We all know it, but sometimes the realisation eludes us: perspective is a limiting thing. We are surrounded by walls of our own making. Constrained by our experience of the everyday, fooled into believing that the things we know to be true from our own experience are the shared experience of everyone, or the sum total of experience available.
I spent today exploring Amsterdam with my father, who latterly has been relying on a mobility scooter to get around. This is a city that i know well, but one that i know well from the perspective of walking and cycling (you’ve never really explored this city if you haven’t done it by bike).
Today my frame was shifted, not voluntarily, but out of necessity.
Typically i’m cycling, looking ahead for traffic, junctions and potholes (of which there are many: a by product of the Dutch habit of building roads with brick on sand). Today, my perspective shifted: i found my viewpoint drawn to cars parked on pavements, to pavements blocked by bicycles (which was most of them), to navigating the wrong way down one way streets, to avoid building works and scaffolding, and to a significantly reduced pace of travel. Everything, quite literally, took twice as long.
It made me think: we know our perspective limits us, but in the reality of our everyday, that realisation can be lost. To navigate (both physically and intellectually) any landscape, we benefit from finding it again.
To realise what we have, to recognise the reality that others inhabit, to build shared perspective that straddles the two. It’s more than empathy: it’s understanding, which is the foundation of both coherent and cohesive communities, and also communication itself.
Walk a mile in different shoes and see how quickly your perspective changes.