I left a prompt for myself titled “cultivating a different perspective”. I suppose I wanted to remind myself that it’s important to cultivate different perspectives, and I wanted to walk through my own thoughts about how one ought to do it. I also remember specifically writing a visakanv.com/marketing post– it was about how people with different native tongues write english differently, in ways that taste and smell incredibly distinct.
I wanted to write about how important it is that different perspectives be allowed to flourish, because that’s almost definitely what we’re going to need before we can solve a lot of the intractable problems that trouble us today.
I was also thinking about all of this with the context of the travelling that I was doing– just a short simple flight from Singapore to Cebu, where I stayed in a hotel for 5 days. We ate good food, drank lots of cheap beer, stayed up chatting about life, about Lee Kuan Yew’s death (RIP), swam with whale sharks, enjoyed a magnificently pristine beach and lots of great sea views, a great steak, a great burger, good pasta, fluffy pancakes, all that good stuff. Wonderful moments out of time that I will definitely remember, that will keep me going.
I already think I ought to plan the next one so that I have something to look forward to, something to wrap things up for. I owe my wife a huge debt for getting me to think about this. A saw needs sharpening, the mind needs so be allowed to settle.
Right. Why is it important to cultivate different perspectives? There are two parts to this.
The first is that life is simply much more beautiful when you have multiple perspectives. Each new perspective, I find, doesn’t just add value in a linear fashion. Every new perspective plays and dances with every preexisting perspective, which creates this wonderful runaway spiraling effect. 1 perspective is dull. 2 perspectives can argue with each other (but unless somewhat enlightened, will quickly become us vs. them and get entrenched), 3 perspectives and we have a party– you agree with some of this one, disagree with some of that one. Add more and things get even more intricate, and you start seeing patterns– several points of view fall within some particular style, some particular system… you see how something is simultaneously wonderful and terrible. It makes reality a lot more rich and beautiful.
The second part, for the practical minded, is that different perspectives help you solve different problems. A lot of intractable problems in the world today are only seemingly intractable– there is nothing in the realm of physical reality, nothing in the molecules that makes it destined that these problems have to persist. The problem is usually that we get caught up with approaching the solution to a problem in one particular way, and when it doesn’t work, we maybe try harder along the same dimension, or we give up and switch to the opposite perspective (handing things over to “The Opposition”). The problem is that this sort of binary thinking is itself inherently limited. Sometimes problems need much more creative solutions. They need to be framed in different ways. They need to be looked at differently. While some people are inherently more gifted (or more often than not, I think, more highly practised– though it’s worth asking why they practiced so much in the first place) at changing their frames, nobody is capable of seeing all things in all ways.
Thankfully, we have a broad range of peoples. Many languages. Many perspectives. Derek Sivers pointed out that in the West, streets have names, and buildings are merely spaces between the streets– while in Japan, buildings have names, and streets are merely the spaces between buildings. Both ways are valid ways of seeing and thinking. People only exposed to one way of thinking are less likely to thing the other way– and yet it’s entirely possible that some problems that the people in one situation have… might be easily solved if they only were able to see things like the people from the other tribe. Those folks might not even see it as an issue.
I’m reminded now of Alan Watts talking about how different cultures view reincarnation and death differently, and how there are people for whom the notion of being afraid of death is silly. Doesn’t that seem somewhat lovely? It might seem absurd or naive to some people, but that’s a conclusion that emerged and developed from their particular belief system.
Which reminds me again of how almost every group of people must seem absurd and silly to some other group of people. And we’re going to have to accept that, and learn to live with that– learn to smile and laugh and not take it so seriously, not kill each other over it– because we’re all going to fucking die anyway. Which is glorious in one sense (Absolute freedom, liberty! No more thinking necessary. No more pain, no more bills to pay, no more obligations to fulfill, no more emails to reply…) but also quite a bit of a shame in other sense (there will be so much that we won’t get to see, witness… just when things are getting so exciting.) I might change my view about this as life goes on. In fact I will be rather disappointed if I don’t. A lifetime feels like a ridiculously long amount of time to spend shackled to a particular belief system. We should appreciate and learn from as many things as we can, follow our bliss, yadda yadda.
So anyway– I think cultivating perspectives is Important with a capital I. The earlier we do it the better. We ought to argue more, but forgive each other more too, and be quick to say sorry, and be quick to say that we’re hurt (rather than retaliate), so that we can learn faster, move faster and get more joy out of life.
Of course, we don’t have to RUSH about it. I believe there’s a way to do things well, with solid intensity– without being an anxious, terrified bitch about it. There must be!