A few years ago on a canoe trip, my friend (and paddle-buddy extraordinaire) Kate shared how an artist she knew could look at a landscape reflected in a flat lake, and see in it a different picture altogether.
It’s a bit like looking for pictures in the clouds. With a little effort, though, I was able to start seeing some such examples; after a head tilt I found a dog’s face in these rocks, for example.
It’s all a matter of perspective: what one sees depends on how one looks at something.
It’s like the visual of light shining on a rod – from one side, the shadow cast will show a circle, from the other side, the shadow cast will show a square. Both are accurate, based on the viewing point.
It’s not always that easy, however; in real life circumstances are not always so precise. The more complex a situation, the more perspectives there are; and therefore the more perspectives one can be invited to see.
A roller coaster may be exhilarating to one person yet terrifying to another; a silent retreat may be meaningfully peaceful to one yet might seem boring to another; ‘winter’ may mean a playground at -30 to one person, while another person is seeking different climes once the thermostat hits freezing. It all depends on each person’s perspective.
I believe that part of living in Christian community, where we are called to love one another as we have been loved, is to make an effort to see something from another person’s perspective. The person at the end of the rod (seeing the circle) can be invited to change position and look at the shadow cast by the side of the rod (and see the square).
It may be difficult and complex, we may not fully see or appreciate the others’ perspectives straight away, we may choose to reject anothers’ perspectives for our own. But the effort is worthwhile and good: we may be inspired to incorporate many perspectives into our circumstance, or we may more firmly solidify our existing perspective.
Community is complex; each circumstance may look differently to each person involved. Whatever we do with additional perspectives, we are better for having seen them and considered them, for at the very least it means we have tried to better understand another member of God’s family, and to trust that we ourselves are being better understood as well.