Once upon a time…
With eyes crusted shut, Cyrus rolled over in bed, stretching his body out like a Persian cat. Muscle memory immediately triggered his arm to reach toward the bedside table. Through no conscious intention of his own, Cyrus grasped his smartphone and entered the connect-the-dots unlock pattern, which resembled a cross or a pentagram, depending on how he looked at it. He rarely does – look at it, that is. By now, tapping into the world wide web is as natural to him as licking his lips or wiggling his toes.
An empty, yet heavy feeling rose in his belly, so Cyrus rolled onto his back to open up his socials. His long, thin thumb moved dexterously, a deft oar to guide him through the gentle sea of curated images and malnourished text.
And what does the internet have for Cyrus this morning?
On Instagram, a beautiful woman named Bianca is, surprise-surprise, still beautiful, as demonstrated by a revealing photo set in a faraway cave pool. The pictures do no justice to the image Cyrus has of her in his mind. They are hardly any different from the ones she posted yesterday. Nevertheless, Cyrus sighed and saved a few for later. Then he cruised through the rest of his feed, double-tapping group photos that gave him not FOMO (fear of missing out), but DAHMO (dread at having missed out).
Soon he saw Bianca again. This time in a heart-framed photograph on her story, which showed her standing with a man named, of all names, Boris. Crestfallen for a moment, Cyrus promptly rid his gallery of any woman remotely resembling Bianca, and once again, all was well.
Next, Cyrus opened Facebook and mindlessly queued up a prank video, only to abandon the endeavour after an advertisement for beta-blockers began to play.
Cyrus headed over to the Twitter homepage, where global leaders argued at a summit on climate change while millions were suddenly jobless due to unlawful mandates, and pro athletes dropped like flies on the field. “Bioweapon” was trending and – ah-ha! A dog in a shirt, top hat, and bowtie with human arms poking through the sleeves, cutting steak with a fork and knife. ‘Delightful! What a dapper boy!’
Mouth dry and bladder full, Cyrus swung his legs over the edge of the mattress to brace himself for standing. Before his feet could even make contact with the floor, he saw it: an old picture of himself, embedded in a post from a blue-check account called ‘Deadline’.
“Cyrus Melucci passed away today at the tender age of 33.”
Cyrus who, before this exact moment in time, spent the majority of his day in a dark room, scrolling between social accounts and was totally unconcerned about his aliveness, promptly wet his pyjamas. Reeling from the shock of his presumed death, Cyrus squinted at his phone in disbelief. It was a confusing profusion of images. His dumb face, pulled straight on a school photo day, sandwiched between an obituary and a verified source.
“What the hell?” Cyrus exclaimed out loud, suddenly relieved to hear the sound of his own voice. He tapped the little ‘more’ button to expand the caption.
“It’s true,” it said. “We have it from sources close to the Melucci family that Cyrus passed away this morning under mysterious circumstances. Details are still incoming. However, we can confirm that Mr. Melucci’s spinal cord had turned to jelly.”
“Why would Deadline post this?” wondered Cyrus. He was not famous. In fact, he was hardly even known in his own neighbourhood where he had lived for 19-years. His morning stretch was big, but surely it wasn’t that big!
Determined to uncover the mystery, Cyrus went to the comment section. It was empty, which seemed about right for a nobody with zero clout. Cyrus decided not to take the lack of engagement personally… people were probably thinking “What a way to go. Who the heck is Cyrus?
Grinning he added a comment: “Umm… hi? lol.”
Cyrus chuckled, turned over his phone, and waddled away to shower and change.
After 15-minutes or so, Cyrus returned to see his comment had zero likes and one reply. Her name was joeb.7989 and her profile picture prominently featured a see-through blouse. Her exact words were “You have a beautiful. I have little surprise for you my story!”
Shrugging, Cyrus checked the bot’s story, gazed for a moment at a set of gorgeous feminine curves, and felt nothing. However, by nightfall, everything changed. Although the matter was either overlooked or ignored at first, the incredible death of Cyrus Melucci suddenly became the height of controversy. #TwiceCyrus was trending worldwide.
The death announcement itself had millions of likes and hundreds of thousands of comments. Many responses added little in the way of value, and the bulk seemed to be tactless self-promotions. However, between the clickbait, something unexpected emerged.
An argument online.
Two primary factions gathered. The first were devout Puritans who, despite never having heard of Cyrus before, took his sudden resurrection as proof that he was the second coming of their messiah.
It came as no surprise when a counterculture quickly formed against this perceived zealotry. The dissenters believed that Deadline made a mistake (if indeed a Cyrus Melucci ever existed in the first place.) Most of all, they vehemently denounced everything the Followers stood for. They referred to themselves, in a tongue-in-cheek way, as the Heretics.
Naturally, the Followers wanted to see their messiah in flesh. They wanted to be touched and healed and blessed by him. Paul Smithson, a rising star in the newly formed Meluccian clergy, used his popular TikTok account to organise a pilgrimage en masse. Thousands descended upon the humble duplex Cyrus shared with his mother, easily overwhelming a small community police force in the process. The scene more closely resembled a music festival than anything else, with chanting, dancing, and copious amounts of alcohol.
Always present wherever the Followers were, and eager to point out any hint of hypocrisy, the Heretics closed in and began their haranguing. Gradually, as the shouting escalated, the crowd separated into two distinct bodies, directly facing each other like the Greeks did the Persians. The Followers were fewer in number but appeared far the more intimidating: stoic, silent, and self-assured. Suddenly, from among the ranks, a fist-sized rock launched high into the air, descending upon the enemy. This single rash act ignited a bloody battle and a holy war ensued.
Cyrus watched aghast from his mirky bedroom window, briefly wondering what Bianca was up to.
By the following day, the Followers and Heretics had organised across the country. The military began constructing an emergency high-security compound around the duplex, but the project was quickly abandoned for more pressing concerns. National borders were suddenly overwhelmed by desperate pilgrims of all Abrahamic religions. Conflicts erupted over holy sites, such as the tiny riverside park where Cyrus used to bury his nudie magazines. Thousands died thinking themselves righteous, and the government wouldn’t comment for fear of losing influence over their constituents right before an upcoming election.
Fate seemed to favour the Followers. They did not have the numbers to run a coherent military campaign or win a decisive victory, but they were not afraid to fight dirty. They attacked sporadically, guerrilla-style, in a way that eluded the Heretics. Eventually, they made no real progress, but it seemed as though they had the will to outlast their enemy. Then, everything changed at the Battle of Broken Porch. An enveloping ambush destroyed the entry to Cyrus’ home and the bulk of the Followers’ forces retreated. Finally, after four hellish days, the end of the war was in sight.
Two days after Broken Porch, a Heretic death squad decapitated Paul Smithson, thereby crippling the Meluccian chain of command. And on the seventh day, a treaty was signed.
It confused Cyrus that, as a stipulation of the treaty, he had to be nailed to a cross and bled to death. It was apparently decided that, from the Heretics’ perspective, the Followers must be shown that their so-called messiah was only a man. And from the Followers’ perspective, their messiah had already died for their sins before, so he would be happy to do it again. Both sides were satisfied with the crucifixion solution, but the Followers could not – amongst themselves – agree upon the type of wood to use for the cross.
Cyrus spent the weekend hiding under his bed, afraid for his sorry life. He had multiple nightmares wherein Bianca bequeathed to him a crown of thorns. Much to his surprise, by the time Monday morning rolled around, the news cycle had refreshed and the matter of the maybe messiah was summarily forgotten.
Cyrus leaped out of bed and jogged to the bathroom for a shower. Feeling warm relief radiate through his body, he thought to himself ‘it’s the perfect day for a nice long walk by the ocean.’
“All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Moral of the Story:
Perception is not reality, but, admittedly, perception can become a person’s reality (there is a difference) because perception has a potent influence on how we look at reality. Think of it this way: Perception acts as a lens through which we view reality. Our perceptions influence how we focus on, process, remember, interpret, understand, synthesise, decide about, and act on reality. In doing so, our tendency is to assume that how we perceive reality is an accurate representation of what reality truly is. But it’s not. The problem is that the lens through which we perceive is often warped in the first place by our genetic predispositions, past experiences, prior knowledge, emotions, preconceived notions, self-interest, and cognitive distortions.
When we perceive the world in a way that is out of touch with reality, we may have mild delusions, such as a slightly inflated view of our capabilities. This can have psychological and practical benefits, such as giving hope or enhancing persistence. However, if the perception deviates too far from mild illusion to delusion, it can be a liability. We may set unattainable goals or be ill-prepared for a difficult task. In fact, a substantial disconnect between perception and reality can lead people to a complete inability to function. The challenge we face with our own thinking, as well as the thinking of others, is how to ensure that perceptions remain close to reality. This is no mean feat when we are continuously bombarded with disinformation. Here are our top tips:
- Don’t assume that your perceptions are reality (they are only your reality)
- Be respectful of others’ perceptions (they may be right)
- Don’t hold your perceptions too tightly; they may be wrong (admitting that takes courage)
- Recognise the distortions within you that may warp your perceptions (seeing them will better ground your perceptions in reality rather than the other way around)
- Challenge your perceptions (do they hold up under the microscope of reality?)
- Seek out validation from experts and credible others (don’t just ask your friends because they likely have the same perceptions as you)
- Be open to modifying your perceptions if the preponderance of evidence demands it (rigidity of mind is far worse than being wrong).
“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.”
― Miyamoto Musashi
Affirmation: I am open to all ideas & I read between the lines
When I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change. My mind is developing new levels of comprehension. I see the hidden motives behind ideas because I am perceptive and thoughtful. I have my own solid opinions and I trust my beliefs so I will stop accepting simply what is fed to me. I welcome diverse ideas and I utilise my own judgement to analyse the information. I am enhancing my perception to form a deeper understanding of reality. I naturally know what is happening around me and people see me as an innovative thinker. I love to read and obtain apprehension. I have great critical thinking skills and I cherish knowledge. Learning new things is part of who I am. I am an intelligent individual and I enjoy being comprehensive. I am ready to see my own life in new and exciting ways.
“Your agreement with reality defines your life.”