Monday, August 9, 2010

Wisdom Can Come From Changes In Perspective

A number of years ago after having seen The Shawshank Redemption my brother-in-law asked me what my favorite part of the movie was.  Not thinking too much into it I said it was the scene where Andy Dufresne (played by the great Tim Robbins) was sitting on top of a sewer pipe holding a rock and timing his strikes with that of the lightning and thunder strikes. 

My brother-in-law obviously had been looking a little bit deeper into the movie, his favorite part of the movie was the scene when the prison warden had ordered that Andy's cell been "tossed."  Which basically means that the prison guards can throw anything they want, including, or especially, anything they find that is breakable.  At the end of this scene, after the warden had picked up Andy's Bible, he handed it back to Andy through the bars of his cell and said, "Salvation lies within."

What is important about this scene is that the Warden's arguably hypocritical statement was somewhat ironic in that even though one can find salvation by studying The Bible, if the Warden had actually opened this one in particular he would have found Andy's modus operendi of escape.  For hidden within it was his rock hammer.  The tool that he used, painstakingly for years, to facilitate his escape.

The change in perspective that I gained in this conversation allowed me to view movies, and read books, differently, which opened my eyes to plenty of other aspects of them that I had been missing.  Or as an old high school teacher of mine pointed out when I was struggling to grasp the concept of "higher level meanings;"  as Sarah was told by the worm, in the movie Labyrinth, "you ain't looking at it right."

Later on I gained some additional knowledge in watching movies and reading books from someone else who showed me some "patterns" or "rules" writers use when putting together a story.  Basically, if a writer sticks the set of rules they set out with then the story should be well put together and entertaining.  But is when they start breaking these rules that cause the story to become ridiculously stupid (I am looking at you The Lake House).  There are times when it is ok to break your own rules when writing a story, as long as you do it successfully, and it fits well with the plot of the story.


Something else I discovered about Perspective, or more importantly, Perception, is in complete contradiction to what many people understand about it.  About a year ago while I was at a previous job I was getting ready to go through what is called a 360 degree review.  Basically what happens is a bunch of people who work with you, over you, or who are in significant contact with you, are given a survey to fill out to give their opinion of you.  What the coordinator said to me about this process was, "Perception is reality."  This basically means that what you perceive to be real, is real.  At the time they said it something didn't quite jive well with me about the concept.  Later I realized that this line of thinking was inherently flawed.  Though I do understand that there are people who live by this credo.  These are the people who are considered narrow-minded and can be easily duped by scams.

A more accurate statement would be, "Perception is part of reality."  By this I mean that what you perceive is not reality, but can affect it.  Reality is made up of many different things, mostly it is made up of actual events, but it is also made up of how people react to those events.  And that is where perspective, or perception, comes in.  What a person perceives happened, can be markedly different from what actually happened.  This is where conflict comes from, and ultimately leads to other events that lead to other conflicts.

The only way to rise above causing, and possibly being affected by, these conflicts is to understand that your perception may not be the same as someone else's, and that it is possible that one or more of the parties involved may not completely understand what was really the cause.

There are plenty of examples of this throughout history, but the truly wise understand that what they perceive is not necessarily the whole picture.