By P.S. Gifford
The grey walled, windowless, auditorium, full of first year fidgety psychology students, went silent as the lights were dimmed.
Professor Henderson, standing behind a podium at the front of the class, cleared his throat into the microphone, which echoed through the room. A hundred pairs of young eyes idly observed the thin aging man standing in front of them. He was dressed in an ill fitting pair of trousers,-pulled up a good inch higher than they should be- a faded blue shirt and a tattered brown tweed jacket with leatherette patches sewn onto the elbows.
“Now class,” he said firmly into the microphone with confidence not befitting his shabby appearance.
“I want you the study the image I am about to present to you for precisely five minutes…And after that I am going to randomly pick three of you to tell me to describe the scene to me.”
With a flick of a dirty nailed finger, an image appeared onto the ten foot screen.
As the image appeared the class initially remained obediently silent. However after the first minute impatience of youth was beginning to manifest as hushed murmurs began to be heard…By the end of the five minutes the murmurs had manifested themselves into full blown conversation. Mr. Henderson, shaking his head with disapproval at his students, turned off the image.
“I must confess to being a little disappointed in you all,” he said making deliberate eye contact with certain key students he knew were the worst offenders. “I had hoped that you would have used that time appropriately and allowed your mind to formulate a solid image and opinion of that picture. You see things aren’t always as they first appear.”
He focused his attention on a pretty auburn haired girl sitting in the very front row, who was scribbling down notes as he spoke.
“Heather, would you care to stand up and tell everyone your thoughts on the image?”
Heather’s cheeks instantly went scarlet, and her eyes darted about her anxiously.
“Yes professor,” she said softly.
“Speak up please Heather,” Professor Henderson prompted.
“Well,” she continued in a voice a little louder, which failed to conceal her nervousness, “the image was of a fox, chasing a small rodent of some sort over a snowy vista. It appeared as if the fox was gaining on the small animal, and was about to get itself a meal.”
“Very good Heather,” Professor Henderson said as he smiled at her. She squirmed at the attention and hung her head low.
“How about you Justin, right there on the back row…I am sure that you have thoughts on the image.”
“I sure do, “he said as a confident smirk came over his tanned healthy face. He stood up as he spoke. “The fox looked confident and strong, the way it’s back arched, the length of its stride…It knows that victory was in its grasp, and that he was soon to be rewarded with the taste of fresh blood.”
“Excellent Justin that was very perceptive off you, I am pleasantly surprised and impressed by your observations.
Justin gave a series of mock half bows before returning to his seat.
Professor Henderson’s eyes scanned the auditorium again, and the students tried desperately not to make eye contact with him.
“Julia,” he said finally. “What thoughts do you have on it?”
“I think the fox is horrible,” she said. “I have a pet rat at home, and I happen to know that they are wonderful creatures. I call her Sam, and she lights up as soon as I walk into my room. I take her out and play with her nightly. I think nature is horrible; survival of the fittest and all that…”
“I see,” Professor Henderson said. “Well perhaps I should play the entire scene that the still was taken from.”
Again he clicked on the machine-
Just about as the fox is about to pounce on the small rat, fifty or so much larger ones appear, and instantly took the fox down and began tearing away at his flesh with frenzied delight.
Distressed cries of alarm and disgust fill the auditorium, as well as a few howls of laughter.
Professor Henderson switched off the clip, and once more raised the lights.
He analyzed the startled faces with a satisfactory nod.
“You see students; you should never ever jump to conclusions. Often times what you are convinced that you are experiencing is not entirely as it seems. It also demonstrates tunnel vision…That poor fox was so focused on the small rodent, that he was completely unaware of his surroundings, and did not notice the oncoming pack, that the mouse had led him into to.”
Professor Henderson smiled and once more dimmed the light.
“So now with that in mind…Please study the next picture for five minutes and then again tell me what you see,” as he spoke an image of a glorious red sky filled the screen.