Assumptions can lead you astray

When I was in Grade 7, I built and launched a couple of UFOs – and quite by accident, I might add.

When I was in Grade 7, I built and launched a couple of UFOs – and quite by accident, I might add.

I had been over on a Saturday to visit my friend, Lenny, who lived on a farm about five kilometres east across country.

I had ridden my bike there and found him, as I usually did – puttering away in his father’s workshop.

Lenny was exceptionally bright and considered himself an inventor. He was forever reading magazines such as Popular Mechanics and coming up with novel ideas like the time he tried to build a perpetual motion machine in his basement.

On this particular day, he was assembling the components required to build a small hot-air balloon. He showed me a diagram he’d found in one of the magazines.

I won’t share the details here, but it involved a dry-cleaner’s bag – the clear type used to protect freshly pressed and cleaned suits.

We followed the directions and much to our delight, the balloon worked. We watched in wonder as it floated higher and higher until it disappeared from sight.

The next time I was in town, I went to the dry-cleaners and asked for some bags. They were a dime each so I bought two. That pretty much took care of my allowance, but I considered it a small investment for such a grand adventure.

Once home, I set about creating my two balloons. A small, slow-burning flame produced the hot air that kept each balloon afloat. As Lenny’s balloon had been difficult to track in the daylight, I decided to launch both of my balloons at night.

They shimmered with an eerie almost ominous yellow glow as both travelled in unison across the cow pasture – carried to the northwest by a warm and gentle night breeze.

The next day my aunt came over for coffee – she and Uncle Pat just happened to live on a farm a mile across the country to the northwest.

It seemed that both had witnessed mysterious lights drifting silently across the night sky.

These “UFOs,” as my aunt referred to them, had also been witnessed by a neighbour travelling home from the field on his tractor. For a week, the strange lights were the buzz of the community. As for me, I said nothing.

It’s a given that things are not always as they first appear. It’s also true that we often proceed from false assumptions. That is, we encounter a situation that we do not understand but, instead of seeking clarity, we draw an uninformed conclusion about it. To make matters worse, we make further assumptions based upon the belief that the initial assumption is correct.

One of the great challenges to expanding personal awareness is learning to stop making assumptions. Think about the assumptions you make each day.

Simple ones like assuming the lights will come on each time you flick the switch or the water will be hot for your morning shower.

We make assumptions about other drivers on the road, people at work – about religions, races and other countries often with little or no background information. We arrogantly assume we know what motivates others. Can you think of a time you made an assumption about another person or a situation, created a great deal of stress and drama for yourself or others only to discover that your assumption was incorrect and the drama unnecessary?

Growing in your self-esteem and awareness demands that you seek clarity and look for the truth beyond the immediate impressions that come so quickly to mind.

Start by asking good questions and keeping an open mind. Maintain clarity in your relationships by being clear, concise and to the point in all of your communications. When things are clearly perceived, it becomes easier to make wise and informed choices.

Remember, assumptions arise from a gap in your understanding.

When you find yourself about to make an assumption, stop and acknowledge that you are missing vital information. Think about it: you turn on your headlights when driving at night and windshield wipers when driving in the rain all for the sake of clarity, so why should manoeuvering through life and relationships be any different? True, in the above examples you know you can’t see clearly but with awareness you’re likely to discover others areas of your life where your perception is equally clouded.

C.S. Lewis, the British essayist and novelist made the following observation: “Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than minority of them – never become conscious of them all.

How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?”

Remember, avoiding assumptions and seeking clarity is an ongoing process of discovery – not something you do once or occasionally. Only through persistent examination will you note the difference between what is real and what is little more than a bag filled with hot air.

Murray Fuhrer is a local freelance columnist.