Perspective is the river that takes you from indifference to empathy. If you have never seen a sea, and have always been living beside a river, you will perhaps not believe if I told you that I have come from the sea. The only way to know is to trace the river and see its culmination into a sea. Life’s journey is perhaps that tracing of the river that gives us perspective as we grow. Not all of the perspectives we need or seek come at the same time and not a single day goes without gaining a perspective about something. There is a high probability that we might remain blinded to them but speaking from personal experience, you will find them if you remove your blinders.
How do you know if you are gaining perspective? One immediate fallout of perspective gain is constant confusion. You won’t be able to make knee jerk statements, your mind will push you to dig deeper into everything. You will cringe at generalizations, oversimplifications, sweeping remarks, capitalized opinions and everything that keeps a person from thinking hard. Living without perspective is as simple as breathing without being conscious of it. Taking things or people for granted comes easy to us.
It’s also important to understand that one may sit on the banks and stay in denial about the existence of the sea or choose to get up and construct a boat to travel and see for himself. Many a times, we are jolted out of our slumber and somebody gives us a boat – a boat that might not put you in the same state as the person but at the least helps you get a cursory understanding of what the other person’s point of view is, that only if you are fortunate enough. We might not be so blessed to get someone who makes the effort to construct that perspective boat for us. In that case, it falls on us to keep trying and construct our boat to undertake the journey.
A friend of mine discussed with me once about the many differing versions of a particular portion of history and which one was to be believed. I asked her if she had done some further readings on the matter to which her answer was in negative. She asked me which book was to be read to know the truth. I told her to read books of differing opinions on the matter, analyze and see who made more sense and decide for herself. My intention was to construct that boat for her. She must gain perspectives from all sides. Conclusion may come or confusion may escalate but we must make sure that we know all available sides of the story.
Someday we might find harmony amongst our conflicting thoughts. Even if we don’t, in my opinion that confused state is a 100 times better than
1. Not knowing something at all.
2. Making a judgment on the basis of just one side of the story.
3. Assuming according to our convenience and belief system.
This is not a problem that helps you just gain some academic talking points for debates and lectures. Neither is it certain that after understanding a farmer’s perspective, you are going to jump and help them out though that creed exists too – the ones who don’t bother to construct a boat that insulates them to some extent from the texture of the river stream. They swim with and against the current for people and the causes they care about. However, the most important application of a richer collection of perspectives is in your relationships – parents, spouse, friends, relatives, colleagues etc. The moment you start making efforts towards putting yourself in their shoes and understanding what kind of road they are treading, the impact on your bond gets increasingly evident. You start relating more.
‘Library of perspectives’ – I call it. Information sources exist and experiences occur to add to that library – television, internet, books, radio, newspapers, teachers, friends – they exist to impart you some knowledge of a perspective yet unknown to you. That notwithstanding, if you are not aware of the existence of such a library in your mind, you will end up holding just one brittle book of your own frozen thoughts that would start decomposing sooner or later and will do you and others more harm than good.
One caution there, before you gain clarity, you will face inconsistencies and confusion. Trust me, that confusion is similar to the body pain after your first day of exercise. Repeat and it will become your second nature. When did you last surf your library of perspectives? Try this exercise – take up a point, any issue, or a friend’s life – think of how many different perspectives you have about it. If your count stops at 1 or 2, it is time to start you voyage into the river and collect the new books for your library of perspectives on the way. I have constructed the boat for you, or maybe not! I don’t know!