Get to a certain age, or a certain stage, and you’d really have to make an effort not to see that everyone approaches their lives from different angles.
Our formative years often shape how we’ll see our world, but I know people who survived horrific childhoods, yet still managed to live happy and peaceful lives. Their experiences in their youths shaped how they approached and nurtured the relationships they cultivated as they aged.
Other people grew up in the lap of luxury, but suffer through their days feeling that the entire world is against them, conspiring to refuse them the respect and goodies they deserve for merely existing. They can think of hundreds of little ways that life has just not treated them as well as they believed they deserved.
And then there are some who sail through their life without really knowing or caring that other people even exist.
It’s all perspective.
In a recent conversation with my husband, I was stunned to realize how events in our shared lives, be they major or minor in scope, can be remembered in such drastically disparate ways that it seems like the antics of two different people living in two different worlds. Maybe that’s partly the difference in how men and women think, or maybe it has to do with how we’ve personally conducted ourselves during our long relationship. Or maybe it’s a little of both, and a lot about how actions and words can be perceived in multiple ways, depending upon how the person receiving the actions or words receives, and interprets those interactions.
When we ascribe intent to words and actions, we alter how those words and actions are perceived.
When we attempt to interact in society, what we bring to the table varies wildly, depending on our own backgrounds, and the state of mind we were in when we approached a moment in our time. Were we tired? dyspeptic? broke? stressed? Because all of those things will have a huge bearing on how we perceive what others say, write, or do.
You really see perspective and interpretation at work when reading threads on social media. Because it is difficult to convey emotions verbally, spats and name-calling can suddenly erupt based on a simple misunderstanding, a failed attempt at humour or sarcasm, or a word used incorrectly.
But conversely, that’s one of the reasons that the arts we are able to enjoy on the internet can resonate so strongly within us; we are surprised and delighted when an image or a video or a song accurately reflects how we feel about a particular moment, or captures an emotion.. For a brief instant in time, we are completely in synch with another person’s gut take, and yet it is a shared experience, and all the more heady when many of us feel that same recognition simultaneously, and gather to share that experience, even if it’s only on the internet.
While we might like to think that we are all, down deep, the same, it’s both true but not really true at all. We share the human experience, but each of us carries the history our parents bequeathed to us, and over time, we add our own experiences. Eventually we pass that on to our kids, who add their own experiences. And every bit of that combined familial and cultural mosaic makes our perspectives unique. At any given moment, how we approach any event – from how we choose our meals, to how we choose our elected officials – is a result of the lifetime of baggage we’ve brought along for the ride.
As we age and grow, we sift in the essences of the people, events, and emotions that we experience, and let those simmer in our soul stew. In time, we become a person very different from the person we were at birth. Life experiences are the fire that tempers our metal, as drastically as the fabled Philosopher’s Stone was said to turn brass into gold.
Perspective allows us to understand that it is as painful for a poor man to lose a dollar, as it is for a billionaire to lose a billion, because for both, the loss is fear-provoking.
When I was a little kid, I was very, very near-sighted. However, I didn’t know that, since I had nothing to compare it to, and my family had no idea that I had such poor vision, until a teacher in my grade one class noticed that I couldn’t see what she was writing on the board. The day I got my first pair of glasses, my entire world changed, because now, I could see what went on around me like other people did.
My world changed, because my vision changed. And my perspective – quite literally the way I saw the world – was altered.
I wish that finding a little bit of insight into how others perceive what happens around them, was as simple as getting a new prescription for eyeglasses – what a better place that sort of world might be!
But instead, achieving perspective requires that we step back from our own values, attitudes and needs, and mentally and emotionally put ourselves into the shoes of someone unlike ourselves. Those shoes may be too tight, or far too roomy, but until we’ve walked a while in them, we cannot ever know the journey that other person is on.
tags: Roxanne Tellier, perspective