Friday, July 13, 2012

What is Perspective?

I recently received an interesting e-mail that I’m sure has been circulating on the Internet for some time.  It begins with a picture of the rocky planets of our solar system shown to scale with Earth the largest among them.  Next it adds the large, gaseous planets:  Jupiter, Saturn, etc.  In this picture the earth is quite small.  The next scaled picture adds the sun.  Now the earth is just a pinpoint.  It goes on to compare other visible stars, which are so large that the sun shrinks to the size of one pixel and must be pointed out with an arrow, and the earth has long since become invisible.  It concludes by asking:  “Humbling, isn't it?  Now How Big Are You?  And how big are the things that upset you today?  Keep life in perspective.”

This was a nice message about perspective, but I kept scrolling down, and a little below the last line I found the following message:  “Ahhh...imagining that irresistible "new car" smell?  Check out new cars at [hyperlink to a website].”  Wow!  Back to commercial reality!  I found this pretty ironic.  That, I think, was a seriously misplaced ad.

Perspective is not about that new car smell or any other material possessions.  You buy a new car when you need one, not when you get tired of the old one or want to impress your neighbors or for the sake of that new-car smell.  Perspective is about gratitude, appreciating what we have instead of yearning for more - even if all we have is an old clunker that reliably gets us around town.  Behaving with perspective is about getting away from the hype, distinguishing between the important and the trivial, the substantive and the superficial, your needs and your wants.  It’s about asking, “Do I really value seeing that game or concert so much that I will spend the equivalent of a week’s worth of groceries for my family or half a mortgage payment to buy tickets?”  It’s being able to wisely identify what actions and decisions are consistent with your core values.  Living with perspective leads to favorable consequences and avoids many of the problems and imbalances common in our society - too much debt, too many toys, too much busyness, and too much unhappiness over unfulfilled desires.

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