“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world”- Schopenhauer
Close one eye. Take a look around. Now close the other one instead and look around. Things look slightly different out of each eye, and remarkably different than they do out of two. Changing our perspective can be that easy.
When I was four years old, I loved blurring the focus of my eyes. I fancied that it was my special superpower, and I would do it often—sometimes just for fun, and sometimes to distort a reality that I didn’t want to face.
It’s no wonder, then, that ten years later, I discovered LSD. I was on my first date, and the boy I was with was a Senior. Very casually he told me that he was going to drop acid, and if I wanted, I could too. I had read Go Ask Alice the summer before, and even though the fictitious diary was intended to warn children against the perils of drug use, it made me want to do them more. Suffice to say, blurring my vision no longer cut it. I was ready for the next step.
But my dose didn’t take effect, at least not while I was on my date. It wasn’t until I put the key back through my parents’ front door that I started feeling funny. I quickly said goodnight and washed up for bed, stifling the giggles. I locked myself in my room and spent the rest of the night and early morning alone, tripping balls in stevieland. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to fry. The walls were breathing with a womblike comfort, and everything around me was shimmering, bright, alive and had a story to tell. Amidst all those synapses firing, I laughed at the magic and absurdity of life whilst pondering the deeper philosophical implications of belly lint. Nothing was a secret anymore! Nothing was sacred anymore! And yet everything was. The world stretched out before me in that teenage room and beckoned me forth with the heavenly sound of my own laughter—a pure and effortless response that comes from an acceptance of and a wonder for the way things simply are. Needless to say, I would never be the same again.
Religion, nationality, wealth, gender, upbringing, meditation, drugs, and location, just to name a few, affect our perspective. And much of our life experience depends on how we view the world. The etymology of perspective comes from the Latin perspectus, pp. of perspicere, meaning, “inspect, look through.” Perspective, then, can be thought of as an optic lens, or life’s viewfinder. For this reason, I try not to have a myopic perspective and take great effort to broaden my view.
Recently, Tree and I crossed the equator into the Southern Hemisphere.
The equator is the imaginary line on the Earth’s surface equidistant from the North Pole and South Pole, dividing the Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. The latitude of the equator is zero degrees.
What’s different in the Southern Hemisphere?
1) The seasons are reversed. When it’s summer up north, it is winter down south. And vice versa.
2) The night sky. By the time we get to the midsouthern latitudes, the Big and Little Dippers will disappear while Alpha Centauri, the Southern Cross, and other south circumpolar constellations will become permanent features of the night. Not to mention that now the Sun and Moon cross the sky from right to left instead of left to right.
3) Most of the world’s land mass is in the north, while most of the world’s water mass is in the south.
4) The centuries-old view of the South by the North is summed up in this statement by Noam Chomsky: “The South is assigned a service role: to provide resources, cheap labor, markets, opportunities for investment and, lately, export of pollution. For the past half-century, the US has shouldered the responsibility for protecting the interests of the “satisfied nations” whose power places them “above the rest,” …as Winston Churchill put the matter after World War II.” [Noam Chomsky, Year 501, (South End Press, 1993) Chapter 2]. We, of course, do not hold this view as our own, but it will be interesting to find out what the South’s respective view is of the North.
5) The people in the Southern Hemisphere know a lot more about our history, culture, and politics than we do about theirs.
These days I don’t drop acid anymore, but I am still being beckoned forth by the promise of a changed perspective. Travel is my new drug, the new way I blur my eyes, the new kaleidoscope for concocting intricate philosophies and creating a meaningful life.
By leaving what I know–what is safe and expected–to explore what I don’t know–what is foreign and unpredictable–I become hyper aware of my surroundings, more alert and present in the moment. Some people say that’s my survival instinct kicking in, but I choose to call it my will to be awake. Once again, everything is shimmering, bright, alive and has a story to tell….I listen, and I let ‘otherness’ press upon me, shape me into something ‘other’ too. I let it stretch me across the continents, broadening my perspective to make me a more compassionate, kind, and charitable person—and in doing so, I see everyone around me as more compassionate, kind, and charitable too. –STEVIE
We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. -Anaïs Nin