Monday, March 9, 2009

By the Light of the Moon

It is one of the commonest of mistakes
to consider that
the limit of our power of perception
is also the limit of all there is to perceive.
~C.W. Leadbeater

Lunar Perception © 2009 MJohnson.
Perception is a funny thing: Two or more people can view the exact same event and come away with a different understanding of their experience. Take moon-gazing, for instance.
One night, while living in Florida, two of my girlfriends came over for a bit of late-night-summer-screened-patio-dwelling. The moon was particularly bright and full, providing the perfect ambient lighting for our ladies' night outdoors. As we talked and laughed and sipped our wine, one of my friends noticed something peculiar--light radiated from the center of this luminous moon forming a symmetrical fixed cross.
We had been talking about everything from our personal lives to the war in the Middle East and the overall state of the world, but upon seeing this cross-of-light, my friend stopped mid-sentence and said, "It's a sign! I just know it's a sign. I can feel it! What do you think it means?"
Being equally fascinated by astronomy and astrology--and having earlier confirmed the planetary positions in the night sky--I philosophized that this brilliant fixed-cross-moon was an outward expression of the current astrological energy affecting the world at large.
Our other friend stared wistfully at the moon--her expression one of hope and inspiration--and simply said, "I believe it is God's way of telling us that no matter what's going on in the world, he loves us and everything is going to be okay."
There we were--three different women with very different explanations of our experience, but we all agreed on one thing: We were witnessing a most extraordinary moment in time. We sat in silence, each connecting with our perception, feeling somehow changed by this powerful experience.
But later, after one of the girls walked home to make sure that her son was preparing for bed, she phoned my house in a fluster. "Go outside," she said.
"I am outside. We're still on the patio."
"No," she said. "Open the screen door and step outside."
"Okay," I conceded, now standing barefoot in the wet grass. "What is it?"
"Now look at the moon," she said, with laughter bubbling up through her otherwise serious demeanor.
"Okay . . . I'm looking . . . What is it? Wait!" I stared, "The cross is gone! What happened to the cross?"
"Now go back inside and look at the moon again."
I did as she instructed, and immediately I saw the brilliant fixed-cross-of-light radiating from the moon's core. Then I understood.
This wasn't some rare astrological phenomenon, or a blessed sign from God. No, our fixed cross was, in fact, the result of viewing the moon through the tiny weave of the patio screen, an observation made by my friend's 11 year old son when she tried to share with him our mystical, magical moment. "Mom," he had huffed, rolling his eyes at her naivete; "Open the screen door!" Then he stormed off to his room mumbling, "Do I have to explain everything to you?"
We laughed until we cried.
But all laughter aside, this moon-gazing experience helped me to understand more clearly what psychologists have long recognized: that people do not view the world neutrally--we see it through the lens of our experiences, beliefs and expectations.
Just look at the way that my friends and I sat around discussing this fixed-cross-phenomenon, making all kinds of value judgments that clearly were not accurate. But the experience was very real to us. Even when my friend called and urged me to look at the moon again, I was reluctant to abandon my prior experience. Had I not been able to gain a new perspective--by looking at the moon without the filter of the patio screen--perhaps I would have continued to explain this "rare" event through the lens of my limited understanding, mistaking my perception for fact; something that our egos are keen to do.
And this made me think: What if we all walk around clinging to our limited perception as being the only truth there is? Consider the implications on our ability to create a peaceful world that works for everyone.
In the end, we know that things are not always as they seem. Making the most of our perceptions requires flexibility and an open mind; we must temporarily suspend all judgment and become receptive to the wealth of possibility that surrounds us. Remember, what is real and true for one may not be the experience of another. And while we lose nothing when we open ourselves up to consider another viewpoint, what we stand to gain is great indeed.
By Melissa Johnson


Anonymous said...


I certainly hope there's much more to the world than my perception of it! I enjoyed reading this very much.
Sarah Mc

TR Hughes said...

Oh My God! You are an amazing writer! The way you convey your experience with this scenario and the reflection of that experience comes across in such a way that I feel as though I was right there with you. LOVE the quote you started with and how true it is that we do live and experience life from an isolated perception of reality that, to us individually, feels right on. Opening up ourselves to the possibilities of different points of view and not living as though our personal truths are solid gold is what straightens our path to enlightenment. I am always open to learning and understanding life through the reflection of others. May I never be so bold as to think I am alone in my thought OR that my thoughts are true without doubt. When we allow our minds to contemplate various perceptions we engage the universe and open up the doors of possibility - to try, as we may, to unravel all the mysteries of the universe and galaxies beyond. Thank you for sharing. Great subject matter!