The Purpose of Perspective
Growing up I had a thought, “Is my blue the same as everybody else’s blue?”.
This question’s continued to baffle me to this day because I still don’t have an answer. As a kid I understood that we all agreed upon the same concept of blue. I knew that when I looked at the sea or sky I saw blue. And if I asked anyone, in any language, in any part of the world, the answer would stay the same. But what troubled me was not knowing if we all were actually seeing the same thing.
How could I know that my blue wasn’t actually someone else’s purple or red? They would have grown up seeing a violet ocean or burning sky but learned to call what they saw, “blue”. This thought shook me because I didn’t know if I could trust what I was seeing, or being taught to see. What if my blue was everyone else’s orange -is everything I know a lie?
I would try to convince myself that this theory was ridiculous because it meant that my reality wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. What I saw and experienced was my own -no one could truly share it with me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could never know the answer. I knew that I couldn’t see the world through someone else’s eyes, thus I would never know if what I saw was unique.
For awhile I was content with this explanation -I even had moments where I felt special. What if I was the only person who could see a real rainbow? Yet the flip side was that there was no way to share exactly what colors I saw. I realized that I could draw them, explain them, and even pair them with a fruit and flavor. But I still wouldn’t be able to convey what I was seeing and experiencing in a way that other’s could truly understand.
I understood something then that I didn’t have the words to describe until now. My world is mine and your world is yours, so we can’t live in each other’s. We can visit the world’s of others through compassion and empathy, but we can never stay there. Because your world is built through you, I’m foreign to it. I don’t know the local language of your mind or have insight into your past. I can’t access your building blocks, thus I can never completely comprehend the world that you’ve created.
Yet neither of our worlds are right nor wrong. Everything we experience is valid because it’s how we perceive it to be. How we view the world comes from our senses, but how we interpret the world comes from the languages we’ve learned. However, language is more than just the words you speak. It’s also the thoughts you think, which are shaped by the constructs you’re taught to see.
When I see or think of “blue”, I’m immediately filled with images of wispy clouds and rolling waves followed by feelings of serenity and comfort. But for others it can bring to mind destruction, fear, and depression. My experience with blue has created its positive meaning for me, but to expect that it has the same definition for you is unrealistic and self-centered of me.
Yet that’s how we tend to live our lives. We’re stuck in a world of our own creation and assume that others see the same sky as us. When they can’t, we become angry and try to tear apart their world so that ours makes sense.
Why does this happen? What causes us to destroy one another? Perhaps it’s because we’ve been taught that there can only be one “right” answer. This answer then shapes all of our questions.
The mindset of conformity and correctness stems from the assumption that there’s one thing we all should strive for and accept as right. Anything else is abnormal, a mistake, or incorrect. We’ve been taught that being wrong is never right, so when our world is being threatened we hold on tight. We defend our sky because it’s the only one we know -it’s kept us safe. But when we fight for our world we damage others’ in the process.
In order to keep our world intact we end up undermining and invalidating the worlds of those who oppose us. Instead of allowing for a difference of opinion, we compare our world’s and challenge one another until there’s a winner. If we could truly place ourselves in the world’s of others, we might just find that we can understand where they’re coming from and respect their perspective.
Now I understand that it didn’t matter if my blue was actually blue or not. Maybe my blue is your yellow, pink, or some color I can’t even see. The truth is that we’re all seeing life through our own eyes, so nothing can easily be defined as “true”. What I consider blue may differ for you, what I see as calming may agitate you, or what angers me may only annoy you.
I think the goal is to realize that all we are is a difference of perspective. And just as we need the various colors of the rainbow, we need a kaleidoscope of perspectives -people- in order to create the complete spectrum of life. There’s no need to place ourselves above or below one another. We’ve all been shaped by this world differently, so there is no -and can’t be- one right way.
What I see now is that I was under the assumption that my blue was the “real” blue. I hadn’t even considered that someone else’s rainbow could be the “real” rainbow -or an even better version of one. I thought that the world was mine to take and shape how I wanted, but this question about perspective shifted my view of the world. It made me realize that the “truth” couldn’t be known through my experience alone.
So I became the quiet observer. I allowed for everyone else to share and show their truth while hiding my own away. Most people probably thought that I was just shy or afraid to speak, when really I just knew who I was and kept my truth to myself. I was intrigued by the thoughts and opinions of others, yet failed to express my own.
But the beauty of perspective is that everyone has one and each is unique, thus valuable, in its own way. So although I was comfortable with concealing my thoughts, I wasn’t fulfilling the purpose of my perspective. Now, here I am, trying to be brave and bold in owning my perspective. Because although it’s not “right” and doesn’t hold any true answers, it still has value. My hope is that through sharing my own thoughts and experiences you can begin to understand my perspective. Then perhaps you’ll discover that there’s value to perspectives other than those you already know.
I believe that the world can only change once we change. But how can we change if we never consider anything that’s different or new? What limits us isn’t what we have, it’s what we lack. Fearing what we don’t understand doesn’t make us any stronger -it only keeps us separated. So allow yourself to see all the colors of the rainbow instead of just your blue.
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