Taking note: Connecting the dots
I craned my neck upwards, searching for meteors plummeting through the velvety black sky. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I continued to scan the heavens, hoping to catch a glimpse of even one meteor.
However, my efforts were to no avail.
I didn’t see any meteors that night.
But there was an upside to the situation: I was able to focus my efforts on trying to identify constellations.
Ursa Major and Ursa Minor were easily spotted. Cassiopeia and Lyra were a bit more of a challenge. I’m still not sure if I actually saw Cygnus and Draco.
I’ve always found that some constellations are more challenging for me to recognize than others.
Maybe it’s their position in the sky.
Perhaps it’s their size.
It could just be my own difficulty visualizing the figure I should be seeing.
But I try to literally connect the dots of these constellations so I can see the bigger picture.
It seems to be an opportunity to connect our ancestors and imagine how they thought about the world and the heavens.
Stargazing invites us to understand what ancient astronomers, navigators and storytellers saw up there.
It’s a window into understanding how people thousands of years ago saw the world, how they framed it, what had meaning to them.
Sometimes I even think about this when I’m looking up at the clouds, finding figures, animals, items and scenes in those ever-changing collections of water vapor.
And I think about how my own perceptions and life experiences shape what I see up there.
I know people who lived thousands of years ago probably didn’t see the same things in the clouds that we do.
They probably wouldn’t have agreed with or even understood how I recently saw a cloud that looked an awful lot like a slice of pizza.
They definitely wouldn’t have understood how one cloud looked kind of like a Muppet to me.
And even people living today, who are familiar with slices of pizza and the Muppets, may not have seen those clouds the same way I did.
What we perceive in ambiguous forms such as clouds or arrangements of stars can be dependent on our culture, our life experiences, our world view.
Each person sees these things in their own way.
I might see Ursa Minor and Ursa Major as the big and little dippers, while you see them as the big and little bears.
You might see a cloud that looked like a door wedge where I saw one that looked like a piece of pizza.
But we can try to understand once we communicate our differing perceptions.
We might be able to even see what another person sees once that view has explained.
And we can apply this logic to perceptions and experiences far beyond stargazing or looking at clouds.
We each see our world, our culture and our lives through a unique lens.
That lens is shaped by our biology, our environment, our culture, our mental and emotional states.
And so much more.
This means we all tend to see and experience the world differently, even if we do have similar backgrounds and experiences.
And sometimes, we truly struggle to understand how other people can see things so differently from us.
We get stuck in our own view of the world.
We forget that our own experience is the only one we have.
We forget that another person’s experience is the only one they have.
And we need to take the time to learn how others think and why they think that way.
We can be kinder to each other if we take the time to communicate and understand different points of view.
And when we share our differing views and experiences kindly, honestly and without judgment, we all can come a little closer to making the world a better place.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.