Perspective

Thought: Words and phrases like “perspective” and “point-of-view” don’t adequately convey how radically different people are.

We aren’t just looking at different things from different angles, we’re looking through entirely different lenses, shaped by different chemicals and contexts.

Even if I actually come around to looking at your point-of-view, I won’t quite see what you see or think what you think.

For example– suppose if you put a rich man in a poor man’s context- say a prince sleeps on the streets for a night- he won’t experience the full depth of despair that comes from legitimately not knowing where his next meal is coming from.

Worse, if he’s not careful, that narrow experience can give him a false confidence that he now understands how it is.

It’s interesting to think, then, about how there are many kinds of ignorance.

The first is solipsistic: you assume other people don’t exist, or exist merely as extras in your life- as entertainment and annoyances. The “let them eat cake” ignorance (she never actually said that, by the way!)

The second is presumptuous: You take some trouble to get to know somebody else, maybe look through their Facebook feed and blog and think you have a pretty good idea about who they are. Which seems to work well… until it doesn’t.

The third is humbling: you come to realize that everybody, including yourself, has the capacity to surprise you. That life is an endless mystery, and that everything that you think you know is really just layers upon layers of low-resolution maps and models. These maps are often inherited, outdated, rarely verified, and always vague to a degree that you do not realize. And yet somehow, despite all of that, we manage to function most of the time. It’s really quite fabulous. The most fabulous thing.

We may never truly know what it’s like to be one another. But it’s a pursuit that’s endlessly rewarding, and I think it’s worth a try.

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