Sometimes you have to stop and sort of examine what you're doing, and rethink it a bit, and really just ask yourself—"Why am I doing this? Why do I think like this?"
This happens to me a lot these days. Sometimes it's voluntary, and sometimes it's one of those moments like when you've been staring at a photo for several minutes, trying to find the hidden tiger, and suddenly your eyes lose focus a bit and you realize it's right there. You've been staring at it all this time!
Which doesn't bode well for us if we have to hide from tigers in the wild, but makes for a fantastic illustration of my point.
I grew up in Wild Peach, Texas. That's not a town. It's a village that stretches between three or four small Texas towns in Brazoria county. My standard joke (so I'll tell it here), is that as far as I know there isn't a peach tree within a hundred miles of the place. But it's the home to around 2,500 souls.
Things are a little different there now, compared to when I was growing up. Today, everyone has high speed internet and satellite TV. When I was a kid we had three fuzzy channels picked up over the air, and maybe a stack of comic books or scifi novels to read if I was lucky. There was no library within walking or biking distance, and even by car we didn't go to the library much. We were a family of readers—but most of our books were bought on special trips to Walmart, about 30 minutes away, or (on extreme occasions) Sam's Club, an almost two-hour drive into Houston. That's a long way to go to buy bulk toilet paper and bins of Laffy Taffy, so you might as well pick up a few dozen books while you're there.
Ok, that's all background and history, and the point of it is this: I grew up with a fairly narrow perspective of the world. I knew what I knew, which wasn't far off from what everyone else around me knew. I knew what I was told in school and in church, what I was taught by family who had done a bit of traveling and branching out, and what the scattered kids I could reach on my bike would sometimes share. Usually this last group didn't know much either, but we were all spectacular liars when I was a kid, so the stories were good.
Since leaving Wild Peach, though, I've traveled. I've seen other countries and other cultures. I've read widely and wildly, and I've talked to people across the spectrum of wealth from extreme poverty to multi-millionaires. Still working on talking to a billionaire. Hopefully I'll be having that conversation in the mirror knowwhatI'msayin'?
My perspective has had a few jolts every now and then. I've changed the way I think about religion and politics and people in general, because I have new information and a new framework. Sometimes the new perspective is welcome—it can strengthen my resolve or give me new insight into something I hold dear, like my spirituality and my love for chicken wings.
Sometimes I fight it, and I try to hold on to an old pattern as if losing it would tear me to pieces. I get grumpy, I grouse, I complain, I vent my spleen. I hear you, new idea that challenges my old beliefs, but I want no part of your shuck and jive. Git!
But that's humans for you. We like to keep our patterns close and our disurptions at arm's length.
I like to think that these days I'm pretty good about going out and looking for things that shake up my world view. But that isn't quite true. What I'm good at is digging in and reading and learning and talking to new people, watching how the world works differently in new places I visit, and synthesizing all of that into an experience I can taste, hear, and smell. I examine my experiences more. And I learn things.
Not always the right things. And definitely not everything. Sometimes I leave a lot on the table. But I can say that my perspective shifts more often now than it did through all my teens, twenties, and thirties. Maybe it's 40 that does it. Maybe the looming specter of mortality—that realization that there are fewer days ahead than behind—nudges you to start looking around more instead of always rushing ahead.
Phew. That got morbid fast.
But honestly, I'm really grateful for that growing perspective, because it allows me to actually be more human. We are, after all, the sum of our experiences. We are what we realize more than what we know.
Growth is the point of life—or one point of it. And to grow, we all have to be able to consider ideas and philosophies and cultures and perspectives that are in no way compatible with who we were a year ago or even yesterday.
Or so I think, at the moment.