Day 141 of #LiveWell2017
I’ve written before about changing perspective, but I was reminded yesterday by a chance encounter with a stranger that in every situation I must seek perspective – that is, step back from my own point of view and listen, look, and understand from the point of view of the other person.
I was walking down a sidewalk yesterday when I spotted a lilac tree in full bloom next to a commercial building across the street . I silently raised my arm and pointed to the tree so that my partner would notice it, too. A man was getting out of a truck that he’d just parked under that lilac tree, and he yelled to me, “Enjoy it now, because I’m going to cut the bastard down.” I chuckled. Then he said, “Hug a tree, then kill it! I’m a capitalist. That (pointing to a tall telephone pole in front of him) is a tree.” Then he disappeared into the building.
Whoa. I had no idea why he hated that tree and wanted to cut it down or why he felt it important that I know he was planning to cut it down. But his comments gave me pause. Being in inner southeast Portland, his attitude toward that tree was unexpected. Here, I assume everyone loves and appreciates trees. I suppose he made an assumption from my pointing to it that I liked the tree and was appreciating its flowers. So, we both were looking at that tree and each other from our own perspectives.
After his exclamation about cutting the tree down, I shifted my point of view and tried to figure out what it was about that tree that he hated. Perhaps its petals covered his truck as it sat beneath it. Perhaps the tree, growing right up against the building, was causing problems with the foundation or the pipes inside. I would never know his reasons, but the shift in my point of view made me immediately feel more compassionate toward the man whose opinion about that tree was so completely different from mine.
“Being willing to change allows you to move from a point of view to a viewing point – a higher more expansive place from which you can see both sides.” – Tom Crum
Of course, doing so means I have to give up my need to be “right” and be willing listen and understand. That doesn’t mean I have to agree, but it does give me a new mindset from which to have a discussion, make a decision, feel some empathy, and act for the good of all.
Understanding other people means looking at the situation from their point of view, getting a higher perspective, just like looking at the the ocean from a cliff 300 feet above is different from looking at it from the shoreline. When I’m standing on the shore of the Pacific, I feel the vibrations of waves pounding into rocks. I see driftwood logs washed on shore. I marvel at the sea anemones and starfish living in the tide pools on the edge of the sea. I smell the salt and seaweed.
When I climb up into the headlands above the waves, I the shoreline takes shape, and I can see the connections between rivers and sea. I hear the sound of the wind and watch the clouds build and float across the sky above the ocean. I see whales spout as they swim north and south along the shore. I see the size of the ocean, vast and powerful. It’s a completely different experience from being at the level of the shore.
Have you had an experience where you shifted perspective? What happened?