Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Perspective is an Interesting Thing

Our first day in Helsinki – day one of the trip, assuming you don’t count the day sitting on an airplane – was… cold. One degree Celsius was in stark contrast to the warm summer behind us in Melbourne. As we meandered around this beautiful capital, wandering in and out of shops, gaining our bearings, and beginning to appreciate the city’s culture and architecture, one of the shopkeepers remarked that the weather was “unseasonably warm!” It was a comment that pulled us up in our tracks. I don’t ever recall thinking that one degree Celsius could be considered warm. And with the wind chill cutting our ears off at the base, the depiction of warmth was furthest from my mind. But when the forecast for the days ahead included top temperatures lower than -10, and our later journeys in the UK keeping us in temperatures below freezing for days on end, it may be unsurprising to note that when we resurfaced into above-freezing temperatures someone commented on how “warm” it was!
Ah, perspective. What can seem easy to one is a struggle to another. What challenges one person bores someone else. What one embraces as beautiful, another shuns.
The artist John Constable once noted: “I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, - light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.” Life’s richness is rooted in the depth and breadth of perspectives offered by difference. When we experience something on the way up, we are more appreciative than in times of decline.
The tendency to absolutise particular perspectives robs us of learning experiences. To be pushed out of our comfort zones is not something many of us yearn for, yet such experiences teach us to appreciate what we have.
A journey up the Eiffel Tower in January offered us temperatures in the wind which hovered between -10 and -15. At that stage I would have welcomed a single balmy degree above zero. By then I had learned the beauty of many things which had previously been alien to my experience. Perspective is a wonderful gift which has encouraged me in the journey towards deeper understanding…

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