The snake

On today’s jog a small snake slithered across my path. I’m not a snake person, so my initial reaction was “Ewww. . . “ Objectively, it was rather pretty with a bold yellow stripe down its back and rather graceful in its slither. Yet for me, just not one of my favorite things, one I find hard to appreciate although in nature’s framework, quite beautiful, and important, I would suggest. Even if not, one of HaShem’s creations so who am I to judge?

We easily can think about how beauty is subjective. A movie with a twist on this theme is “Shallow Hal”, a Farrelly brothers film, which comically portrays a hypnotized shallow Hal (Jack Black) dating a 300 pound woman but seeing her as Gwyneth Paltrow, for he can only see her inner beauty. This familiar theme of beauty defined in the eyes of the beholder is not new.

Yet my perception of the snake was not just about beauty. To some, the snake is a predator. Sometimes it may be prey. The Bible has various takes on the snake, a study in itself. The medical profession showcases a snake in its recognized logo. Clearly, the “reality” of the snake is diverse depending on one’s perspective.

The effect of varying perspectives of the same facts also results in different perceptions of what occurred. If one is deeply frightened or anxious about snakes, the experience of it on the same path could cause one to think the snake was threatening. If one liked snakes, one might follow the snake on its path to see more of it. The snake could feel threatened and strike back. An owl could see the snake more clearly due to our interaction and swoop down to seize the snake, all of these consequences the result of actions driven by perceptions.

So why all the hullabaloo about the snake?

We are living in a time when what each of us sees and hears, and therefore how we act, is affected by many factors, some of which are unique to these unusual days. COVID is the obvious new player that affects our sensibilities in ways we probably can’t appreciate. Some live in fear. Some are fearless. Some become deeply analytical to overcome emotion. Some are just deeply analytical. Some live in denial. Some are more questioning of authority and of what we are told. Some of us are very aware that COVID has us a bit stressed out. Yet the subtleties of its effect may elude us.

All of us have come to accept COVID as part of life. Yet its unique effect on each of us affects how each of us sees our world. We have to think twice about our actions, be more cautious, even in making the simple decisions, like grocery shopping, and that alone affects our emotional wiring. Thinking about when to wear a mask and how far to stand from another before venturing out affects us whether we know it or not. Seeing the rising numbers of illness and deaths affects our psyche. Even for the bold, these thoughts affect our emotions, often without our even being aware of its effect. As we have to work a little harder to know ourselves, we have to work harder to put ourselves in the other’s shoes. The stress of COVID, even when we don’t think we’re thinking about it, causes our inner world to be a bit off kilter, tending to make us more rash in our judgments, more judgmental generally, and less tolerant of others’ perspectives.

The snake experience and showering of political commercials have come together, with our COVID days. This is a reality. Listening to each candidate, at the many levels of offices up for election, only drives home the point even more clearly – we each see and hear, and act, based on our internal wiring, which in these times may make it harder to see, and feel for, the other side. Sometimes I actually watch the TV stations I know to be less flattering of candidates I prefer in order to be able to better understand the thinking of my brothers and sisters who think differently than I do. I am fascinated, dismayed, and yet enlightened to hear sometimes dramatically different perspectives after seeing the same debate or event.

Each of our candidates, and each of us, is hearing what we hear filtered by our own unique perspectives. Our capacities are overburdened in today’s hostile environment uncomfortably challenging our capabilities to stretch in order to be able to see and hear the other. If we know that, we can try harder to overcome our own view, which may be unusually entrenched by fears, anxieties, observations of disunity, hopelessness, that color our perspectives and are stumbling blocks to walking in our brothers’ and sisters’ shoes.

We can unite. It just takes extremely more effort given the various factors at play. Yet we are up for the task. No question about that, as you take strength in knowing Yeshua walks at your side, through it all, guiding you when you remember to seek Him, reminding you that you are human, and He is God, and we need Him now more than ever.

You must remember to seek Him, especially now.

I encourage you to stay reminded of His faith in you, and your faith in Him, as you see not only the beauty in each other, but also, deepen your understanding of the myriad of perceptions different than your own, the secret to a life more fully lived.

Shabbat shalom.

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