Main Entry: per·cep·tion
Pronunciation: p&r-’sep-sh&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin perception-, perceptio act of perceiving, from percipere
1 a : a result of perceiving : OBSERVATION b : a mental image : CONCEPT
2 obsolete : CONSCIOUSNESS
3 a : awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation <color perception> b : physical sensation interpreted in the light of experience
4 a : quick, acute, and intuitive cognition : APPRECIATION b : a capacity for comprehension
synonym see DISCERNMENT
– per·cep·tion·al /-shn&l, -sh&-n&l/ adjective

Perception is one of my favorite words. It represents knowledge, intelligence, experience, and ultimately knowledge and wisdom. As an adult, following mainly the road of hard-knocks, one important thing I’ve come to realize is that increasing one’s perception is definitely a key to goodness and happiness (virtue).

The first lesson in perception that I remember came to me when I was around 17, practicing Judo throws with Manuel in the prairie grass. [Fall, 1981]

Manuel’s home was situated high upon a hill, surrounded by very tall prairie grass in Kearney, Missouri. This is where I learned to fall, over and over again, in the tall prairie grass. Ergo, as you can imagine, the color of belt I received from my experiences with Manuel, over time, was actually a dark green/brownish color.

One afternoon, during Judo practice, Manuel suddenly stopped our practice and glanced at me with a very serious and intent look in his eyes. “Momento…Vaminos!” He quickly walked away from me and towards the house. He motioned for me to follow him, which I did; hurriedly.

Manuel went into the garage, and then reached back and handed me some gardening gloves. He then rapidly started handing me rose bushes, still in their planting containers. He motioned for me to take them around to the flower bed along side of the house, and stagger them a foot apart. I obeyed, but my mind was a whirlwind trying to figure out just what it was he was planning. One minute we were practicing hip throws, and the next, he was handing me red rose bushes.

He sat me down beside the house and showed me how to plant the rose bushes; both of us still dressed in full gi. We planted rose bushes, side-by-side, for quite some time, all along one perimeter of the house. My mind was still very busy contemplating why he was having me do this.

Was this some kind of lesson on nature; stopping to admire the beauty of it; learning respect for it…?

Was this an exercise to teach me to avoid thorns; build up my reflexes…?

Manuel had just taught me the I-Ching; was this somehow related; Are roses the key to deciphering one of the ideograms of the I-Ching symbol?
The awakened man stumbles upon the unplanted rose bush?

I finally reached a point where I couldn’t take it any longer and I had to ask him. I looked over at him and saw that he was down on all 4s, busy concentrating on the roses, and I finally spoke up. “Padre, what…, I have tried to figure this out and I don’t understand. Why are we planting roses?”

Manuel creased his brow and stared at me for a few seconds, and then a huge grin erupted across his face; and a bit of a chuckle. He shook his head and said, “I promised Yogi that I would get these planted this weekend. And if we don’t get it done, we’re both going to be in BIG trouble.”

Needless to say I felt quite stupid. Sometimes the simplest, or most obvious explanation is the correct one. My thoughts (perceptions) were so stringently focused on self-defense that it never dawned on me to look for another reason.

Actually, I learned many lessons that day. Manuel could have merely ended my training and sent me home, but he didn’t. He asked me to stay and help, and that meant a lot to me. My feeling of stupidity was quickly replaced with feelings of pride and joy. I was honored to be planting rose bushes beside him.

I felt a tenderness and intimacy from him that I have felt from no other teacher. Manuel & Yogi had no children, and I basically felt I had no parents at the time. Manuel had truly become more than a teacher, he had become like a father.

Muchas gracias y teamo mi padre.