From a Distance

From a Distance

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective—perspectives—and especially about how perspective changes when we vary our distance from a thing.

A relationship and its health or toxicity.

Organic matter at the cellular level. (Under a microscope amniotic fluid looks like fern leaves. Really?)

The value (or lack thereof) of childhood faith communities, religious practices, holiday traditions.

Crop circles.

A student’s “laziness” and “poor performance” in class.

The nuances of a conflict.

The growth of other people’s children. (“How did you get so tall?!”)

The Star of Bethlehem. (Divinely miraculous sign? Conjunction of planets Saturn and Jupiter*?)

In each of these examples, and so many others, our in-the-moment / up-close-and-personal experience is notably different than what we perceive at a distance—the physical distance from a thing, the distance of time from an event, or the figurative distance that comes in evaluating an experience from outside its more intense emotional center. And our understanding, insight, and meaning-making are much richer when we actively engage in multiple perspectives—discounting neither the up-close perspective nor the distanced one, but instead inviting those perspectives to interact and inform one another.

The trick, for me, in the ongoing effort to gain ever-greater understanding, is to return to the thing . . . not only to distance myself, but to be intentional in turning back to it, looking again, examining and re-examining it to gain greater perspective and understanding both of the thing itself and also of myself in relation to it.

What might I learn from that conflict and how will it inform healthier behavior in the future? How does scientific understanding enhance the story of the Christmas Star? Was that classmate really lazy, or did she have inadequate nutrition or too much family conflict or an undiagnosed learning challenge?  How did that relationship affect my mental health and my understanding of human nature?

Without deliberate attention, I’m more likely to continue just plowing ahead to the next thing—not learning from mistakes and challenges, not cherishing the wonder of intricate detail and nuanced beauty, not making connections between then and now and what’s next.

So, in this season of stillness and introspection, I’m looking to practice more deliberate and reflective perspective-taking. I wonder what I’ll see, anew.

Curiouser and curiouser,

Jupiter and Saturn Will Align to Create the First “Christmas Star” in Nearly 800 Years
(That’s a link to one of many recent news stories about the upcoming conjunction. This particular source is not my primary news source, but it’s the one posted to social media by my quite conservatively Christian cousin, whom I wouldn’t have expected to follow POPSUGAR . . . or pop culture of any kind, for that matter. So, I share it with you in the spirit of ongoing perspective-broadening!)


  1. Kathleen R. Parker

    Paige, this reflection is both delightful and sobering. I am reminded of my need to stop and reflect on what I can learn, as I tend to just “plow ahead to the next thing”. Thanks for this — and for the reference to the Bethlehem Star. I will look this up — to broaden my perspective!

  2. JanBowman

    Interesting and Insightful words about perspective. To look is not to see. But to see deeply from different perspectives may be the way to understand our moment of life better. Thanks for sharing this.

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