January 15

A Different Perspective

Most of us look at the world from our singular point of view. We have our preconceptions, our opinions, our way of doing things, and all that shapes the way we see and interpret the world around us. This is the sum of who we are, how we were raised, the things we’ve been exposed to (opinions, education, etc.) over the years. 

Obviously, there are both good and bad aspects to having this singular point of view of the world. It often makes us see the world with blinders on so we don’t see the whole picture. It limits us by keeping us in a box. It’s like looking through a cardboard tube. You can see straight ahead, but you can’t see anything on either side. And depending on the circumstance, this can be incredibly dangerous.

As a writer, I feel that a limited perspective can hamper creativity. What I mean is, if I’m only exposing myself to a certain amount of outside input, then I’m not giving myself an opportunity to learn, to grow as an artist.

But it also goes deeper than that. Outside of art, in the real world, forcing oneself to see things from other perspectives is healthy. It challenges us to side other sides of issues, to consider other options and opinions, and it helps us to grow as individuals. Living in a bubble may be comforting, but it’s not realistic. 

Of course, I’m not claiming that every side and every opinion deserves equal consideration. For example, if someone wants to believe the world is flat, that’s their choice and they are welcome to their viewpoint. However, I also know this is bullshit and I won’t waste my time going down that path to explore all their claims. The science is sound and there’s no disputing it, so why give this opinion equal weight? 

I guess there’s a weird gray area when it comes to other viewpoints. What I mean is, we have to use good judgement, reason, and common sense when it comes to exploring other perspectives. And really, even when we consider the facts from all sides, we still have to incorporate our own perspectives and opinions. 

Take exercise. There are facts that support daily, intense cardio for a long and healthy life. But there are other facts that support lower-impact exercise achieving the same goal. In this case, I look at the facts on both sides and determine what’s best for me and my situation. The same applies to economics, politics, even relationships. You may have two people vying for your romantic attention (because you’re a player) so you have to look at both of these suitors, weigh the pros and cons, listen to their arguments as to why each one is the better mate, then make a decision based on your own perspective, feelings, experiences.

Looking at things from different perspectives is healthy, but as I mentioned above, we have to also use common sense and reason. Just because someone has another opinion doesn’t make the right or wrong, they just see things differently than we do. There’s nothing wrong with that, barring they aren’t using their opinion to justify hatred, violence, or being an asshole to other people. 

The point, I think, is to simply keep an open mind and be willing and capable of changing your opinions on occasion. It’ll make you a better person and open you up to all sorts of new ideas. And for creative individuals, this will feed your imagination. 

RB

January 13

Old Photos

Is it weird that I like to look through old photos? Not just family pictures, but also those of strangers. I find it fascinating to look at these moments captured in time, frozen for eternity, and wonder what became of the people.

With family photos, it’s interesting to see the faces, the expressions, and know that I share DNA with these people. Occasionally, I can see how certain facial features or physicality carried on through the generations. The way the eyes are set in a face, or the shape of a nose, maybe a hairline. 

Old photo of two young women.

And with family, I generally know something about the unfamiliar – yet familiar – faces set in black and white or faded color. I know that they had children, where they lived, maybe even when and how they died. There isn’t much mystery there, but it’s still interesting to see them there in my hand and to wonder about their lives. Were they happy? Content? Did they love? Hate? Feel regret? Were they content with their lives or did they long for something more?

Recently, I’ve been helping my partner clean out some clutter at her parent’s house and I’ve stumbled upon several photo albums and boxes filled with old photos. It’s like discovering hidden pirate treasure. Most of the photos are older ones, black and white, sepia-toned, color-tinted. All the faces are strangers to me, people I’ve never met, know nothing about, and I’ve spent far too much time the past few days sifting through these pictures and wondering.

That’s where my weird obsession comes into play. I like to look at these old photos, these strangers, and wonder about their lives. I have no direct relation to these people, no idea what they were like, where they lived, what they might have felt. A few photos may have names, a date, maybe a location scribbled on the back with a pencil, but most are unblemished, leaving me to use my imagination to fill in the blanks.

I  guess it’s the writer in me that enjoys this activity. I get to make up stories about complete strangers, create personalities, wants, needs, desires, fears, hopes, and dreams. That’s an amazing feeling, the creative process. By using the photos as prompts, I also feel like I’m exercising my imagination, giving it a workout, like a light cardio session. I can stare at the faces of strangers and just…well, just make things up. 

For fun, I included a few of the photos in this post so you can have a better idea of what I’m looking at, what I’m actually seeing. Out of curiosity, what is it that you see when you look at these photos? Does your imagination kick into gear and begin to wonder about the possibilities? Do you feel any connection to these strangers from the past? Do you think you may have had anything in common with them? 

I think that old photos are some of the best ways to give my creativity a jump-start. I still have a few hundred photos to browse, but I plan on setting aside some of the more intriguing ones. Maybe there are a few stories hidden in those boxes and photo albums. I’m looking forward to finding them.

RB

January 5

Mile Marker 2021

I used to think of years as compartmentalized and isolated blocks of time. Each year stood alone, separate from the rest like rooms in a house. Each one is unique, set apart, with its own look and feel. I would set goals for myself when the new year began and, in my head, I’d see that I would have 365 days to meet them.

But over the past few years I’ve begun to think of years as mile markers, like the ones you see on the highways here in the US. Traveling down Interstate 10 (which runs through Tallahassee) you see these small green signs every few minutes that noted when you crossed another mile. Just another way to track your pace and how far you’ve gone.

Seeing years like this has been helpful. What I mean is, I no longer look at years as these independent entities. Time flows like a river – or a highway – and it’s useful to have these signposts that remind us how far we’ve come. When I looked at them as stand-alone blocks, I think I was limiting my view of life. When I was imagining years as those aforementioned rooms, it was like I was isolating my time periods. Each year was for a stage of my life, the next one was for another stage, and so on.

In a way, it was like I was sitting in one room for 365 days, then when the calendar flipped I got up and moved into another room. Now, however, I feel like I’m free to move around the house, find a room that fits my mood for the day and settle in. Plus, it’s a good way to assess my progress, both professionally and personally.

The reason I changed my view was because of frustration. This year is a perfect example. For pretty much everyone, 2020 was a shit year. A global pandemic, lock downs, isolation, loneliness, job loss, deaths, and unprecedented politics. We lost family, friends, loved ones. But one thing I kept hearing from people was that they were ready for the year to end, for 2021 to begin, and for a return to some sense of normalcy.

But the thing is, the slate isn’t erased when the calendar flips. There’s no fresh start, no sudden clearing of the air, no get out of jail free card. Everything that we’ve been dealing with in 2020 is simply rolling over into 2021. And personally, I think that’s a detrimental mindset. We get it in our minds that everything will be fine once we see the clock strike midnight on December 31st, but it doesn’t work that way. So when it doesn’t happen, when the crappiness continues, then we get depressed, anxious, annoyed. It’s like thinking that when you hit that next mile marker everything will change, the landscape, the weather, the way you feel. But it won’t. The highway continues into the distance.

I’m finding that the highway and mile marker metaphor eases my mind. I’m not setting myself up for disappointment. I’m being realistic, rational, and accepting that things don’t change just because we made another circuit around the sun. But at the same time, a new year does hold promise, much like traveling on a new, unexplored stretch of highway. There are new possibilities, new options, new challenges. And there’s hope.

Speaking of which, I hope you have a wonderful start to your new year, that your engine runs cool, that your tires maintain their tread, and that the wind is always at your back, helping to push you onward to better days.

RB