Kent Bush: A glimpse from another point of view
You've probably heard or read that perception is reality.
But nothing affects your perception of a situation like your own personal perspective.
I got a great lesson on this Monday morning as my flight drew near to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
As we approached the airport, I was treated to an amazing scene. It wasn't uncommon, but maybe its prevalence is what makes it amazing.
Anyone who flies frequently has seen the clouds as you climb or descend. But those with their feet planted firmly on the ground see that heavenly world very differently.
Clouds look massive. Some take shape while others merely shade the sunlight from the Earth. Some cloud formations rise higher than the tallest terrestrial tors. Those we dropped through over Chicago on Monday were only a few stories high. As I surveyed the tops of the clouds, I realized how very different they look from above. Even more surreal was the short trip through the cotton candy crystallizations.
When we left the airport, I made a conscious effort to note the view from below. It was stunning to me how very normal they looked from the street outside an airport. As I watched another plane rise through the clouds to its cruising altitude, I wondered if the people aboard that flight even appreciated the incredible scene they were witnessing.
I doubt it.
Human tendency is to expect the incredible and complain that great isn't good enough.
Who doesn't complain when the power goes out? What about a website that takes more than three seconds to load? People go crazy at these minor inconveniences even though it is a miracle of modern technology that the services exist at all.
It reminded me of another story where perspective affected a people's perception.
When the Israelites were freed from Egyptian slavery they wandered in the desert.
Despite no longer being held as slaves in the not-so-loving care of Egyptian masters, soon the people of God were asking to be returned to Egypt. Despite seeing the miracles of the Red Sea being parted, a cloud covering them by day, a fire leading them by night, and getting sufficient manna to eat every day, they grew restless and longed to return to the control of their masters.
After all, in Egypt they had melons and meat and many other luxuries that life during an exodus could not afford.
So they found themselves with a hunger for meat.
God finally tired of all of the grumbling and told Moses to prepare the people for meat. Not enough for a day, a week or even three weeks. They would have meat for a month until "it runs out their nostrils and they loathe it."
Moses was surprised by God's perturbed promise.
The man who had received the Ten Commandments after speaking to God in a burning bush and led his people through a parted sea now doubted the God who had led his footsteps and provided for his every need for years.
"Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot," Moses told God. "And you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!' Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?"
God didn't seem pleased with Moses' doubt.
"Is my arm too short?" God asked his servant. "You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you."
God drove in enough quail that every family gathered all they could eat.
God's anger with his people was ignited by their thanklessness, and a plague came upon them and many of them died.
So their perspective led to their protestation and ultimately, they perished.
That story makes me want to keep my perspective in check.
I don't want to spend my life looking at the bottom of the clouds and wishing things could be different. When I slipped the surly bonds of Earth on Monday, it gave me a glimpse of how differently the same situation can look from another point of view.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.