Perspective is the way we organize relationships in the world. Sometime it’s big or little, strong or weak, close or distant, up or down, fast or slow, healthy or sick, rich or poor, smart or dumb, friend or foe, cold or hot, open or closed, give or take, near or far, win or lose, laugh or cry, hither or yon, talk or listen, smooth or sticky, wretched or divine, come or go, light or dark, dusky or clear, clear or cloudy.
We segment to survive. We match ourselves to simplify. We measure to understand. We identify differences so that our primordial choices become permanent, and our concept of flow first resists, then withers, finally withdraws, and ultimately dies.
Where did it go – that life of ours for which we expended such energy just to survive. We collected sea shells along the way, neatly organized in a drawer, noting the color, shape, and size of what drew our eye, caused us to bend over, examine the object with care, and assign it a place in the warmth of our outer pocket.
Where did they go - our shells that seemed so important to collect, the ones that say confirmation, bar mitzvah, marriage, family, job, success. Our discards say divorce, loss, isolation, illness, despair. In time, we collect them all. We want to savor the delicacy of the shells we keep and believe we are not invested in the shells that are blunt edged, gray in color, or hurtful to the touch. In truth, they blend together, the keepers and the discards, constantly merging, forming a life filed with mystery, until that moment when our story is interrupted by death.
If I had only finished the poem, completed the chapter, told one more story, touched another human being, I might have been further down my path, seen around another bend, laughed more, listened better. In my history. I have worked hard, been a good mother’s son, strove to be a loving father, caring husband, trusted friend. Words on a tombstone. They reference a status, not an emotion, an achievement, not a value.
There are more seashells on the beach, more stories to be examined, more surprises to be discovered, more curiosity to be explored, more life to be held. The older we get the more drag that exists on the oars. It becomes harder to push forward. We have moved from the back of the boat to the front. We steer instead of row. We seek engagement, not resistance, grace not position. Eventually grace yields to dignity, dignity shares space with love. We learn that love is a unifying principle, segmentation is just an artifice, and perspective is simply one way to see the world.
George Kaufman ©