“We all perceive others through the veil of our own experience.”
Perception, the first book in Heather Cashman’s series, The Tiger’s Eye Trilogy, gives readers a unique view into a time and place where the main characters see the world through two sets of eyes: their own and their tiger companions’.
I glimpse a flash of dual understanding about my world through my kids on occasion. Like when my daughter draws me a picture that shows her and her brother wearing giant and ornate crowns and the “mommy” and the “daddy” standing in the background, a smear of ink. It’s clear who she thinks is in charge.
But seriously, imagine. Seeing the world – your world – from two different perspectives. As writers of fiction, we do it all the time, but in real life, we struggle to know just what another person is thinking.
Today, Heather Cashman joins us to talk about perceptions, and how often, the way we view ourselves is much darker than the way others view us.
Stained Glass Perceptions
Perception is a fascinating concept. The simple idea that two people can view the exact same object and see two different things astounds me. One of my favorite aspects of the novel, Perception, is the study of ways in which people see themselves, see others, and see the world.
The word* “perception” is derived from the late 15th century and was used in reference to collecting or taking possession of rent, crops, profits, etc. The word took on different meanings over the next several centuries to be a more general “taking in.” Today, Merriam-Webster defines perception as “immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment.”
In order to discern or recognize, one must first have experience. The human experience is as unique as each individual human, influenced by culture, environment, nurturing, abilities, and choices. Therefore, each person’s perception will always be unique.
An example of this in my novel is when Ardana sees herself from Rijan’s perspective. As a telepathically linked tiger ingenium, Rijan and Ardana can see through one another’s eyes. The two of them are hiding from a stranger who has come into their isolated village. Ardana is secreted behind their apartment building, and Rijan is out in the grass where she can observe the apartment, Ardana, and the surrounding area.
“I could see myself through her eyes—eyes specialized for the encompassing darkness. It was me, enhanced by Rijan’s unconditional love. In the mirror, I was plain. In her eyes, I was beautiful: a dark braid, tan skin, and boy’s clothes.”
Rijan felt for Ardana what I feel for my own children. As teenagers they obsess over their hair, make-up, and clothing. I think they are more beautiful than any other children in the whole world. I see them for their potential; they see the incorrect math problems. I see their beauty; they see the occasional blemish and the extra ten pounds (or two). It is the exact same situation seen from two perspectives, and therefore two perceptions are arrived at.
In studies done by the American Psychological Association (APA), 98% of patients who had undergone amputation still had a perception of the extremity after surgery. Logically, they knew it wasn’t there, but a lifetime of experience told them it was.
There is also a similar example in my novel. Ardana’s brother Kade has been raised by Maran to be dependent on her. When Kade and Ardana take their tigers and flee, Kade is cut off from Maran and doubts his own abilities. Ana begins:
“We could disguise ourselves and enter the Campaign,” I suggested.
“No one wants a president who has disguised himself,” said Kade. “It would cause an uprising.” He continued to communicate through the tigers. Even if the disguise worked, when are you going to get it through your thick skull that there is no way I am capable of winning the Campaign? I’m not good enough. The candidates who enter have had years and years of training—formal training. All I’ve had is some back-woods wrestling matches and bouts with Tychus. For all we know, he flunked out of sparring before he became an outcast.
I’m going to find a way to prove it to you, I needled. You are the best, most capable ingenium companionship in the Tiger District. I allowed my complete confidence in him to be conveyed across our emotional bridge.
He says with the three of us he does not stand a chance, Rijan explained.
It is only because we see him more clearly than he sees himself, I answered. Will you tell him that?
So many times we put ourselves under the microscope when everyone else forgot their reading glasses. I believe whole-heartedly in self-assessment to improve our faults, but I also believe that our own perception of ourselves limits us by saying we can’t do a certain task. I believe this applies to every facet of our existence, whether it’s doing that half-hour on the treadmill or writing a novel.
Our souls are like a cathedral with beautiful stained glass. Sometimes the scenes are of terrible pain, while others may be joyful. In order to see outside ourselves, we are inevitably jaded by the windows we choose to look out of. And judging the man whose cathedral only contains windows of a horrific past is easy, but wrong.
Perception is the story of a sister and brother who have the ability to view one another completely. Genetic experimentation and years of refinement have also given them telepathic links to their tigers, who are guided by instinct and their mutual bond. The four perspectives working together allow a unique coming of age as they teach one another that sometimes the beautiful stained-glass windows they’ve grown so fond of are the exact things that are holding them back from becoming their very best selves.
You can read more about PERCEPTION and the rest of the Trilogy books on Heather Cashman’s website. On her blog, Better Off Read, she hosts lots of writers and authors, as well as offers discussion questions for PERCEPTION. Elsewhere on the net, you can follow Heather on Twitter or like her page on Facebook.
* perception. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved September 19, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/perception