In 1944 Orwell enlisted a taxi in Paris to take him to an unfamiliar address. To his surprise, the taxi driver was unfamiliar with the address as well, and the two lost their tempers arguing over fare. Granted, the driver sounded like he had a chip on his shoulder, however Orwell exacerbated the situation through physically threatening him. They parted ways after Orwell paid full fare, but Orwell couldn't understand why the taxi driver was so temperamental. He then recounted a story of riding in a train--once again through France, though this time through southern, rural France--and noticed that each time it passed a working field, the peasants working it stood up and displayed the anti-Fascist hand symbol. It was then that Orwell put the pieces together; the taxi driver saw him as "a symbol of the idle, patronising foreign tourists who had done their best to turn France into something midway between a museum and a brothel. In his eyes an English tourist meant a bourgeois." (750)
Neither Orwell or the taxi driver had perspective of the others' point of view, because if they did, they'd each have had more patience. Orwell hadn't perspective because he hadn't all the pieces to understanding the puzzle--not yet of course--though adding a physical threat certainly didn't help the two get on the same page. The taxi driver didn't have perspective because the "touring Englishman" cued a certain set of emotional responses within him, which were difficult to curb. Hard to blame him. Each of these lack of perspectives had a certain validity, however since they each focused on their own validity, neither attained perspective of the other's. The discomfort and frustration experienced when another doesn't agree with your perception of validity or reasonability doesn't just have to be a road block, though. If we change how we view and treat that discomfort through embracing it and seeing it as a cue to pulling ourselves into perspective, our behaviors will follow. Then we can build more sturdy points of view, those which lack claims of validity and have reality-based evidence.
I've been in situations like this before, as I'm sure we all have, and understand the difficulty of pulling oneself into perspective. In the moment, it can be extremely frustrating having someone misinterpret what you're saying, or even worse, poorly communicating what's in your own mind, which someone interprets correctly according to the words you used. This is when Kristhoffer's "Say what you mean, mean what you say" axiom comes to light. If we embrace the power of language and sharpen our tools so what comes out of our mouths represents what's in our minds, then we increase the probability of having a clear communication with our audience. Perspective of others isn't about certainty (that's bullying), but about increasing the probability of co-understanding by doing the difficult mind work on our own time, so that we bring the fewest possible limitations and the most possible assets to our engagements. Clear, precise language is the template for these things because without it, meaning is dulled, or worse, lost. Meaning and understanding cannot take shape without a clear language ordering them in our minds.
If Orwell had cleared his aggression, he may have picked up on the cues the driver was demonstrating, and he may have put together how a Frenchman taxiing an Englishman through France right after WWII may rub him the wrong way. Sure, neither the driver or the passenger knew the destination was actually in walking distance, but when Orwell asked for the ride to be free he not only didn't have perspective of a French sensitivity, but he had no perspective of the taxi rules of engagement. He could've negotiated the fare, but asking for it for free during the end of the war would no doubt send a Frenchman (or anyone in their own home country) off the deep end.
Pulling ourselves into perspective is, as I said, challenging, but good news for us; perspective isn't exclusively an event-based skill. Sure, there are many events we can't plan for because life is accidental and random due to the fact that reality is so much bigger than we are. Isn't that the point, though? Since reality is bigger, the practice of out-of-event perspective is that much more necessary because hardly any events in our lives are all about us. Sure, one can learn a lot about how to come into perspective in an event, but it's just as much a practiced skill. (Orwell actually had a lot of perspective due to his inquisitive, open point of view, and his consistent intellectual practices, it's just that this event puzzled him and he lost his temper because he felt robbed. He later pulled himself into perspective by transferring the understanding of the field workers onto the taxi driver, which unfortunately only did credit to his own understanding--and now our understanding--but did nothing for the taxi driver.)
Perspective itself, since it's about understanding clearly our own point of view, others' point of view, and also the terms of engagement, guides and facilitates interactions through non-exploitative or self-absorbed points of view. Oftentimes perspective is lost or unattained because the terms of engagement aren't agreed upon or even understood. Perspective thus doesn't mean one has all the answers, it means that we're open to the answers, and how other people may have the answers. And that tool is one that can be practiced outside of the frustration-testing events, so long as we ask non-exploitative or self-absorbed questions.
How else? Well, just as Orwell did through the train window, we can practice it through Looking (Kristhoffer), not just watching. Watching is passive. Looking is an environmental awareness which proactively searches for how other things/people/nature operate on their own terms and through what effects/affects them. These terms are various and include relationships with things in a close environment, relationships with things they interact with rarely, what fulfills their values, what feeds or poisons them organically (because perspective isn't just human-centric), the nuances within the language they use, the cues they respond to, and the habits they practice, just to list some. There's a myriad of tools to practice out-of-event perspective, but as the modern philosopher Kristhoffer says, "You don't practice to think, you just think." Therefore, building up perspective- powers entails this "Looking" practice, this search for the hows and whys, devoid of imposing our own mental filters, subjectivities (validity), and ideals that we'll be perfect at it on the first try. Errors will happen, miscommunications will happen, but they're just opportunities for developing event-based perspective. However, if we rely solely on event-based perspective, we may not have the tools to respond effectively or responsibly.
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