December 7, 2012 by Vicki
Our perspective determines our reality and what we consider to be Truth. People, however, don’t seem to consider the impact perspective can have upon their world. What is “perspective”? According to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary 2nd edition, the word “perspective” means “a point of view” or “a mental view of the relative importance of things.” To translate this definition, perspective is how you view the world and the importance of the various elements within the world.
Human beings determine their reality through a series of connections. We can see these connections quite easily when we consider language. The word “tree” is not actually a tree, but it denotes a tree. We connect the formation of letters that form the word “tree” into a symbol for the tree itself. We communicate our reality of trees through a symbol which represents that reality. All of these stages are connections that we make without really considering them. When we see a tree, we think “tree.” We don’t think that is the object that the word “tree” represents. Because humanity relies on connections to understand the world around them, the importance’s of the various items in their life determine what events connect with which.
Have I lost you, yet?
Consider a family vacation. After the vacation, a mother may say to her husband that she needs a vacation after her vacation. Now, as an outsider, we may assume that she had a terrible time during her vacation. Or, we could assume that she had a fabulous time but was extremely busy, and therefore did not get enough rest. Or, we could assume that after spending some much time with her children in the same room, she needs more time alone with her husband. All of these are possible interpretations of one sentence. They all have equal probability to be true. The one, that as an outsider, we decide is the correct answer is based upon what we assume to be the most important factor.
Now consider the same family vacation, and the same sentence, only this time you are the husband. All of the same sentences could very well be true. The husband can only translate his wife’s statement by his own perspective of their vacation and her enjoyment of it. So, what if she meant that she wants some time alone with him and he thinks that she needs sleep. He will give her space so that she can catch some much needed rest. She may feel that he is ignoring her stated desire for intimacy. One sentence between two people who shared the same experience could have two different interpretation. The interpretation can result in hurt feelings all the way up to an argument.
The truly scary part about perspective is that it holds true for nations as well as for individuals. Only for nations, the difference in perspective can be huge. I remember a scene in Frank Herbert’s Dune, where a diplomatic representative spat on the ground before the Duke. Everyone assumed, because they were from a water planet, that this was a huge insult. Everyone, that is, except for the one person who had been trained in the ways of the people of Dune. He understood that it was a gesture of respect and honour because water, in any form, on a desert planet is vital. The difference between an insult and a gesture of respect came down to a matter of perspective.
Try to be aware of your perspective for the next week and ask yourself how the other person might perceive the same events. What differences do you realize even between the most intimate of relationships? Have you ever had a difference in perspective dramatically revealed to you? If humans determine their reality through their perspective, what is Truth?