I’ve been thinking about the word Perspective. Before I get to the “why”, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:
“one’s ‘point of view’, the choice of a context for opinions, beliefs, and experiences.”
On many levels, our perspective (on anything, on everything) shapes us. It defines us. It is the “us” others (the world) sees. I don’t think it’s about judging someone’s perspective as “right” or “wrong”. Perhaps it’s more of, we can “agree” or “disagree”.
I am intrigued how perspective may change. Here’s an example, as well as my why.
Every day, tragically, 3 college students commit suicide. 1,100 annually. The 2nd leading cause of death in this age group (accidents are 1st). My personal perspective, that’s 1,100 too many.
I get to talk about this to people often. Here’s what I hear.
[Paraphrase] “1,100 annually. While it is tragic, that’s not a very big number. I thought it would be much higher. How many college students are there? That’s not a lot. Especially, when there are bigger issues. Like homelessness. Childhood hunger. AIDS. Millions globally without clean drinking water.”
Admittedly, the first few times I heard this, I was stunned. I’m a parent. As are most of these people. My perspective is, “there but for the grace of God goes my child.” I cannot help but think, “if it were your child, would you feel the same way?”
If it were your child, is 3 now a big number?
Then I started to think and ask. Are we more empathic in our perspective when it’s personal? Less so when it isn’t? I know these people care. I know they have compassion. But, as long as their college age daughter or son is not one of the 3, it’s not a daunting enough social issue for them to act on.
Or, is it too shocking, maybe frightening, to even think about.
Not judging. Just wondering.
Then, again, maybe the bigger issue is this. There are so many social inequities in our country, throughout the world, it’s impossible to act on all of them. We have to pick our one or two. Immerse ourselves in them. Champion them. (Try to) invite others to engage with us. Invest in them.
But, here’s something else to think about. Does perspective change if we change the message? Same set of facts. Just another way of telling the story.
Case in point:
If 3 fully loaded jumbo jets carrying college students, crashed every year, something would be done about it.
Fair to say there would be public outcry? Yes! Staggering, too. I know my voice would be one of them. Along with millions of others. But, 1,100 college students dying by suicide every year barely makes the headlines.
Same number of lives lost. One way, public perception is, something must be done. The other way, public perception is, these are not big numbers.
Maybe it’s all about this. Most people (parents) can imagine their child boarding one of those planes. It’s real. It’s palpable. Most (all) of us have been on a plane. Maybe most parents do not (or, cannot) imagine their child committing suicide. It’s too painful. Shameful. A feeling that it’s my fault.
Which, again, is all about perspective.
Just one of many attributes I personally value. It distinguishes us. Connects us. Strengthens us. Forges our independence. Yet, deepens our interdependence.
Above all, if it is honored and respected, I hope it humanizes all of us.