Perspective is the way we see the world, whether tinted in black and white, highlighted in shades of grey, or painted with a myriad of reds, turquoises, and rich greens. It is our outlook on life, our stance regarding the thoughts and ideas that surround us and the disputes that affect us.
It is the point of view held by a professor, a way of understanding history or literature or the idea behind genetics and heredity, one that is passed on to generations of unassuming youth through textbooks, lessons, and lectures.
It is the opinion expressed in a multitude of books on a particular subject, from Leo Tolstoy’s love stories, to William Blake’s poetry on nature, to Milton’s masterpiece Paradise Lost, to Shakespeare’s tragedies. It is the plethora of beliefs and varied ideas embodied by people all over the world, who have conducted their own research, obtained their own sources, and collected their own data, who are willing to hear the views of others but are confident in their own.
It is the mindset of people of all ethnicities, cultures and religions, who have their own God and their own religious principles, who follow the teachings of their people, who dress a certain way, celebrate certain events, and follow certain traditions.
It is the feeling that comes with owning our nationalities, of being honoured by our history and of taking pride in our cities, surroundings, and people. It is a way of looking at what the people of our nation have achieved in the past and of being proud of all the changes made in the world by our generation.
More often than not, however, there is a broader perspective, one that allows us to view an idea, event, or person from numerous angles, one in which no answer is solely correct, in which in there are multiple stories, multiple opinions, and multiple viewpoints for multiple people. Our recollection of historical events may show our country through rose-tinted glasses perhaps, whereas another nation and its people may tell quite another tale.
Perspective is the attitude we take, sometimes standing shoulder to shoulder, sometimes on opposite sides of a vast abyss, unable, or unwilling, to open our eyes and see the truths that are just out of our reach but available to those willing to stretch far enough.
It is natural for the world to be divided in its opinions regarding political affairs, such as the Gaza-Israel conflict, or the Iraq-United States arms issue. Many people around the world are raising their voices to save Palestine, while others are defending Israel and its actions. Many around the world are condemning the US for its continued support of Israel, while others are rejoicing in its decision to raise arms against militants in Iraq.
Sometimes we choose to believe what our media divulges to us, choosing not to pursue its authenticity but rather simply taking what is shown on the news as fact. There are always several ways of looking at an incident or affair, and what we see is never the full story. As such, we believe what we see on TV or what we discuss with a neighbour or hear from a friend. We do not listen to stories from the other side, either because they are not our people, or because they do not epitomize our beliefs.
Perhaps it is because we deliberately choose to be ignorant, knowing that opening our ears to people we are averse to may just reveal to us truths that we do not wish to hear, stories that we do not want to know, people that we do not desire to contemplate. Perhaps we do not want to humanize our ‘enemies,’ for to humanize them is to give them personalities, opinions, families, flaws – to humanize them is to give them life.
Perspective is a good thing, one that exemplifies our individuality and ability to believe as we wish, but it also prevents us from being understanding, from being able to view the world and its troubles through another’s eyes, from putting ourselves in the shoes of a child living in Israel or Palestine. Religion, culture, nationality and upbringing ultimately play a great part in the mindset that we possess, but it is what we choose to believe and how we see the world that molds us into who we are.
Perspective is often what unites us, but is just as often involved in dividing us.