Perspective, Gratitude & Insignificance - Part 1

Perspective. What do I mean by that? Well, I believe perspective is a necessary part of any kind of positive change. Being able to see the bigger picture allows us to asses any situation and make changes for the better.

Let’s start with a couple examples. When someone is lost in the wilderness, they seek higher ground to get a better perspective on where they are in relation to their surroundings. Being able to see the bigger picture helps to create a plan of action and remain calm.

Here’s another example. When a person is struggling with addiction issues, many times it’s the moment of rock bottom that finally gives them the perspective they need. When they can see what they’ve done to themselves and to the people around them, it creates a moment for positive change.

And finally, one last example (this is more of a visualization exercise). Imagine you’ve dropped something on the floor of a dark room. You have a flashlight. You wouldn’t hold the flashlight a few inches above the ground and search the whole room, would you? No. I imagine you would raise the flashlight higher in order to see more of the room. This is also a perspective that we tend to apply to our lives. We focus so closely on things, that it seems as though our “flashlight” is just an inch or two off the ground. I want to help raise that light.

So perspective comes in many forms and the form that causes us to create positive change will be different for most of us. But let me tell you how I arrived at my moment of perspective in relation to this discussion.

As I was driving in my car (I have a very long commute), I decided to turn off the radio and drive in silence for a while. I let my mind wander. Soon I found myself picturing the outside of my truck, moving down the highway. Then I moved higher and was able to see the city and hills around me. This outward travel continued and got faster and faster and soon I was looking at the Earth in it’s totality and continuing to travel farther out. Have you seen the opening sequence to the movie “Contact”? If you haven’t, here’s a clip (sorry, I couldn't find one without an add).

It was a lot like that, just without the sound. And as I got to the end of my travels, I saw that all the galaxies were part of a super structure that made up our universe. In that moment, this thought popped into my head. “What if our sun exploded right now? Would it even register in the larger picture of the universe?” My answer came back as “No.” And I snapped back into my truck, driving down the road. In an instant, I had been changed. I started talking out loud to myself, working out what had just happened. If the Earth and everything we have ever known got swallowed up by the sun, and it made no significant difference to the universe, then why was I concerned about sitting in traffic, or having a very long commute? Why on earth are people fighting all over the globe? Why? That’s what I kept coming back to. And it dawned on me that a lack of perspective is what’s really going on here. I think I’ve known this since I was a child, but it had never become so clear as it did in that moment. The questions and discussion continued in my truck and I found myself thinking about the extraordinary odds it takes for any of us to be here, at this moment. We are such an anomaly, when you get down to the actual math of things, that it’s an unbelievable fact that we are here at this moment in time. Imagine if you could see far back into the past. If only one of your many grandparents chose to do something different one day, you would not exist. The chain of events that has transpired in order for us (you and I specifically), is so long and so delicate that a single change would result in a different person reading this right now (if there was even someone to write it). There are cave men and women who we owe our lives to. Isn’t that strange? Yet another glance at the bigger picture and all I can see is wonder.

Do you have any idea how lucky we are, not only to be able to think and be aware, but to know our place in time and space. That kind of perspective is mind boggling!! And we are lucky enough to experience that on a daily basis. So why do we worry so much? Why is it that we can’t pull ourselves away from our problems or petty grievances, or our “first world problems”? Perspective is a big part of it, but with it comes the idea of Insignificance. In the greater picture, our worries and issues are insignificant. We’ll discuss that more in the next part, but it’s important to touch on it a little here, so that we know where we’re headed. Because ultimately, insignificance leads to gratitude, and that is our ultimate destination. That is where we want to be in order to live a more content life.

But back to perspective for one last bit. I know that picturing the universe and stars exploding isn’t going to work for all of you. Some of you may not care that at this moment, stars are exploding and galaxies are colliding and yet here we sit in front of our computers or our phones and we worry about the things in our lives. So let’s get something straight. Perspective doesn’t wipe away our issues. Perspective doesn’t pay our bills or drive us to work. Life, no matter what we’ve made it here on Earth, still has problems and most likely, always will. So don’t think I’m talking about forgetting our responsibilities. Quite the opposite in fact. Perspective can help to deal with the mundane. Perspective will keep you calm as you face the problems and issues of your day. Perspective is a tool that is at our disposal and we can use it to great advantage in dealing with our lives. So yes, you’ll still have issues. Yes, I have to get dressed and get on the road soon. Yes, people are dying (too many of them needlessly) at this very moment. But if we can gain a little perspective, then perhaps we can be of better service to ourselves and to the world. Perhaps we can turn a tragedy into a triumph. Maybe we can turn a frown upside-down.

Next week I’ll talk about insignificance and define some terms for us. And we’ll move one step closer to gratitude and the end of our discussion.

 Cheers for now. Go seek some perspective and bring that with you next week.