I love this word, “perspective.” Often, I have stopped to think why that is. After a long time pondering the question, I have some answers. The best of these is the rationale that mature perspective frees us from the darker side of our human condition. The famous artist, Albrecht Durer, realized the importance of perspective in artistic renderings and studiously investigated its application to his drawings. Here is one of his most reproduced studies on perspective:
As important as it is to art, a realistic and comforting perspective is crucial to our personal well-being. Human happiness and contentment are constantly challenged by the realities of day-to-day living on this planet. For me, life is akin to a beautiful rosebush in full bloom – an entity inherently wonderful and beautiful in the long-view, but one covered with sharp thorns which can inflict pain and suffering if not approached carefully. The gardeners in my family, Ruth, Linda, and Ginny fully appreciate that reality! The challenge, then, is learning how to handle this beautiful gift from nature (how to live with the vicissitudes of life) without getting hurt in the process; this is where a clear vision (perspective) comes into play.
What simpler and better example of perspective is there than the familiar question, “Do you see your glass half empty or half full?” Pondering the answer forces us to realize that conditions in our lives could be worse than they are – at least the glass is not empty. Choosing the more positive outlook has been proven beneficial to us humans, both psychologically, and physically. Those of us who have seriously tried yoga, with its meditative overtones, can vouch for the relaxing, healing aspects of mind-conditioning which is central to the practice.
As I grow older, I see life and the world in a different light – from a new perspective! When younger, I was much concerned with what other people thought – about me, about what I had done or not done in life, about social convention. Life has gently nudged me to honestly evaluate my strengths and weaknesses…and to accept the verdict, for better or worse. I feel a sense of freedom which stems from that attitude and the admonition to “know thyself.” Today, I visualize a much larger picture, a wider perspective on life and living. What do you see in your everyday life?
I strongly believe that children should be nurtured early-on and raised never to take people and things in their lives for granted. For youngsters, life naturally tends to be all about the events of the day at-hand and their immediate social relationships. Often, life seems aptly termed a “rat-race” as young people (and adults) strive to find their place in the pack of runners while struggling at the same time to discover their personal identities. So much time and energy are spent striving to be recognized and accepted in our society, and that is normal and inevitable – the way we are biologically programmed to coexist and to survive and thrive. I maintain that life offers more than that limited view and existence: Our “glass” can be fuller than that if only we can see the larger picture through a wider perspective.
And, what IS the larger picture? For me, it encompasses an acceptance of the fact that we are but one of many on this earth, that there are many things about ourselves and our fate that we cannot control, and that few of us will be remembered three generations down the line. What to do then? See the glass half-full and proceed to live life with a sense of amusement concerning our human foibles and vulnerabilities while maintaining a vision of the larger picture. While always cognizant of the comfort afforded by the larger picture, living in the present and enjoying each day to the fullest seems to be the secret of happy living.
Personally, I strive not to take myself too seriously, but to honestly evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and work upon improving the latter. So important: While being your own best critic, don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself a break now and then and relish your real accomplishments along the way! Change the things you can change, accept the things you cannot change, and be wise enough to know the difference. Amen! A larger awareness of our universe and our human place in it proves most comforting to me. I love the myriad of wise quotations attributed to the great scientist, Albert Einstein, and this is one of my favorites – a statement of his personal perspective and religiousness:
“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.”
We are well-advised to look around at our world and to see past its ugly aspects – its thorns – and see the beauty, the wonder, and the awe inherent in the universe. Miracles abound everywhere one looks, including the image of that man or women in your mirror. When one steps beyond society’s pre-occupation with the “cult of human personality,” it appears amazing that a biologically-based organism – a fleshy bag of bones like us – can, today, live routinely for more than seventy years and travel all over the planet, (often at 35,000 feet) in order to see natural and man-made wonders in far-away places. Actually, one need not go anywhere to view such wonders: Just look around you right now, wherever you are. Also amazing is the fact that, through science and its brain-child, technology, we know more and more about who we are, what we are, and where we are than ever before. Still a challenge and part of the great mystery: Why we are and where we are going.
Sidling-up ever closer to the ultimate mysteries of which Einstein spoke constitutes, for many of us, a new perspective on life, living, and creation itself. It all borders on the religious sense which Einstein experienced, and it all makes for such a liberating viewpoint, as well.