Perched on our neighborhood power pole, just like every other morning or late afternoon, the bald eagle elicited a long ooooh from Margie when I pointed it out. "Good eye," she replied, her way of saying thanks for the momentary picture.
Meanwhile, as we admired the magnificent bird, half a dozen turkey vultures circled in the distance, hardly receiving notice, let alone accolades.
Both miraculous creations, yet why is one held in such high esteem and the other so low?
Both can soar. In fact, without a tremendous pair of binoculars, its almost impossible to distinguish the two birds as they ride the same circular updrafts thousands of feet in the air.
Both are huge. Their wing spans can each reach to seven feet wide and both can stand over three feet tall.
Both are cousins in the same "Birds of Prey" designation, and members of the vultures, hawks and falcon family.
Both eat carrion - the flesh of already dead animals. Although eagles are most often pictured swooping down for a mullet or field mouse, they too, stoop to eat the occasional road kill.
And of the two, turkey vultures actually have friendlier dispositions, rarely killing other animals for dinner. Their eagle cousins on the other hand, are murderous by nature.
Yet, it was the Haliaetus leucocephalus, the bald eagle, that was chosen from the 30,000 bird varieties, to become the emblem of the United States back in 1782.
The bald eagle has always gotten better press.
Hence we perceive it in a better light.
In other words, the bald eagle has an image - a preconception that we surround it with whenever we look upon it.
We don't see it as it really is - we see it as we think it is.
I used to also admire a huge red-tailed hawk that soared throughout our neighborhood, a swift, powerful bird with a shrill scream that made you feel like you lived in the wild. He was a treat to see - right up to the moment he swooped onto our deck and picked apart one of our daughter's pet rabbits.
Now I see him quite differently then the way I saw him then.
The truth is, he was always a killer. Only by wrapping my own perception of beauty around him, did I once see him as "good." I never saw him as he was, but how I thought he was.
And so it is with us.
For every single thing we ever lay our eyes on.
What we think we see is almost always inaccurate.
We constantly classify what we see into categories. That's good - that's bad. I like this - I hate this. He's smart - she's dumb. She's attractive - he's ugly.
We go through life unaware we're painting every vision with past experience, parents and television's conditioning or just plain old wishful thinking.
The truth is, we're too attached to ourselves to ever see anything - or anyone - clearly!
And then when things or people don't match these wrong visions we've painted for ourselves about them, we get upset at them.
You didn't match my picture of you! is the real message behind every upset we feel. Yet, the error lies within ourselves from our own original wrong seeing.
That's why it makes no sense to fight circumstances or people. They are what they are. Only our own wrong thinking of what we thought they were - what we want them to be - causes the conflict that makes us want to lash out against them.
The bald eagle is a beautiful creature. And given the chance, that same bald eagle would also eat my daughter's rabbit. The clearer I see the bald eagle for what it is, the less conflict I'll find in my life.
I think for practice, next time I'll point out those turkey vultures instead.
Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz