The Necessity of Perspective

picassoAnybody who has ever taken grade school Art class has learned about perspective. Before it, you drew one-dimensional pictures that seemed to have something missing, because they looked nothing like reality. But with it, your pictures gained the multi-dimensional look of real life.

Perspective gives you a more complete picture of the way things really are. Once you have it, you naturally incorporate it into your art as a habit. You can remove it knowingly, and for a reason, like Cezanne did in some paintings, or layer on multiple perspectives for something entirely new, like Picasso so often did.

As goes art, so goes life.

Too many people these days lack perspective. But I’d argue that it’s pretty essential to forming opinions, making decisions, and so much more. Perhaps its loss began when we started cutting from our school curriculum art and music and other classes that turned us into multidimensional creatures. Or perhaps it first happened when opinion began leaking into news reports, so that news sources became mouthpieces for one agenda over another, and one political stance over another.

One obvious example of our loss of perspective is the rise of road rage. People are so focused on themselves and their right to be where they are at that very moment that they ignore other drivers and their rights to be. There is simply no understanding of somebody else’s point of view; of any perspective that doesn’t either emanate from themselves or burst from the horizon to encompass only them.

Another example, of course, is social media. It could be an amazing perspective expansion tool, but too many people use it selfishly, pushing their POV out into cyberspace without taking any others in. They’ve turned the communication highway into a one-way dirt road going nowhere.

Perspective gives you a more complete picture of the way things really are.

Perspective is essential to wholeness. We simply cannot lead a one-dimensional life, hanging out only with people who share our perspective, and then think we can see and understand the whole picture. It’s impossible. When your understanding of the world is based on the view from your living room window, your perspective is far from complete.

How do we gain perspective?

Get up and leave your house. Don’t just talk to strangers; listen to them. Go to the library and read. Hop in a car or on a bus and go 1,000 miles. Gather opinions and news and viewpoints there.

Leave the country–get your passport and go travel as far and wide as you can. Travel may be the best way to expand your perspective; borders of any kind are limiting. I make no secret of travel’s effects on me. I’d never be the person I am today if I hadn’t lived in other places and immersed myself in other cultures. The experience is eye-opening, and when you do it, you can’t stop your perspective from growing and shifting.

A word to the wise: A warning, if you will. When you grow your perspective, it doesn’t always make life easier. You may be conflicted more often because of your newfound ability to see different viewpoints. As with art, a new perspective forces you to look at life differently; to think about life differently. Single-mindedness is no longer a possibility. Clarity is no longer black and white, but a dazzling array of colors.

In the end, the perspective you gain is much more than your own. And it helps you see a world that is so much closer to reality. Just like you learned in that grade school art class.

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