Wednesday, October 1, 2014

From Where I Sit

In past years I showed a U. S. State Department film entitled From Where I Sit to my Social Studies classes. The film began with the image of a rotating, tumbling chair frame. The first angle from which the audience viewed it would not have caused most people to think “chair”, but as it turned and more perspectives were revealed it became evident to most that it was indeed a chair. One’s interpretation of what it was depended upon “where one was sitting.”

It is easy, in a blog like this, to give the appearance of superiority, to speak with a certainty that says, “I know better than any others what the truth of the matter is.” To avoid sounding arrogant I’ve not done much prose blogging lately. I suppose some of my poems have nonetheless been just as self-assured and arrogant, alas. Sorry about that.

But it is still true that what we see is what we see – from where we sit. If I had stopped the film before it was evident that the figure being shown was a chair, and if I had asked the students to tell me what they saw, I would have gotten a variety of answers and some of the students would have been insistent upon their interpretation of the data. Perhaps if they had discussed their perspectives they might have actually come to the conclusion that it was a chair they were viewing. Or perhaps they would all have gone on in ignorance of what they had seen.

Our social and political world is no different. The data is being shown to us daily, coming from a myriad of sources. We can only see it from a limited number of angles. With that incomplete data we must decide what we are actually seeing and decide what course of action, if any, we should take regarding it. Sometimes we are more sure of ourselves than at other times. Sometimes we humans will fight and die for the truth we perceive.

But the wisest course is to compare perspectives with others who see it differently, from where they sit. The things presented in this blog may sometimes ring (or reek) with certainty. Take that to mean that, from where I sit it sure does look a certain way. Take what you read here and add it to other perspectives including your own present view of the matter. I’m doing the same, reading, discussing, even arguing, and gradually changing my opinions of what I am seeing.

We may never fully understand what we are seeing but as “rational creatures” we are doomed to forever be trying to interpret the images revolving before us. We cannot NOT do so. But we can do so with the understanding that our view is only one of many views and with that understanding we can have the humility to allow others to hold opposing views while we collectively attempt to arrive at a consensus.

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