Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Perspective, or What's My Point of View?

When I sit on my deck, ten feet above the ground, and look around me, I see that I am surrounded by tree tops.

If this were the only view I had ever had, I would believe that I live in a great forest into which a few houses have been squeezed.

I would have no idea that I actually live in a town with lots of trees that have been planted and watered to help them grow and live. I would not know that I actually live on a vast, semi-arid high plain.

My view of reality would be extremely skewed.

I am not widely traveled. I have not been outside the United States. I have lived in Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Colorado, and South Dakota. And that's about it. My personal experience of other places than where I live is limited.

Books have been my doorway to places all around the world. Through books I have, since childhood, experienced places, histories, and cultures that I will never experience in person. I have sailed across oceans and flown to the moon. I have met people who live in a stone age culture in this modern age, and people who live in high rise apartments in great cities. Television and movies have added to my world "experience" by adding the visuals only pictured (often inaccurately) through imagination from written descriptions.

Sometimes people limit what they will read or view to only those things they know are produced by people with whom they agree. This can create a sort of intellectual inbreeding in which nothing new, either in fact or understanding, is ever learned.

I think it is good for me to be aware of what other people believe, what their viewpoints are socially, politically, religiously, and historically. If I test my own viewpoints against these, it should help me know more clearly what I believe and why I believe it. And, if I discover that I just may be wrong occasionally, then I will grow. Even when I will strongly disagree with the viewpoint or cultural practice I am learning about, I think it is useful to gain an understanding of what has formed that culture and its beliefs and practices. It is hard to hate people if I understand what has formed them. I may still have strong feelings about particular beliefs and practices that I think are dead wrong and harmful, but understanding keeps dislike of or disagreement with these things from carrying over into dislike or hatred of the people themselves. There are cultures I dislike intensely; but the people raised in those cultures are still individual humans.

Our perspectives, our points of view are powerful influences.

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