until they changed their daily regimen, the health prognosis for these people wasn't peachy.

Most of us will never be as big as an NFL lineman, as strong as a running back, or as fast as a wide receiver, but football is entirely in the realm of the young.

Still, many of us consider it a lifetime sport since we wear the injuries inflicted during our youth for the remainder of our lives.

Age and genetic bad luck are dominant among the people at the Colorado University Hospital. The miracle of modern medicine gives them the chance to recover from infirmities that were terminal just a generation ago.

How you view yourselves in your life situations is entirely dependent on your personal world view.

As one of my favorite futurist authors, Aldous Huxley said, "There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception."

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