True Colors

Sometimes the true colors of nature are not visible to the eyes. Specially if those colors are hidden behind a beautifully displayed flower. But through a special lens, those hidden colors are revealed. They are exposed, and they become clear.

An old friend — who is not a friend anymore — often told me, “Don’t always believe what you see. Your eyes can be deceived. Most of the time, what is true is hidden behind the scenes; and what seems to be is not always the real thing.” That was thirteen years ago.

At first, I thought he was just sharing with me a favorite quote or saying that has caught his attention and never left. Six years later, I discovered something about him that was exactly what the quote was saying. I couldn’t believe it. I was his close friend for many years. Maybe his only friend. Apparently, what he showed me through those years, was just the surface — the very opposite of what he was underneath.

Since then I became more aware, always cautious that another reality maybe existing below the surface, that there may have tears behind the smiles, or a prejudiced heart is just coated with gentleness.

But what then? When some people encounter similar experiences, they learn to distrust others. Not me. What I learned instead was to be cautious. To be careful. To test the surface. To look for signs.

I also became aware that whenever the surface is not the same with what’s under, it’s not always intentional. Ever since, many people always mistaken me to be confident. Little do they know — in fact, only my closest friends know it— that I’m not that confident…that many times I’m struggling with my own selfsteem.

But that is not intentional. I am not pretending. That confidence is not an acting. And where it comes from, I do not know.

Sometimes the opposite of my old friend is also true. I have met people who at first were very intimidating and antagonistic only to surprise me later — during my lowest point when all those so called friends have left my side — that they are true friends. That I could count on them.

That’s how I came to appreciate those three photos. With only my naked eyes, those glamorous colorful backgrounds were not that beautiful. They were just blurry images. Unattractive. Unnoticeable. But through the camera lens, they were revealed beautifully — lovely and captivating.

Maybe because I expected it that way.

Just like in life, my attitude and expectations to people are the equivalent of my little camera lens. Although it may not be absolute, but most of the times, what I silently expect deep inside me are the ones that usually show up.

Maybe that’s how it works: I become distrustful of people and expect ugly things from them, then those expectations will later become reality.

The opposite may also be true: I expect beautiful things from people who don’t look promising at first, then they will surprise me later with beautiful colors — lovely and captivating.

And as a photographer chooses her lens, so I choose my attitude toward people. The choice is mine.

How about you, what do you expect today? What lens are you using?

Paradigm Shift: A Quick One

While reading Philip Yancey‘s book, The Jesus I Never Knew, this afternoon, a little boy, who was a total stranger to me, came unannounced and annoyingly disturbed my quiet world.

First, he touched my iPhone which was peacefully lying on the left side of my table. Then he began rummaging on my table in a surprising manner, like a warden conducting a surprise inspection to a suspicious inmate.

I was shocked.

Then, in a hurry, he walked in front of the table and moved my displays one by one, inspecting them like he did to my iPhone—lifting them up, turning them upside down, and NOT putting them back where they belonged. Maybe he was looking for something, drugs, electronic bugs, I didn’t know. He did it with full authority, serious face, and without a smile.

My shock shifted to anger.

As a boy, I was brought up by my militaristic father under heavy strokes of discipline. Almost every move I made are counted by the number, every motion needed precision. I had to behave or I would be punched in the head or slapped in my face. With that heavy upbringing, my initial reaction to the boy who rummaged my table and violated my tranquility, was of course, one of anger. I couldn’t take the idea that he would get away with that kind of misbehavior without being spanked or at least yelled at. I was screaming “That’s unfair!” inside my heart. There is a strong force inside me that makes me expect the same discipline to every child I encounter, even now that I’m an adult. Anything less would trigger my temper.

The child’s ugly demeanor, jerked me back more than thirty five years ago, on the time when I was still his age. And while in the process of reminiscing my painful childhood, he made another blow. He reached out to me and touched the wooden knife I was holding in my hand. Sometimes, as a mannerism, I would hold on something—any object—while reading a book. This time, I was holding (and playing with my hands) a knife replica made of soft wood while reading my book aloud.

No, he did not just touch it. He held it firmly trying to get it from me, out of my hand. And he did it very quickly (almost surprising me) as if anticipating my resistance. When I resisted, he quickly ran toward my left side and opened the drawer of my table—continuing his unbelievable surprise inspection! Now, my building-up anger, suddenly metamorphosed into a full-grown rage. I was about to stand up and shout at him with blazing eyes.

At that point, I saw her mother running toward us reprimanding him in a graceful manner. I couldn’t believe it! All those untoward behaviors just treated with grace? But her mother was as quick as her little boy. She said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, my son is autistic. He is super active, hyperactive actually. He’s just five years old, and couldn’t speak.”

Upon hearing what she said — autistic! — , I suddenly experienced a change of heart. My blazing rage, rapidly melted uncontrolled. My anger, suddenly turned into compassion, plus a little shame to myself for being too quick to judge. I experienced a PARADIGM SHIFT.

Not all paradigm shifts happen that quick. In fact, most “change of heart” happen in a gradual way, taking up many years to transform. Nevertheless, whether paradigm shift happens in a slow, gradual way or in a sweeping stroke like the one I experienced this afternoon, it is always a powerful force. Powerful enough to change our emotion, to change our behavior, to change our treatment to other people…to change our lives.

My encounter with that little autistic boy helped me connect with what I have been reading. The book The Jesus I Never Knew is about a major paradigm shift in how Philip perceived the Jesus he thought he knew. And his perception changed dramatically when he scrutinized the life of Jesus according the gospels.

Just like Philip to Jesus, my perception to the boy was that he’s a spoiled child who needs discipline, extra discipline. I was seeing him as a negative person, simply undesirable. Yet after hearing one word—autistic—I changed my lenses. Suddenly he was a cute little boy who needs love, extra love, unconditional love.

All of a sudden, the boys behavior is justified. They became unoffending, even adorable.

I have learned that sometimes, if I needed a different result in what I’m doing, I just need to change the way I look at things. Just like in photography, I just need to replace my macro lens with a wide-angled lens. So I will be able to see the big picture, including all the surrounding.

While I was unconsciously building up my anger to the little boy, I was using my macro lens, concentrating on the details of his behavior, his rapid movements, his not being polite to at least smile at me, his irritating curiosity. But when I changed my perception, I changed the lens of my mind with a wide-angled lens, thereby seeing the surroundings, seeing the difficulty and courage of her mother in taking care of her, seeing his inability to connect meaningfully with other people even with just a simple smile, seeing his fondness in concrete objects, understanding that he is not in control of his behaviors.

When I changed my paradigm, I changed my heart, my feelings followed, then my behavior almost automatically supported that new paradigm.

Now, 2017 is coming in a few days. I am asking myself, what behaviors do I need to change for the better? What paradigm should I start shifting?

Actions in the Air

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Just a few hours ago, this afternoon, I was relaxing under the shade of a tree when a bunch of Maya birds ransacked playfully the left-over food of my puppy. So I quickly grabbed my camera, covered my head with a brown scarf and position myself about four meters away from them. Out of more than 50 shots, I only captured 6 actions in the air. The photos are not as good as you may expect, but at least I liked them.