As an artist I try to look at things from a different perspective. Not that I’m any different or better than other people, I just try to get a different angle on the obvious. Of course I realize that what may be obvious to me will have a totally different meaning to another person and, likewise what may be evident to others will escape my discernment thoroughly.
In a perfect world, I should think that our diverse perspectives would bring balance to many circumstances. I might be able to see something I had not seen before if I could see through the eyes of another. To only see things from my perspective is narrow minded and no doubt limits me in my understanding, and I know how shallow my understanding is, given the many times I’ve changed my mind about something when I’ve considered another point of view.
My dilemma is not necessarily to cave in and allow many different points of view to take precedent over my own thoughts and ideas; it’s where do I draw the line so that I don’t lose my own identity in the process of trying to understand others. When I was younger it was simpler; it was my way or the highway. Now that I’m older I find that my desires are often displaced and put aside to meet, as it were, the more pressing needs of others. It has become a quandary to the point that I feel as time slips by I will never be able to do all the things I want to do; simply because meeting the needs of others means that I have to take the time to see the world through their eyes in order to understand them.
There was a time when I thought a person of strong disposition (stubborn and narrow minded) demonstrated security and leadership, and the seeming sacrifice of character was for those jellyfish who washed about the whims of other people like the waves upon the shore. I’ve come to believe that the opposite is true, that strength of character belongs to those who reach out to others. It takes a certain resilience to be secured in who you are, to have an open mind and accept people where they’re at. Narrow mindedness seeks only its own way and closes the door on the opportunity to help shape the lives of people.
It may seem strange, but I see that nature of narrow mindedness in the very people I want to help and change. Ironically, it lives in the ones who vehemently claim to be open minded, and the very ones who tell me they know everything and that I am narrow minded. It’s an absurdity of sorts to believe that teens can be so smart and a dumb ass all in the same breath…but love them we must. To think otherwise is to isolate ourselves from them and the resulting “stubborn will,” will reveal a weak character and an inability to be open minded.
This seems like a tall order, at least for me, but I need to look no farther than my past to realize that there were many people of “strong character,” if you will, that put up with the shenanigans of yours truly, and with “strong purpose of mind” set about the task of understanding me…with all my nonsense. No small feat I imagine, but one for which I’m grateful. If it were not for the selfless sacrifices made by those (my parents) who loved me, I would not be where I am today. And so, I try to demonstrate that same love to my wife, to my kids, to my foster kids, and to everyone I come in contact, because maybe one day it will make a difference in someone’s life.
“Our lives are shaped by those who love us.” ~ John Powell
I think the challenge therefore, is not necessarily the need to be right all the time, but rather the need to understand, and to have faith that those whose lives we touch will one day pass on the virtue of those who had our best interests in mind…even when we did not understand them.
As a footnote, I feel it only fair to say that I fail daily at my attempts…to be of strong character. More often than not I’m too cynical for my own good…or perhaps I should say for the good of others. My failures far exceed my successes and just when I’m beginning to “get it,” I realize I’m too old and set in my ways for a painless change. What a mystery, and a paradox this thing called life…who can define it in simple terms. Surely not me…but like an artist, I struggle to capture a small glimpse of a far greater picture. Its one thing to paint a picture of life, its quite another to live it.