Quelle est votre perspective?

It is a well known incongruity of evidence in a court of law that if five people watch the same video of a car accident there will be five different accounts of what happened – including who is to blame.  The details of the “scene of the crime” are seldom uniform.  The variation of reporting is even more diverse if the camera were located in different positions when the accident was filmed. While this perversion is of interest to defence counsel in particular, its lesson insinuates a broader sphere.  In a nutshell, we all see the world differently and from a unique viewpoint. Unlike the forensic plight to determine the unqualified truth of a matter, the philosophic admission of the diversity of perspective does more to enhance our differences than to dilute them.

Recognizing that each of us has a different frame of mind need not however distance us one from the other.  Indeed it should rather assist us to get closer. It is after all only when we assume that everyone thinks like us that we get into trouble.  First, we are inevitably disappointed.  Second, such stubbornness only contributes to narrow-mindedness.  We effectively remove ourselves from an expanding experience if we imagine there is only one way down the river.

When I was in Paris, France about fifty years ago I met another young student. He opened our conversation much as I suspect students would do today.  I anticipated that he would ask me what I was studying; instead he said, “Quelle est votre perspective?”  The question was of course more than a social nicety.  It captured the deeper exploration into the way one looks at the world.  What each of us sees and understands depends so much upon the medium through which we view it, whether scientific, medical, philosophical, artistic, economic and so on.  A perspective is both a beginning and an end. The result of our view of the world springs from the manner in which we look at it.  This further reminds us that seeing the world from another’s perspective is enlarging.  It affords us the opportunity to see beyond our inherent blinkers.

I have suggested in my previous anecdote that our vision of the world is the product of our education.  There is naturally much more that goes into the formulation of our perspective.  Aside from the obvious genetic influences there is that huge arena of personal experience which does much to colour and magnify what we see.  This again is a reminder to each of us that, if we pretend to understand the world and the people in it, we must learn more about what they have experienced.  Too often we content ourselves with the camouflage of social acceptability to permit us to strengthen our comprehension of life, a task which commands far greater analysis of detail than any defence counsel might ever undertake of the facts of a case.  As much as has been advanced concerning the merits of knowing oneself, I prefer to maintain that the greater adventure is to acquire a knowledge of another man’s perspective.  It is an enterprise which is calculated to astound and enlighten.  Without exception the exploits and inner views of another human being are assured both to entertain and to illuminate.