Perception vs. Truth

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

May 19, 2022

As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, “To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish.” This quote is as much about perception as anything I’ve ever read. Even if you could speak worm, you’d likely be unable to convince the worm in this example that the horseradish in question was anything other than the world. The worm’s perception is its truth. Although the worm’s truth may not be our own.

We have our own perceptions of the world. That’s true. It’s also true that we shouldn’t become so swayed by our perceptions that we fail to recognize truth, especially when we don’t have complete information and our emotions are pushing us to a place of rigid or chaotic thinking. Sure, we can assume we know the truth, but we should be leery of our assumptions, especially when our emotions are involved. 

As Roy Bennett wrote in The Light in the Heart, “The outer world is a reflection of the inner world. Other people’s perceptions of you is a reflection of them; your response to them is an awareness of you.” Do you seek peace? Then your outer world will be peaceful. Do you seek control? Then your outer world will feel controlled. The magic happens when our respective outer worlds collide. If you’re a peaceful person and meet other peaceful people, you can feel the harmony. If you’re a peaceful person who meets a controlling person, you can feel the tension. The way you respond to the tension is your personal awareness. Are you full of vitriol? Are you anxious? Do you emotionally react? Or do you tactfully respond?

Unfortunately, we don’t wear our perceptions on our sleeves. And perhaps even more regrettable, most of us don’t consciously understand our inner worlds. As Carl G. Jung is quoted, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

While we may not be able to convince the worm that he is in fact in horseradish, perhaps he could learn the truth by chewing his way out of the horseradish and into the garden bed. The rich and cool soil may be all the worm needs to learn that his perception was not reality. He may even be thrilled to find out there is more to his little worm life than a pungent and tough root.