Friday, November 12, 2010

Looking Through Lenses

My sister often remembers a childhood experience so differently than I do that I wonder if we were in the same place at the same time. When one of these comes up, such as the story about the time she hit me with a baseball bat, we are each certain our memory is correct and we have been known to argue endlessly for our own version. It is better for family relations to just let go of this kind of thing.

Why do people have such divergent memories or take such opposing positions about the same experience? Do we just enjoy conflict or is it that the lenses through which we view the world are so different that the messages to our brains have little in common? Although I'm not a neuroscientist, I vote for the second explanation.

This concept came up recently when I was trying to interpret and respond to an email message I received from someone who was offended by something I wrote. From my perspective it just seemed like what I said was common sense. A friend reminded me about the idea of lenses and that someone else's common sense might be very different than my own. When I considered the situation using the lens idea, I was able to remember an experience that helped me empathize with the person who wrote the email.

Our lenses are influenced by genetics, personality, life experience, successes and failures, the part of the world we live in and maybe even by what we ate for breakfast. Unlike real glasses, these lenses change constantly. It makes me wonder how tightly I should hold onto my personal view of the world.

Is this what is tearing up our country right now? Does a liberal have a lens that is so different in color and focus from their conservative counterpart that the message to their brain is opposite? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just buy a pair of glasses that would make everything beautifully clear.


  1. Oooh this is a thoughtprovoking one, ML. Yes, the problem of tolerance and different points of view crops up everywhere - it is truly highlighted in multicultural contexts where different cultures might have different views, norms and attitudes. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to "love" a person who has a differing point of view from ourselves - it is up there with forgiveness in so many ways: something which I often feel we cannot "do", we can only open ourselves and wait for the grace to move us in that direction. I too, with a whole horde of sisters have spent a lot of my life pondering our different stories of shared experiences. Oftentimes I have found myself thinking it was something 'wrong' with my family! So good to hear that other families have the same experiences. We are such funny creatures!

  2. It is so much easier to keep busy "doing" rather than just "being" in the moment - awake and open. Ahhhhhh, grace like a river flows without ceasing if we relax into it. Why is something so simple so incredibly difficult to accept? That is the work.