We each have filters that shape our own reality

Columnist Emily Carson says her prayer is that we see the people and world around us not through our fear or ego or pride, but through the heart of wisdom.

Holy Everything — Emily Carson column sig

My 7-year-old niece, Sophia, proclaimed on the last morning of the holiday break, “I know you better than you know yourself. That’s because you can’t see yourself. I see you so I know you.”

We were writing winter poetry at the time, and she shared this insight without any context or coaxing. Then she went right back to composing a poem about a cardinal who liked to visit parking lots.

Her philosophical pondering got me thinking. Who sees reality most clearly? You? The people around you? None of us? All of us? Whose perception matters the most?

My spouse, Justin, and I recently watched the movie "The Matrix" so perhaps that also inspired the increased curiosity about the nature of reality. The original film was released in 1999 and explored themes of fate, technology, time and authority. While the fight scenes were too lengthy for my taste, the movie raised intriguing questions about what’s real and who decides.

It seems we all have our own perception of reality. Most of us tend to believe we see the world around us with deepest clarity, even more clearly than other people. But, at the end of the day, we’re basically all in the same boat. Confirmation bias is a psychological tendency that impacts everybody. We’re all most likely to filter information and experiences in ways that confirm what we already believe.


It all happens unconsciously; we don’t realize we’re individually processing reality through our own internal filters wired to confirm the stories we’re already telling ourselves.

This all makes Sophia’s insight especially helpful. She’s right; we don’t fully see ourselves. Interestingly, we don’t have access to the internal processing of anyone else either. So the best we can do is traverse this life and this earth with an abundance of compassion.

As we begin a new year and enter into the season of Epiphany, which began on Thursday, I’m reflecting on the ways that the light helps us recognize reality more clearly.

Epiphany is a season in celebration of the light. We honor the star that led the magi to Jesus. This is the liturgical season of the year in which we celebrate all of the ways that the light fuels our hope and deepens our insight.

From a scientific perspective, light is essential and impacts everything. The Encyclopedia Britannica explains, “light’s interactions with matter have helped shape the structure of the universe.”

Our eyes detect the electromagnetic radiation of light, and because of that, we’re able to recognize what’s around us. The function of light is less about changing reality and more about revealing it.

My Epiphany prayer for us all is that the light would illuminate reality more clearly. May we see the people and world around us not through our fear or ego or pride, but through the heart of wisdom.

Peace to you as you walk with the light. May it guide and guard your way.
"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website .

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