Musings: Relativity & Perspective
No, I’m not going to do an Albert Einstein. I do not have that kind of analytical and scientific mind. But it struck me that any given situation will probably be viewed differently by each person involved in it. I just have to think about any normal, every day conversation between myself and my husband and how we sometimes struggle to understand exactly what the other is saying – and we’re both speaking English, and are relatively on the same page!
Just recently I read a phrase that really caught my attention. It said something like, “A mistake is just another way of doing something.” Yesterday I read another phrase which said, “A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.” And they both carry the same message as the old proverb, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
I remember participating in a workshop some years ago. There were various projects and activities that we engaged in during the course of the workshop. One that I will always remember went something like this. We re-entered the classroom after a short break and in the middle of the chalk board was the word “track”.
The instructor asked us to just focus on that one word. Then she asked us not to talk among ourselves and to write a sentence using that word. As I recall, there were about twenty to twenty five of us in the class. There may have been a handful of sentences written that were similar. The rest were completely unique, each offering a different meaning and use of the word.
I’m sure that this creates problems from time to time. Going back to my husband and I, I can think of a few times when the discussion has become somewhat heated simply because of two completely different perspectives, understandings of, one word or phrase. (We’re probably not a good example because I’m British and he’s American, so the language barrier in and of itself sometimes is a bit of a beast!!!)
But different perspectives can also bring wonderful variety to our lives. Just think of art and architecture, and what about music? All the unique styles created by different people enrich our lives in all those areas. I absolutely love Modigliani and Monet and yet they create works at opposite ends of the spectrum. As do Degas and Dali and yet both have produced works of exquisite beauty.
I cannot imagine life without the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But there are days when all I want to hear is Dvorak or Beethoven. And when I’m in the mood, please get my toes a-tapping with some down-to-earth, boot-stomping Blue Grass.
On the news yesterday and today are the heart-wrenching stories and pictures from Samoa and Indonesia. People’s lives torn apart, wrecked by savage tsunami’s and earthquakes, forces of nature over which we have no control. Any “small stuff” problems that I may have been lamenting about dwindle into nothingness by comparison.
Probably the biggest example of perspective that I can remember in my own life happened back in the mid seventies. I was living in Sardinia at the time. It was a gorgeous, warm, clear August evening and the sky was littered with millions of stars forming the Milky Way. I remember standing on the patio of my little cottage and getting a cricked neck from staring upwards.
Then I had an idea. There was a six-foot long wooden picnic table on the patio which I covered with a sleeping bag. Then I lay on top and in wonderful comfort began to star gaze. It was an incredible experience. It looked as though someone had taken a dozen sacks full of diamonds and thrown them across the width and breadth of the sky.
It was only then, at the ripe old age of thirty something, that I began to get a clear idea of what the universe was about. As I lay on that picnic table I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just a flat dark blue background with “big stars, and little stars” painted all over it. I understood for the first time the significance of the word “infinity”.
I became aware that the “little stars’ were in fact probably just as “big” as the others seemed to me, but that they were further away and thus seemed “smaller”. And I also realized that if I squinted I could just barely see even “smaller” stars that were even further away. And in that one moment the full magnitude of “the universe” hit me.
In that one moment I was both terrified and also in total awe, and I realized just how insignificant I really was in the bigger scheme of things. And yet I also realized just how important I must be to my God that He has chosen to place me here in the bigger scheme of things.