By studying others’ viewpoints, it is possible for us to discover new and refreshing perspectives on the world – including our own life. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
To me, this points out the variety in our cultures as humans. We have our own viewpoint, and we have had the bulk of it since birth. In school, at different grades, we interact with more and varied cultures. If you get a chance to study or travel abroad, then you can get an even broader view of the world, through the eyes of other people, other cultures.
These perspectives can also be used to review your own life. You can get insight as to why others think the way they do, act the way they do and have the values they have. You can then reflect on your own life with this new insight. You may find that some of their views have merit. You may find others views with merit, but not easily applied to your life. Still other views will fall by the way side as inappropriate or not useful to you.
Why is perspective important?
I live in America, where we have a fairly large country. Many people in Europe can visit another culture on a day-trip. While many large cities in America have ethnic enclaves, it’s not quite the same as a trip to another country, to see how a people live. To see it’s viewpoint acted out in daily life.
In this way, you will see where one culture views your culture as using too much gas or having too many cars. You might also see that in that other culture, the population density in towns and cities is such that you can walk or ride a bicycle to almost anyplace you need to go. You can then realize that they might have a different perspective if they came and visited your country and saw how far it was to the grocery store, to work, or to the school.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Well, if you can, travel as far and as wide and as often as you can afford. Take the time to talk to the locals and find out more about how they live and why they make the choices they do, why they have the values they do, and why they have the viewpoint they do.
In my High School, we had a number of black people who were very into Africa and both their history and the history of Africa. That was turned on it’s head when an exchange student from Ethiopia spent a year at our school. Suddenly, everything was different. With the advent of the new student, they got a chance to find out more about Africa from someone who actually lived there. And I’m sure the exchange of ideas and information went both ways. Their perspective was never the same.
For those of us without the funds to travel extensively, another option is the TV. There are educational and documentary information on many cultures and societies, countries and people. That is a fairly easy place to start. Of necessity it will be more of an overview and be lacking in detail, but it’s a place to start.
Local ethnic groups often have clubs or other organizations. Look them up and call the contact person. Explain that you are interested in learning more about their culture and ask if there is someone you should talk to, or if you can attend one of their meetings. You might even make a new friend or two, and that can always bring a new viewpoint.
There is also the library, where books exist on almost any and every civilization in human history. You can find a lot out about a great many things, the difficulty may well be the thinning of the possibilities. There are only so many hours in a day, and way too many books!
By learning from others and how they view life and lifestyles, you can get a perspective on how and why they think as they do. You can also apply their viewpoint to your life and see what you look like to them. Examining your life through the eyes of another is always an interesting trip.