Friday, December 08, 2023

So Light and Sweet

When I watch a jet fly overhead, it seems to move at a leisurely pace, arching across the sky, trailing a white jet stream in its wake as if some giant hand were slowly, carefully drawing a pair of parallel chalk lines on a blue board. If I listen very carefully I might be able to hear the dull, lulling baritone hum of its engines.

If that jet were to be traveling along the road in front of my house, however, its 500 mph speed and 180 decibels of jet engine noise would be terrifying.

The sun is 109 times larger than the earth, yet if it shines in my eyes, I can block it entirely with my hand.

That cat skulking after birds across the way appears smaller than the cat in my lap.

None of this amazes us because we understand how perspective works. We weren't born with this understanding, but as our eyes and ears and intelligence has developed, as we've gained experience with moving around in the world beyond the womb, we've come to find the extraordinariness of perspective to be commonplace.

Carlos Rovelli is a theoretical physicist and philosopher has written seven books in which he riffs on the cutting edge of what we know, hope to know, and may never know about the universe. In his book White Holes, after discussing what would happen if we somehow managed to reach the horizon of a black hole, how we would perceive that time and space pretty much as they appear to us here on Earth, but that to viewers from back on terra firma it would appear that we had come to a complete stop. And if we returned from that voyage, the time that felt to us like days or weeks, would have been eons to the world we left behind. Even here on Earth, if we synchronize two watches and put one atop a mountain and leave the other at its foot, we would see that time passes more slowly at the higher altitudes.

In other words, time and space are always a matter of perspective. As is everything.

As Rovelli writes: "we have access only to perspectives. reality is perhaps nothing other than perspectives, there is no absolute, we are limited, impermanent, and precisely for this reason, to live, to be, as we do, is so light and sweet."

As adults who have young children in our lives, I hope we never lose sight of the lesson of perspectives. Too often, I think, we find ourselves absorbed in the quest to bend children's perspectives to match our own, to have them see the world "as it is," to believe as we believe, and to comprehend as we do. The opportunity we miss when we do this, is the chance to see the world from the unique perspective of new humans, which is no more or less true or accurate than our own perspective. We all know that time for a toddler passes at a different pace than for adults. It's not in the nature of the human experience to understand everything because we will never see all the perspectives, but the beauty, the lightness and sweetness comes in the trying.

"Everything is explained now," says musician Tom Waits. "We live in an age when you say casually to somebody "What's the story on that?" and they can run to the computer and tell you within five seconds. That's fine, but sometimes I'd just as soon continue wondering. We have a deficit of wonder right now."

Amen. I often find myself frustrated with the world for exactly this reason. There is something deeply dissatisfying about five second answers. From the perspective of preschoolers, however, there is no deficit of wonder. Let's not be in such a hurry to end that with our adult answers. Instead, let's seek more often to join them, to see the world as young children do, to live, to be, and to wonder.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

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