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Perspective & Reality

Inspired by some amazing 3-D street art by Karl Mueller, I’ve been reflecting on perspective and the nature of reality.

Folk in both the scenes below appear to be in danger of plunging to their deaths in a deep crevasse.

Karl Mueller The Great Crevasse

(Click for larger image)

Karl Mueller - The Crevasse

(Click for larger image)

But it’s all an illusion, based on the perspective from which we’re viewing the scene. From where they’re standing, they know they are on solid ground.

Karl Mueller, who created the art work above said ‘I wanted to play with positives and negatives to encourage people to think twice about everything they see.’

Similarly, many of the shadows we see in our lives are of our own making. We take what we think is a dangerous risk, only to find the leap hasn’t been so great and we’re landing safely after all.

Or we experience things that, at the time, are deeply painful and we’d give anything to be somewhere else. It’s only later, standing in a different place and viewing them from a different perspective, that we can see the gifts those experiences have given us.

One of the assumptions made in Appreciative Inquiry is that ‘Reality is created in the moment and there are multiple realities.’

Whether we see a  particular situation as a problem, an opportunity, a disaster or a gift depends on where we’re standing and how we look at it.

The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.

(Al Neuharth)

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Indra’s Net

Photo: Indra's Net. Copyright Doug Benner

Photo: Indra’s Net. Copyright Doug Benner (Click for larger image)

There’s a beautiful Hindu legend about the god Indra, who commissions an artisan to craft a vast net across the universe.

When the net is complete, at each junction Indra places a shining jewel – the facets of which reflect every other jewel in this cosmic network.

Each jewel represents a single atom, cell or life form in the Universe and all are intimately connected with one another. Any change in one jewel produces a change, however small, in all the others.

The legend also reminds me of a passage from Sinuhe the Egyptian, written by Mika Walthari in 1949:

For I, Sinuhe, am a human being. I have lived in everyone who existed before me and shall live in all who come after me. I shall live in human tears and laughter, in human sorrow and fear, in human goodness and wickedness, in justice and injustice, in weakness and strength. As a human being I shall live eternally in all mankind.

Both of these stories – a 3rd century metaphor and a post-WWII novel – resonate for me in relation to our modern, networked world.

As human beings we are all interconnected. Even a small change in one of us can ripple out through those connections to make changes in others.

Or, as Peter Block said more recently, we can “change the world, one conversation at a time”.

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My thanks to Doug Benner for his kind permission to use the beautiful photograph above.

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Life

A great blog post on Barriers by Jeb Dickerson made me reflect on the wonderful journey that life is if we embrace its possibilities. If we don’t become ‘fenced in’ or start “treading water up-stream while foregoing the offerings of the open ocean” as he so beautifully expressed it.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote some time ago with a similar theme, so I thought I’d unearth that poem and share it here.

River and RapidsLife can be
sometimes
a river of motion,
a remorseless current.
We’re swept past changing scenery,
through rapids that terrify
and leave us gasping,
amazed we’re still whole,
undrowned, undefeated,
surviving to move onwards.
Temptation
is a quiet backwater
where we cling to safety,
to familiarity,
and retreat from the flow
of living.
A brief respite
can be healing.
But wait too long
in the shallows,
and life will pass us by
leaving us
unchanged,
unmoved by its glory,
too frightened to plunge
into its depths
once more.

And I’ll echo Jeb’s invitation … “I’m ready to swim. You coming?”

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A Breath of Kindness

As with other forms of writing everywhere, it can at times be a little nerve-wracking to post to a blog.

We take a deep breath, hit ‘publish’ and trust that some folk will enjoy reading our outpourings, while others will at least be constructive in their criticism. :)

Even with brief ventures into the written word, such as as updates to Facebook or tweets on Twitter, we may sometimes click ‘send’ with a slight catch of breath.

‘Who will read it? Will anyone read it? And if they do, what will they think of what I’ve said. Or of me?’

Of course not everything we write causes a nervous flutter. Sometimes we launch our thoughts blithely into the public arena without a single tremble or backward glance.

But sometimes it’s more deeply personal than that. We recognise we’re actually sharing a piece of ourselves when we write. And in that moment of clarity, our hands may pause over ‘submit’ or ‘send’ and we’ll feel a shiver of anticipation.

Not that we want everyone to agree! After all, it’s from different perspectives that we gain new insights or understanding. But if others don’t like what we’ve said or don’t agree with it, we hope they’ll attack the ideas – not the writer. :)

Here’s a poem that was first published in the novel A Life for a Life by Dinah Mulock in 1859. A long time ago and a very different world from ours!  But I think its words still ring true in our fast-paced, networked world:

Sift What is Worth KeepingOh, the comfort —
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person —
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all right out,
just as they are,
chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

 

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The Colour of Days

Ever thought of using colours to describe your day? I’ve been playing with the idea and I’ve realised there’s a huge palette of shades from which to choose and every colour has at least two faces.

BLUE days can be sad days – when I’m ‘feeling blue’. But they can also be days that reach as high as the bluest of skies, in which I’m flying after my dreams.

RED days can sometimes be like huge, red STOP signs. Days when warning signals in my body or frazzled brain tell me I’m overstretched and need to take time out.  But they can also be days when I’m alight with red hot passion to change the world and the ‘fire in my belly’ is well and truly ignited!

What about BLACK days? Some of those are full of ‘grrrrr’ moments and dark thoughts. It doesn’t have to be a day of major disasters. Even a string of small frustrations can certainly add a charcoal tinge! But some ‘black days’ can be like the velvety blackness of a silent, moonless night. Those are days when the hustle and bustle of the world has faded away and I find time and quiet space for reflection.Color of Your Day

Not only these three, but many more colours of the spectrum are woven into life’s rich tapestry. And each colour also has its ‘upbeat’ and ‘downbeat’ aspects.

As I think about that, I realise both faces of every colour are equally important and often interdependent.  The bright blue of my dreams can sometimes be tinged with the more sombre hue of sadness or disappointment. A period of passionate, ‘changing-the-world’ days can take so much energy, that I’m brought up short by one of those warning stop signs and need time to rest and recover.

Athough it’s sometimes hard at the time to appreciate the darker days – to see the gifts they bring – they are also a blessing.

As Kahlil Gibran once said:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

So I need those darker days too, if my heart is to ‘stand in the sun’.

Perhaps with the colour of my days I can paint the picture of my life. But I need all those subtle differences in shading – from light to dark – to give the whole picture dimension and depth.