I was raised with only one perspective: the Catholic one.
There was right and wrong and black and white, especially with the nuns. Pun intended. You know, the black and white habits? No?
In retrospect, it surprises me to think of how we could see an issue from one side, conclude that that was the entire story, and assume we had made an accurate assessment of the situation.
The assessment was incorrect, and therefore, the solution was incorrect. For instance, take something as complex as the abortion issue. It cannot be solved by passing an amendment to allow or ban it. It might be an answer to people’s demands, but it’s not a solution.
It’s like standing in front of a mountain and concluding that you know everything about it by standing in that one spot. Maybe you know everything about the front of the mountain, but until you look at the sides, the top, and the inside, you don’t know everything.
You cannot begin to understand the enormity or complexity of the problem. You need to study it.
Only then can you make a rational judgment.
The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (Kaht-shoo-she-ka Hoe-coo-sigh) gives us an excellent example of such a visual perspective when he created 36 prints of Mount Fuji from different perspectives. His most famous is “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” (Kah’ nah’ gaw a)” or “The Great Wave.”
The subject in all of the prints is Mount Fuji, but note that Mount Fuji is the smallest object in the picture, and it appears to be under the wave. But that’s only the way it appears.
Mount Fuji is neither smaller than the wave nor under it. It is a large, complex object.
Fear of the Unknown
What we see from our side or perspective is what we believe and what we advocate for.
We might be coming from a place of fear. Fear of change of those we don’t know or understand, or fear of the unknown.
Again, take the abortion issue. It is heated. There is no middle ground and there are no conversations. It is right or it is wrong. It is always or never.
Period. How devastating.
An anti-abortion protestor cannot see a woman’s fear at the thought of having an unplanned child or being a single parent. Yet, many of the same people condemn unmarried mothers.
A woman feels traumatized, stigmatized, and alone because she is judged and sees no other way out.
Neither can change perspective.
And no, I am not judging any woman who has to make this painful decision.
There are other issues: immigration, gun control, and the list goes on and on.
So the question becomes, how can we get people to change their perspectives? Or at least consider a different one?
Communication is the key.
Good communication means that there is a communicator, a message, and a receiver. The receiver needs to listen without any preconceptions to receive the message the communicator is relaying.
But how many of us have made up our minds and are thinking of our reply before the speaker has even finished? I am guilty as charged. It isn’t easy to be a good listener.
When someone is stating a case, we need to consider their background, such as family, social circles, education, and what they do for a living because that’s what they’ve based their decisions on. It’s what they know. Even if it's flawed, we must see their perspective if we really want to understand what they’re saying.
Yes, we can shed light on a subject by sharing our information. Then it’s up to them to listen.
Unless these things are happening, authentic communication is not taking place.
Even if we get to a point where we completely disagree, we have communicated if we have understood and responded. We have seen their perspective. And maybe we’ve thought, “Oh crap, it’s worse than I thought.”
But we have seen it.
Yet we want the same things. It’s how we get these things that differs, like taking a train or plane to arrive at our destinations.
Then again, perhaps we now find that we understand their perspective and can find a resolution.
Have confidence in yourself.
We need to begin by valuing ourselves. Once we can do this, we can value others and what they have to say.
We can go forward from a place of confidence and realize that when someone has a different opinion, they are not necessarily criticizing us. Many people become offended when we disagree with them. It’s as if we called them a name or judged them harshly when all we had was a different, you guessed it, perspective.
Let someone else’s opinion spark interest, investigate the subject, and send you on a search for information you might not have known. Or considered.
Life is a learning process, and information is abundant. What a gift that someone else can open our minds so we can drink in more of it.
Savor it. Let your mind open.
You don’t have to change a thing.
Yes, people can be tough and nasty, but we’re all in this together.
As the great Sufi poet, mystic, and scholar Rumi put it:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
And I leave you with that.
Photo: “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” by Katsushika Hokusai. Courtesy of Art Institue of Chicago.