Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Perspective Lessons

I remember learning in middle school art how you could draw a "v" shape with a big thing at one end and a small one at the other, and suddenly, you were creating distance perspective. I was no artistic genius, but I could certainly perform this little trick, and I enjoyed the power it gave me to make something look like, well, something interesting.

In life, perspective is much harder to come by. Every day, we find ourselves in situations that we can view only from where we stand in them. We have only our own perspective, and perhaps that of the people immediately surrounding us, to judge our circumstances. We can't really see any sort of "big picture," as I learned to do in middle school art. We simply see the flat images before us. And often, that's just not enough.

So, where, as grownups, do we go for perspective lessons?

I find a great deal of my perspective in coffee shops. No, I don't go to coffee shops to see how others live (though it is interesting to wonder what all the people hunkered down for hours with cups and laptops are working toward). Rather, I find out, over coffee with friends, and fellow parents, and industry acquaintances, whether my experiences elicit nods or raise eyebrows. In an hour of conversation, I find out whether I am on target or off. I acquire new views and new ideas, all of which essentially make up perspective.

I also get perspective lessons from my kids, and from other people's kids. It's hard to lecture a kid about the value of hard work or the pain of unfair treatment, or the effects of bullying without seeing how at least some of these play out in the grownup world. And if you can't see the connections yourself, your kids--no matter what age--are sure to point them out.

And then there's the Internet. I know, you can't believe everything you read there. But you can get perspective on how many people are dealing with the same things, or worse ones. You may get a much bigger picture, or many more pictures, than you want, but you will clearly escape living in the vacuum of no perspective at all.

Often, most of what it takes to gain perspective is looking to the big end of that "v" you learned to draw in middle school art--seeing a wider view, rather than just the speck of your own. And you don't have to be a genius, artistic or otherwise, to know that a picture with more perspective gives a much clearer sense of what's really going on.

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