First Impressions with a Polar Bear

I was recently at the San Diego Zoo, a favorite family outing from my childhood. Observing the vast array of differences between each animal and celebrating their uniqueness always seems to put my heart at ease. Each created for a specific purpose to play an integral role in the ecosystem.

At one point, we were visiting the polar bear exhibit, where we read a plaque that told us there were three white giants sharing this enclosure together. Except I only saw one out playing as he dove into the water.

So we walked into the cave to get a fuller view of the space. There we could see both above and below water through the thick glass wall, and I was delighted to see two of the bears.

“There’s another one,” I remarked to my husband who smiled in agreement.

One was situated to the left up against the rocks at the glass, where I could see his bottom half submerged under water. The other bear was farther back in the pond happily eating a melon that was floating on the surface.

Polar Bear Optical Illusion
How many bears do you see?

Then, I walked up to the glass and couldn’t find the head to the first bear, but when I popped up above the water line I only saw the second bear in the back, eating his melon. I bobbed up and down a couple times in confusion.

Then I saw the first bear start to climb up out of the water as the second bear was also pulling himself out onto his rock. It was when they merged into one above water that I realized I was observing an optical illusion.

Polar Bear post swim at San Diego Zoo
And then two became one.

How often in life are we absolutely certain of what we witness that we stubbornly hold to that perspective as absolute truth?

If you would have asked me when we first entered the observation cave how many bears there were, I would have emphatically told you that there were two polar bears in the water.

So much in life is an illusion built from our mind’s quick judgment. What we see is not always what is. When we permit ourselves to expand and consider alternatives, we are often surprised to learn that our first impression is inaccurate.

If I may impart any advice for avoiding this mistake, it is to loosen your grip (especially if it’s tight) on what you believe is truth. There is no one absolute truth; there’s merely what our ego and mind piece together and serve up to us as truth.

If we allow ourselves to consider there can be many ways to see something, we can release judgment. Through releasing judgment we find harmony.