It’s all a matter of perspective. No less true for being a cliche and no where is its truth more evident that in this month’s Power Man and Iron Fist. Luke and Danny have officially gotten the band back together, with Jessica’s blessing of course, and, this being the age of phone cameras and instant gratification, they’re immediately caught mid-action by a bystander; twelve hours later, the video has over a million views and is a topic of intense conversation on the Yo, Jimbo call-in radio show.
At the heart of issue is PM and IF’s battle with Manslaughter Marsdale, a villain who “looks like the lovechild of Prince and Mr. T” and who was apparently shaking down a hot dog cart vendor for his hard-earned money. At least, that’s what the guy who took the video claims. Marsdale himself remembers events quite differently, as does the hot dog vendor. Luke and Danny have yet another entirely different perspective on events.
Who’s right? Are any of them actually wrong? How can each of the participants be telling the truth when each of them tells a story that has the same skeleton but entirely different details? Are they telling the truth?
In this case? They’re all right, none of them is wrong, and they are telling the truth.
From a certain point of view.
The only way for two people to experience the exact same thing would be for them to inhabit the exact same moment in time from identical quantum states.
Which is, insofar as we are aware right now, impossible.
We can get close though, if we care enough to ask questions and to listen to the answers. To understand your point of view is going to be colored by your experiences, your moments, your own quantum state. To accept that maybe, just maybe, you haven’t seen the whole picture for any of a myriad reasons. That maybe your perspective, while seemingly honest to you, is limited in scope.
Let me give you a real world example of a story with different sides and the fallout that can occur when one person forgets that everyone has her own story:
A friend of mine recently found herself in need of a medical procedure with which some people take issue. As loathsome as I find the perspective of those who think they have the right to control someone else’s body, if I’m going to continue with this article I have to at least admit to, and believe in, their right to hold that opinion. That they have the right to protest (peacefully) if they so choose. Our laws give them that right, just as they give women the right to have said procedure, even if the folks against protest something that’s none of their damn business in the manner of sanctimonious d-bags. That said, just because the law gives a person the right to do a think doesn’t necessarily mean she should.
Even if my friend had gone to this facility electively, it would have been none of rando-lady’s business. I’m going to leave that aside for a moment before it’s a separate issue. As it happens, my friend was not at the clinic for an elective procedure, she was there for a medically necessary one. A medically necessary one the Catholic hospital at which her doctor has privileges wouldn’t perform due to a ridiculous technicality. You see, my friend had an amniotic fluid leak when she was sixteen weeks, a big one. The fluid level did not improve by her OB visit the next week which indicates an issue with the fetus’ kidneys at bare minimum. Another week passed, still no improvement, and then her water broke for real. At eighteen weeks. An eighteen week fetus cannot survive; that is a scientific fact and medical impossibility.
My friend declining the procedure would not have saved her baby.
She would have given almost anything not to be there that day. But she was and she had to cross a picket line and deal with some stranger getting in her face and telling her she had “other options.”
As I said before, even if she had been there electively, it is none of that lady’s damn business. But she wasn’t. And I’m sure she’d love to have had another option. An option that allowed her to carry a healthy baby to term. But for my friend, there was no other option. She was in the midst of a tragedy, needing to grieve, needing to do something that was going to keep her healthy and safe for the child she already has and for those she would like to have in the future but this lady… well, not that my friend would have been obligated to tell that intrusive, sanctimonious woman anything nor do I think she necessarily should have, but this lady? She didn’t even ask.
She didn’t even consider there might be another perspective. Another side to the story. A different point of view.
Are there things that don’t have another side? Sure. There is nothing on this earth that can justify rape or child abuse or genocide or hate crimes. But with a few really horrific exceptions, there’s always another side. Now, it’s entirely possible that other side could be, “well, this dude is a jerk.” But it could also be, “my kids were starving,” or “I couldn’t afford my meds,” or “I had a late miscarriage and the hospital wouldn’t do what I needed them to do.”
There’s no such thing as walking a mile in someone else’s shoes because no two people can have identical experiences. But try to find it in your heart to have some empathy or sympathy or understanding. Take the issue and hold it up, rotate it, study the corners and the sides, the top and the bottom. No matter how strong your belief/opinion may be, to someone else, you’re probably wrong. That doesn’t mean you have to change your mind, but it does mean letting your faith waver just a bit can be a good thing. Being unshakable, being rigid, means being cruel even if that isn’t your intention.
Kids tend to hold pretty rigid opinions. For them, something is either right or it’s wrong, fair or unfair, truth or lie. And that’s okay for a while. It’s how they learn rules, how they adapt to function in society. But children have the advantage of enhanced neuroplasticity; their pathways aren’t as set as ours which means childhood is the perfect time to introduce the concept of points of view, different versions of “right,” of the times when there simply isn’t a good answer. I grew up with someone who was raised trilingual, speaking English, Hebrew, and German and never once got confused between them; don’t tell me a child is incapable of viewing the same event from multiple perspectives when their brains can do the mental gymnastics necessary to master three languages simultaneously. They may not understand the implications until a bit later in life but the seedlings will have been planted and the roots taken hold. Kids who learn the value of perspective, of thorough investigation and examination, will be kinder, gentler people and the more of those we have, the more chance we have of creating a kinder world where people may not always agree but have, at the very least, the ability to respect the opinions and feelings of others.
Adults? We’re more set and, therefore, it’s more difficult for us to adapt than it is for our kids to learn (there’s an actual scientific basis for the phrase “start ’em young”) but just as we can learn a new language, we can change our thought patterns and our habits if we make the effort. It may not be easy but it can be done. It should be done.
As Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote in her biography of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” A lovely sentiment and I, for the most part (see aforementioned unpardonable sins and add as needed to the “now you’ve crossed the line” list), agree. But if you want someone to defend your right to your beliefs, it’s only right, only fair, only kind, that you do the same for theirs. That you take the time to hear them as they’ve taken the time to hear you. That you acknowledge and really really accept that they too have a side and, on a given occasion, theirs may take precedence over yours. Or that the kind, the decent, thing to do is to keep yours to yourself and let them do what they must, what they feel is necessary, what they feel is right.
And if you can’t? Kindly consider keeping your perspective, and your fiddle-faddle, to yourself.