Rev. Linda Martella-Whitsett
Enrolled in a local workshop for health care and clergy professionals, “The Art of Perception,” I was eager to sharpen my ability to see — a valuable skill for pastoral ministry. Amy E. Herman, author of Visual Intelligence who trains police officers, CIA, FBI, Navy Seals, and medical professionals to see seemingly insignificant details that could alter outcomes in critical circumstances, showed me within minutes that I miss much of what I think I see.
In one exercise, I was to describe a particular photograph to my seat-mate who was to draw the image based on my description. Easy, I thought. The photograph was a cityscape depicting a bridge over a body of water. In the background, I saw downtown high rise buildings framing the daytime sky. Nailed it! My seat-mate drew a fair representation within our allotted one minute. Feeling confident, I faced forward as Amy asked, “Raise your hand if you described to your seat-mate the giant kitchen table and chairs on top of the bridge.”
The WHAT? Incredulously, I looked at the photograph again. There, centered and precisely on top of the bridge, was a gigantic table and two chairs. I had not described it. I had not seen it! It was NOT there when I had looked the first time.
I believe I did not see the table and chairs because I had not expected to see them. Table and chairs “don’t belong” in a picture of a downtown bridge. Have you noticed, though, that what doesn’t belong, or seems out of place, can be significant, perhaps essential!
Perception is personal, subject to the limits of our training, experience, and bias. Abraham-Hicks says:
“Perception is everything. You are perceptual beings with different vantage points and — it does not matter how much information is given — you cannot see beyond the vibrational limits of where you are standing. You cannot live or see or experience outside of your own individual beliefs.”
As startled as I felt to repeatedly miss details that were evident when later pointed out to me in a three-hour workshop, I came away with a few important reminders:
1. Everyone sees what they see. Not an earth-shattering awareness, of course, but an acknowledgment that involving others in looking can reveal more than I can see on my own. This is valuable in my work, leading to better meaning-making as well as decision-making.
2. I can improve my visual intelligence. Building my perceptual ability will be helpful in my work and in my life. Perception is related to the Power of Faith — the perceiving Power of Faith is my capacity to see the truth within a circumstance, similarly to my ability to see what is significant in a photograph.
Faith is my rightful spiritual Power of Perception, Conviction, and Expectation. As I cultivate my perceiving power, what “I know” expands along with the possibilities. What I expect to see grows, too. As I learned with Amy Herman, I see what I expect to see. As the 19th century, Gospel composer Clara Scott wrote: “Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for me…” Let me open my eyes for greater vision and insight.