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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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Cosmic Jokers

Today I’ve been reflecting on the seemingly capricious nature of life.

On Friday Chris, my business partner, and I were jubilant about the fact we’d been engaged that morning for an exciting new project, which we know will be both challenging and fun to complete.

Then that afternoon an impending cold worsened, and I spent the weekend mostly in bed feeling like death warmed up – aching, snuffling fit to burst, coughing and losing my voice. So Friday’s jubilation went the way of all flesh – replaced by a dose of bodily misery.

Much better today, with that dreadful lurgy receding into the past in its turn, I’m smiling to myself at the way the Universe keeps reminding us life is a ever a journey of hills and valleys, highs and lows.

Ok, so neither the high nor the low I experienced in the last few days could in any way be described as an extreme example of its kind. But the rapid shift from one to the other and back again has definitely revealed the Cosmic Trickster at work once more.

This is an archetypal figure that has many names and guises across different cultures and mythologies.

Cosmic JokerFor example there’s the Norse god, Loki – shape shifter and trickster extraordinaire. Or Prometheus, who tricked Zeus and the other gods into allowing humans the best part of animals killed for sacrifice and stole fire from the gods on Olympus for people to use. There’s Maui from Polynesia who also stole fire from the gods to give to humans.

Then there’s Bamapana, a god of the Yolngu indigenous people from Arnhem Land in Australia, who delighted in causing disruption and discord. Or Eshu, god of chaos and trickery from Yoruba mythology in West Africa. And maybe The Joker in the Batman story can also be seen as another, more modern equivalent.

When we mere mortals are sitting comfortably atop one of life’s highs, the Cosmic Joker laughs at our complacency. “So you think you’ve got your stuff together, do you? You think you’ve got life sorted? Well try this one out for size!”

Then, when we’re struggling in one of life’s lows, he usually laughs again at our discomfiture before throwing another upward loop our way.

So how do we best cope with his quirkiness, his cruelty and his beneficence? Let go. Allow ourselves simply to ride life’s journey without clinging too desperately to the good times or fighting too hard against the bad.

Either way, whatever we try, there’s likely to be another shift just around the corner that will try to pitch us off balance again. Whether it’s for good or bad, up hill or down dale, ‘this too will pass’.

It’s all part of that disastrous, delightful, damnable and delicious paradox we call life.

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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?”