Friday, January 8, 2010

A Little Perspective


I like to think of everyone's "truth", everyone's understanding of how the Universe works, as just one of many valid perspectives. Including my own. I also like to play with perspectives, look for alternate perspectives, and actively choose my perspectives for given situations.

There are a whole lot of ways to look at the world. Life will continue and time will pass whether one views life as: a game, unfair, hard then you die, a glorious opportunity, a gift from god, a fortunate coincidence, etc. Some perspectives, however, are more helpful than others. Some make life more interesting and more fulfilling. Without any preparation at all, I could assume any of those examples of large scale perspectives about life (a game, unfair, hard then you die, a glorious opportunity, a gift from god, a fortunate coincidence, etc.) and list numerous pieces of supporting evidence from my life in just the last week. That's right, even in all my happiness with my son I could for example, if I choose to, make a strong case for how life is hard and then you die based on real and personal experiences just from the last week. And you know, I could convince myself of the truth of many of these and other valid perspectives. The quality of my life, however, would be so different depending on which perspective I utilized.

One situational perspective that I like to use when driving on the freeway in rush hour traffic is this. My goal is not to get to my destination quickly on the freeway (causing others to become frustrating obstacles). The goal of all of us on the freeway is to see that all of us get to our destination safely, efficiently, and with little stress. Then, I let people merge into my lane, I smile, I thank people for letting me in, and the world is a better place. When these people get to work and I go in to buy a coffee or call to make an appointment, these people are nice and feeling good because someone let them merge on the freeway and no one flipped them off on the way to work. It's a useful perspective and the drive is far less stressful.

Like the above example, I try to choose good perspectives for situations and also to respect the perspectives used by others to navigate through life. This use to be very difficult for me. I would go crazy when my core beliefs were challenged, when a contradictory idea showed merit, when the reality of the world seemed to shift and to make me sea sick. I took my perspectives to be truth and I held on tight. So many impassioned arguments and discussions, frustrations, and quests for understanding were the result. How many books I read looking for the answers. How many song lyrics I attempted to squeeze wisdom from. How many contemplative hours I spent attempting to reconcile seemingly opposing concepts that seemed justifiable. Now, I take my truth to be but one perspective.

A couple of days ago I was looking at this beautiful son of mine lying on my chest awake. This little guy, nine days old today, less than two feet tall, will grow to be a toddler, a young man, a man. Will I have enough time to love every evolving incarnation of him? Will I be able to show it and will he know it?

Looking at my son I thought, this little guy will grow to re-"discover" for the first time, all over again, everything about being alive as a human. He will experience the newness of all that has already been done billions of times over on Earth. He will kiss, have a good grade, a bad grade, be embarrassed, be proud, feel the joy in a memory that comes back with a smell, find fear, find confidence, have sex, smile at the sky... Simply put, he will live life new... though it is older than memory.

Is it futile? Is it a waste of time and energy doing all this that has all been done already? With my son so very real in front of me I say NO. It is not futile, it is excellent that he should discover everything that has already been discovered, that he will live, with newness, the oldest human experiences of life. I know he won't get all of the experiences. Every human experience has a probability of occurring for each individual, some experiences are more likely than others. My son will very likely experience simple joy, a first kiss, doubt, success, almost falling back on a chair but catching himself before he falls. I want him to know these and others. He may also, but is not very likely to, experience: a betrayal so shocking he would murder, the life of the richest 5% of his contemporaries, homelessness, having quintuplets, rescuing a stranger's life.

I have been playing with all of these thoughts and admiring my son over the last couple of days. Then, for the sake of musing, I asked myself, "What if Life is the main entity and not the person alive?" And from this question I dreamed up this interesting perspective:

Humans exist to support life. Life is not there for humans. Life itself is the evolving entity. By maintaining a variety of living creatures in diverse circumstances experiencing the Universe, the essence of Life itself continues to "live well." With this perspective, we are servants to life and not the other way around. Life owes us nothing but asks us to live and to experience as richly as possible so that the essence of Life may thrive through every conceivable manifestation and repetition. It "knows" it is not possible for every individual to live every human experience so it allows great variety amongst us to live the full range of experiences from rich to poor, tall to short, hairy to bald, brilliant to dull, etc. so that as a species, human life is totally experienced. It "knows" that life is in the newness, the discovery, the mastery, and in the moving on so it allows us to die so that new generations may do it all over and make the mundane belabored story of life into something new again. Life does this for every living species, humans, giraffes, flowers...

Using this perspective my son will revitalize Life through it's newness to him. My job as his father will be to teach and prepare him to appreciate and to enjoy life's experiences and the opportunities available to him. That is my job because it enriches the essence of Life, because it is a pleasure to both my son and to myself, and because I am a servant to Life. Every day, how shall I fully experience life? Every day, how shall I prepare my son to enjoy all of his experience?

That's one alternate perspective I have enjoyed contemplating these recent days while admiring my son, an experience that is still very new to me. If I had to classify it, I would say it's one of the beneficial perspectives, of the type that would lead to a life well lived.

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