Nowadays, as a regular Facebook user and a regular blogger, I realise this can further take me away from the real world and doing what needs to be done. Yet it can also be a good thing from all sorts of angles, not least finding out the perspectives of those who may not always think as I do, and engaging with them in order to fulfill my community activist mantra, which is to make a difference.
One of the important things that I get from Facebook are wonderful amazing words of wisdom. A couple of days ago there was a quote from the Dalai Lama to the effect we should talk less and listen more, for when we talk we usually repeat what we know already but when we listen we may learn something new. This morning’s thought, also along the lines of talking less, was a quote from the Bible: “A fool uttereth all his mind, but a wise man keepeth it in until afterwards” Proverbs 29:11. I could also add my own: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1, including when and when not to speak.
So let me come to the point and it is one about perspective, and especially trying to understand the perspective of other people. The other day I got quite irritated with someone on Facebook that made what I saw as a completely inappropriate and irrelevant point but persisted because he had a certain bee in his bonnet that he felt needed to be given vent to at that point. The next day I got irritated reading some pro-Israel posts justifying Israel’s position regarding Gaza and overlooked what I saw as clear reasons for holding a different view, and I responded in no uncertain terms. One of the lessons from the two incidents is that I should not get irritated and I might have done better by not saying anything, and taking my own advice of keeping my powder dry until the opportune moment.
Wherever you look, there is a good chance you will see conflict and the reason more likely than not is that the conflicting parties have different perspectives and don’t see things from the perspective of the other, sometimes because of sheer ignorance and sometimes out of belligerence, not wanting to see other points of view. I have often been amazed throughout my life when I read the reports of others on events I know something of, for often their version of events is different to my own, not because they are telling lies but simply because they see things differently and may operate with different axioms and priorities. I used to like the illustration of looking at a transparent piece of jewelry in different lights and seeing different colours, for that is how it is. I remember once a friend, who I was to take round the National Gallery, told me about an artist that painted street, market square and river scenes, which depending at which angle you view the pictures you saw things quite differently. To both our delights we found the pictures and verified this for ourselves.
Some years ago I began to read the online newsletter: Pink News. Like with many non-mainstream publications, you get to read stuff you are interested in (here it was mainly to do with gay related news) and which is important that you will not necessarily find in other publications. One thing that did struck me about one of its reporters at the time was the even handedness of the way she reported and this contrasted, sadly, with one Christian publication (I read for similar reasons) that also reported on “gay” issues. But I also found that in its readers’ comments that if certain views weren’t subscribed to then it was often difficult to make a point however relevant it was. And this has been my experience whenever a readership has been predominantly of a similar way of thinking.
All of which brings me back to the importance of perspective and trying to understand the perspective of other people, however much it may question my own views. I have often thought that the Almighty must have a sense of humour, for I was brought in an environment where people tended to be quite opinionated and not particularly amendable to accommodating the opinions of others. I later came under the influence of Christians, a number of which were of a fundamentalist leaning ilk. Yet in my community work, I have had to rub shoulders with those of all shades of opinion and find ways to work with many of them in order to do things for the common good, and that remains an ongoing activity.
Perspective is not just about trying to see things from other peoples’ point of view and understanding where they “come from”. So often we find there are things that get us worked up, either by way of elation or deflation, and yet in the overall scheme of things these are not so important after all. Conversely, there are what seems at the time, small, inconsequential matters, that we pay little attention to, yet in years to come prove just as important and sometimes more so than things we do. Again, having the right perspective on such matters, does matter, and what does matter is living life to the full, the relationships we have and doing the best we can, using our talents and making the most of the opportunities that come our way.
I should add by way of a caveat, that it is nigh impossible to take in every perspective – life is too short and our own capacities too limited. There is a lot of evil being perpetrated in our world, and while we may want to understand why evil doers do what they do, our efforts are likely much better directed toward combating the evil. Sometimes, it really does come down to formulating the “right values”, not always easy but worth doing anyway, and using these as a yardstick when responding to what other people say and do.
If I have a model, it was that adopted by Jesus, who understood more than any the perspectives of others, yet with economy of words and largeness of actions managed to speak truth into peoples’ hearts: “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.” Isaiah 50:4-5. For besides listening to others, I know I need to be listening to God.