Monday, February 8, 2010

The projectionists

So I have this hat--I've always had a hat of some kind since I truly believe if your head is warm, you'll be warmer...but that's just me. This hat I have is, obviously to me, a lion. There is a brown and yellow and white mane from ear to ear in two inch long fringes of yarn and that motif is continued down to two yarn masses on either side of my hat, attached to the ear flaps. There are two brown ears--a little like Mickey Mouse ears but smaller--on the top of the hat and the hat itself is the downy gold/yellow of a lion. My brother-in-law gave me the hat and I love it and wear it everyday and forget sometimes to take it off.

My hat gets giggles and smiles and out-loud laughter. A guy in a convenience store in Baltimore--a guy with lots of piercings and tattoos and jelled hair told me, "Man, I hate to say it, but that is one 'rad' hat...." I'm not sure what 'rad' means--some play on 'radical' I suspect, but, being polite, I thanked him for his observation.

Here's the thing--my hat is so obviously a lion to me that I am amazed at what people tell me they think it is: a Viking, a Mohawk Indian, an Arab, a Hindu, a Peruvian (that one is understandable since it looks like those hats except for the fringe mane and the ears and was, according to the label, made in Peru) and, my favorite, an Ewok. (Of course, some people, I know, think I look like an idiot in my hat, but I don't mind.) H. told me "I can't take you seriously in that hat," and I replied, "that might be the point...."

So, lots of people 'project' things on my hat. "Projection", of course, is a really important concept in psychology that most people have no concept about in day to day life. Most of us always think of ourselves as video cameras--recording what we experience with our senses. I would suggest it is more true to think of ourselves as movie projectors--putting our own thoughts, interpretations, judgments, ideas, opinions on the clean, white screen that is what we think of as 'reality'. If you asked me (I know you didn't but I'm going to tell you anyway) most of what we assume is objective reality is really what we have 'projected' on life as we know it. And the fact that we assume we are 'recording' makes the fact that we're really 'projecting' doubly hard to notice and realize.

Whenever someone says to me, "Are you feeling alright?" I tend to assume that they aren't feeling quite up to par. So I ask them how they feel and almost always they tell me about what's bothering them. Same thing goes for "Are you tired?" or "Are you angry?" or "Are you a little depressed?" Almost always whoever asks me stuff like that is 'projecting'. I'm just the screen, for goodness sake.

And there is all sorts of 'projection' stuff put on me because I'm a priest. People almost swoon when they know I smoke. One wonderful woman left the church because I say things like "bitch" and "shit" and "fuck" from time to time. And when I tell people about my skepticism and doubts about this whole Christianity thing, they cross themselves and break out in hives. "A priest wouldn't...should...always...never...."--things like that are all projections. I am who I am AND I am a priest.

Whenever I have a strong initial opinion about someone or something, I try to remember to ask myself, "where did THAT come from?" whether the opinion is positive or negative. Somebody somewhere probably taught me something about whatever it is I'm reacting to and I'm projecting my unconscious on to the person I'm encountering. About the worse one for me is when I meet someone I know is wealthy. I have lots of junk floating around in my unconscious about 'rich people' which I immediately project onto the next 'rich person' I meet. And most of it is negative and unkind and terribly unfair and keeps me from really encountering people who have money in an honest way. Just today at a funeral I met a woman who was attractive and charming and very friendly. I took an immediate liking to her until she told me her last name. She is part of one of the wealthy families of Waterbury and my opinion of her turned on a dime (or a trust fund!) but I noticed what was happening and was able to continue our conversation and walked away liking her greatly. I realized if I had known her last name before we started talking I wouldn't have given her a chance. I would have been projecting in technicolor if not 3-D and never realized what a genuine and nice human being she was....That's what I'm talking about.

It would behoove me and all of us (I would suggest) to walk around knowing fair well that we are more like movie projectors than video camera and ponder our opinions about people, issues, stuff by asking, "wonder where that came from?"

It's not a BAD thing, that we 'project' constantly. We're actually pretty much wired up that way in the factory. But it is definitely a GOOD thing to realize that about ourselves and, whenever we are paying attention, to ponder and reflect about what is 'real' and what we have 'projected' on reality.

Just a thought for your castor oil tree time....And mine....

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.