Today I would like to talk about perspective. As a writer I have to delve into a myriad of perspectives in order to tell a better story. In order to do that effectively I need to get a real taste of as many different people’s views as possible. So I engage with everyone I can and I listen to as many people as I am able. This way I can find the heart of their ideas and what makes them tick. What makes up a person’s identity and their perspective has a lot to do with their environment and outside influences.
While thinking about these things I pondered how different environments have created different perspectives and why. As people we seem to allow these outside influences to slowly attach inside and grow. We let ideas and experiences cultivate our thought processes to the point where we find emotional attachment to them. These emotions seem stirred by further influences and drive us to action. All of this continues to shape a changing and growing perspective.
We become convinced of our perspectives.
Any other perspective that is diametrically opposed must be wrong. Even if that perspective is in all ways the same as ours but has one or two differences; we still staunchly oppose it. I have heard in the past that the aim of higher education was to have an open mind. And yet I struggle to find that to be the general result in the social situations I participate in.
What I am to propose then may get me stoned (and not in a good way). I have heard so many conversations where people criticize the collective perspectives of others harshly. They come out strongly to detract their opinions and humiliate them. They do so with or without ‘facts’. They badger the ideas or perspectives sometimes with a seething and venomous disdain. Very few people of intellect even attempt to have civil discourse anymore.
As we mature in our life we should learn that the measure of adulthood is the degree to which we can truly listen to other adults. We should be engaging in stimulating conversation with all attempts to examine the perspectives of other adults. We should learn the art of stepping outside of our own reality long enough to build bridges between people and without trying to convince them of our perspective.
Does this mean that there are only good perspectives or healthy ones? Of course there are unhealthy persons who need professional help. And there are unhealthy collectives who need to be dealt with in a harsh and shrewd manner as a whole. But if we can teach ourselves to be adults who listen and offer healthy opinions; could we open up a better conversation? I think we could resolve so many of these situations that have needlessly spun out of control.
As a writer, one thing that is among my greatest pet peeves is when other writers try to write about the past with today’s perspective. They do not seem to have the insight or care to research the perspectives of people from that time. The collective or pervasive perspectives of a whole different culture and place in history cannot be swayed by twenty-first century values. Those values and perspectives did not exist as a whole. So why are those characters dealing with social or moral issues that they would not have had? Or why does the opposite happen? Sometimes they are so stereotypically cast in our opinions of everyone from that time. Was everyone who lived in Germany during World War II a mindless follower of Hitler? Was Germany the only country in the world at that time experimenting with Eugenics? Did everyone who owned slaves agree with slavery at heart? Was the Civil War only about Slavery? These are just a couple of examples.
I find our society seems to sit on a lofty pedestal.
We believe that we have dug ourselves out of the dirty mud-hole of the past and those people’s ignorant perspectives. We fool ourselves into thinking that our perspectives are superior. Somehow we think that if we had lived in those times that we would do things different. Somehow we would have not been affected by the pervading consciousness of those times. We would not have been part of Hitler’s youth or rallied with the Nazi party that was going to return Germany to glory. We would have helped the Jewish people in their escape. Again this is just one example. We aren’t like ‘those’ people. We are better. We can look down our noses at crazy people who would own slaves or people who would sterilize idiots. We wouldn’t have done those things. That was the dark ages.
I think there is a perspective that we have not escaped though. That is the perspective of the collective. We will never think differently unless it is fashionable to do that. As a group of people we allow the prevailing ideas of our group to be the gospel truth. Even when irrefutable evidence to the contrary is presented; it must just be an elaborate lie. We cannot allow ourselves to really be open minded. And because of that we must constantly have a cause. We have to keep up the good fight because if we don’t we will just go backward. It’s so scary to think we might fall back into that mud-hole.
Fear is one of the best motivators.
So many of the tools any collective group perspective has are based on it. Once you buy into your chosen religion (so to speak) it is difficult to question any of its tenants. The leaders of your group could all be walking around naked and yet you find yourself telling them they are wearing the most fabulous clothes you’ve ever seen. Where is that little child who will point out the truth?
Why were people who lived in the past entirely wrong? Why do we throw out the baby with the bath water? Of course there were perspectives that hurt us. But there were also perspectives that we have abandoned with them and to our detriment. Why did people think they needed slaves? What was the reason that happened in our histories? What else are we missing that we have forgotten because we do not examine it closer? We know it was ‘wrong’. But what else was it? The same goes for what happened in Germany in World War II. What are we forgetting as a society? What were the contributing factors? What could we have learned that we didn’t?
Let’s bring that forward a few years now. Did we just replace the slavery of a race with the slavery of a social class? Aren’t there many people just subsisting on meager wages and working two or three jobs to just get by now? Aren’t they a slave of sorts? They have to work under more and more ridiculous circumstances to just pay the bills and feed their children. The hired taskmasters of middle management lay their whips on the people’s backs while the owners in their corporate or political towers turn their eyes away. Did we learn all the real lessons of slavery? Are we just setting up the next Hitler to come to power with promises to fix these things? Will we willingly buy into a new perspective and follow him or her to our doom? After all, we shouldn’t have gotten into that first war and now we need someone to make war to get us back on our feet.
What do we need in order to gain a better perspective? Can we stop letting the collective social opinions to dictate how our day goes or how we feel about other people? I propose that other people are not my enemy. I don’t even think every idea presented by ‘the other side’ should be thrown out. In fact I believe humans as a whole have more in common than not. Why do we have to have so many ‘causes’ to fight? I propose a new cause. My cause is to build bridges and communicate with people of all types and with a reckless fervor of kindness. My cause is to listen better. If we would all listen better, we could form our own truly unique perspectives. That might shake up the whole world (in a good way).
I think we need to be more mindful of perspectives.
We need to take responsibility for them. There are so many people who have amazing things to add to our lives. I found an incredible friendship with someone who had completely different perspectives than I did. We didn’t attempt to force our opinions on each other. We offered them. We left them on the table for perusal. But we entered into one of the best friendships either of us ever had. They are gone now and I miss them deeply. But I am so glad I had that time. If I hadn’t set aside my perspective long enough I would never have had that. How sad of an idea that is.
What’s your perspective? And how has it helped or hindered good things in your life?