Perspective fascinates me. Even as a child when I was being taught a very rigid perspective of the world, questions would arise from time to time about this perspective and I would receive a pat answer should I dare to pose the question. My usual response, not being very daring at the time, was to accept the pat answer and resign to the fiat of the bromide, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” I learned that when I heard that bromide, it was a way of saying, “End of discussion.” I also learned that I could use the same bromide myself later to end discussions but that contrivance worked only as long as I remained ensconced in that insular little world, an insularity which began to crumble when I went to college.
I have often quoted here, “We can’t have a perspective on our perspective without somehow escaping it.” (I think it was the philosopher Ricoeur to whom I should attribute that bit of wisdom.) When a perspective on our perspective first dawns on us, it is the advent of meta-cognition and a Pandora’s box is often opened. Pat answers will no longer suffice.
Einstein once noted, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” This wisdom is valid on an individual and a collective level. Whatever it is that ails us, if we try to rely only on “figuring it out” we will only be stewing in our own juices in the long run, much related to Shakespeare’s observation about the human dilemma being that it feeds “even on the pith of life” when it opts for this self-referential cocoon. At some point we have to explore new horizons, venture out beyond the grasp of our cognitive grasp on the world, and that always involves faith of some sorts though I do not insist that it be called “faith.” Some of you might, for example, prefer a term like “courage.”
In my own personal life as well as in my professional life as a clinician, it was always important to realize that the ultimate issue in addressing the woes that beset us from time to time is trust. My natural disposition is to “figure things out” for I am very cognitively oriented and, yes, that is putting it mildly! But life is ultimately a Mystery and we can never “figure it out” and have to trust that Mystery at some point which usually involves trusting the life process itself and an individual or individuals in our life. It is easier to “trust” a “Mystery” or “God” rather than to trust that Process or Person in terms of flesh and blood. It is much easier and less risky to trust our noble and lofty ideas than to trust another human being.
Trust often means being willing to learn to look at life differently, to lay aside outdated, maladaptive behavior and thought patterns. For example, this change might be as simple as accepting the old bromide, “The glass is half full” and not “half empty”; or perhaps deigning to see the world as basically good as opposed to “deceitful and desperately wicked.” But it is very difficult to dislodge outdated perspectives and we usually fight the loss of these perspectives “tooth and toenail.”
I just ran across an observation by the philosopher Michael Polanyi which is very relevant, “Major discoveries change our interpretive framework. Hence it is logically impossible to arrive at these by the continued application of our previous interpretive framework.” I’m suddenly reminded of an old spiritual ditty at invitation time in my youth, “Let go and let God have His wonderful way. Let go and let God have his way. Your burdens will vanish, your night turn to day. Let go and let God have his way.” That was such a moving song, tugging at my heart so deeply, but I never realized that it would eventually mean even letting go of my faith as I knew it at that time in order to find a deeper more meaningful faith, one less steeped in the letter of the law, and one which would leave me more human. It would mean finding the courage to explore a new “interpretive framework.”