Do you ever find yourself analyzing a situation, resolving it in your mind, and growing emotional about how someone’s choice that impacts you in the situation is clearly “wrong”? Whether it’s with politics, work, your friends or family, we all run into moments of disliking the choices another makes that impact us in some way.
Why are we so convinced that our own perspective is right?
I recently read an adaptation of Rumi’s poem “Elephant in the Dark” and found it eye opening on this matter. A group of people, curious about what creature has be placed in a dark room, decide they cannot wait, but must reveal the room’s contents. One by one they enter, each eager to uncover the mystery, each sure of what she has found. One feels the ear- like a large fan. Another feels its long, curving trunk-it must be like a snake. Someone else encounters one of its thick, strong legs-it is solid and wide like a tree trunk. Each person is sure he leaves the darkness with a firm understanding of what the creature is. Yet with their limited perspectives, none grasp the full measure of the elephant.
This past weekend, I found myself in several situations in which the involved parties grew emotionally charged and all had their own perspectives: with colleagues reflecting on a workshop, my partner as we discussed communication styles, even my dog as we walked.
A small illustration: Last night, Naya, my dear canine companion, was absolutely convinced that she needed to lick whatever was stuck to the street. I had no idea what the substance was, but a) I was sure I didn’t want her tongue running along the foreign substance and we had somewhere else to go –right then– as I saw it. I called. She tried to hold her stance. I started to walk away, she continued anxiously licking. What was more important in that moment: moving on or embracing what I perceived as appalling and perhaps sickness inducing, or what Naya thought was an absolutely delectable road treat? She licked and scraped. I walked forward. Eventually she followed and fortunately no sign of sickness has appeared- at least yet. We certainly saw things differently.
I often present my challenges to one or two people to hear their opinions when I’m upset about something, just to get some alternate views. Like looking through a fly’s eye. Consider how many different angles and slightly different views a fly perceives when looking at a given image. If we’re being “open minded,” we may consider more than one side of any situation, but how many opinions and perspectives are we actually willing to consider?
How often do we remember to consider and look through others’ lenses?
While perusing some of photographer Jon Sanwell’s recent work from Myanmar, I encountered a series of photographs of betel leaves in baskets, including the one below. Just from my own lens, I initially thought about the beautiful shades of jade green, the eye-catching angle of the shot, the juxtaposed glossy leaves and natural matte finish of the wicker baskets. I wondered why someone would so carefully stack all the leaves in spirals around the containers. But perhaps some people look at these leaves as the means to fitting in (chewing betel is a popular social practice in the region), the destroyer of their loved one’s health (betel is carcinogenic), or maybe just a really unique way to capture a part of Southeast Asia. That’s just some of what I considered. What are your thoughts looking at this photograph?
So the next time you find yourself frustrated, hurt, confused, or even elated, consider how others are impacted by the situation and your actions. Perhaps you will listen and learn a thing or two from someone with a different take. Remember, everyone’s lens is unique.