Perspective

SC-1_030edited copyBy Sharon Chayra

Las Vegas Informer

Perhaps one of the greatest thrills one can enjoy is flying. I realize flying in a metal cylinder reliant upon two wiggly wings, a couple jet engines and the theory of aerodynamics miles above land scares the hell out of many folks. That said, there is a serenity to be found if you quiet your mind and gaze at the wonder outside the cold pane of the window.

As you pass fluffy cumulus clouds, it’s easy to observe the specks of life below you on freeways and rooftops, or the bodies of water teeming with boats and wildlife.

Despite cramped conditions, whining children, and the drone of the MD-80 engine, I recently found myself gazing out the window as we made our descent into a tiny South Dakota airport. The topography struck me. There were verdant hills with ragged, granite outcroppings resembled parts of Scotland. Eventually the angry black clouds, juxtaposing the higher altitude wispy sirius clouds, hungrily devoured the plane and jostled the flight attendants like popcorn in a popper.

We landed safely. Some passengers cheered.

It struck me; what flying provides more than getting from one place to another or finding religion is perspective. At that moment, suspended miles in the air, there is no alternative but to sit patiently. You remain seated, save for the trip to the loo, even if a fidgety eight year-old kicks at the back of your chair or when you have to move thanks to the person with the overactive bladder.

We remain patient, we remain civil, and we resolve to ourselves to the norms of society even if we take an occasion heavy sigh or glare at the inconsiderate, whisky-swilling slob who thinks he’s as funny as Tosh.0.

I think patience teaches us perspective because we have limited options. In everyday life, it’s easy to become distracted even when driving to the supermarket. There’s the list in your head, the speed you’re controlling, your passengers, music, cell phones, other drivers, scenery, time considerations, roadwork, weather. We can take another route and end up somewhere we didn’t plan and possibly have an experience we wouldn’t normally have, but there’s also a good chance we wouldn’t savor it like we could because we’re too busy planning our next move. Such experiences provide perspective but because we are the ones in control with a specific mission, we might not take the time required to truly concentrate on the senses that are triggered.

On an airplane however, we can’t help but focus. Have you ever noticed airplane smells and sounds? Maybe it’s the foreigner who is unaccustomed to the sometimes fanatical obsession Americans have with personal hygiene, or the wailing of a very unhappy and tired tot.

The flight attendant may hand you a bag of honey roasted peanuts that eat like a gourmet meal to your famished belly, and you lean enough to take advantage of your seat mate’s computer playing episodes of 24. All of your senses have been touched and amplified because you have no other choice.

There are also pleasant things you might experience, too. The honeymooners tenderly sharing kisses, or the young man thanking an older man wearing a veteran’s hat for his service. Such instances illustrate the reliance we all have upon each other even if we insist or resist such thoughts.

There is a commercial for an insurance company that shows the power of a good deed. It starts with something like a man dashing after a woman to return her forgotten handbag and that spurs her to pay for another person’s cup of coffee in back of her at the coffeehouse. This inspires the recipient who helps a handicapped person cross a busy street. I think this is a terrific commercial because it sells a product without gratuitously promoting its virtues. Instead, it exemplifies how we all benefit when we care about each other, when we take a couple minutes to offer assistance or unsolicited generosity. The subjects in the spot all have an immediate but pedestrian need. The magic ingredient is being able to see what another person sees and it is this observation that provides the perspective.

Perspective is many things but I’d like to think it is a measurement of humanity and empathy. It’s a ‘we’re in it together.’ I believe humans have great capacity for giving and concern and I see that far more often than the inverse even if the latter receives more notice. And maybe that’s a good thing that we notice, because without recognizing that someone has been victimized or hurt by the deliberate actions of another, we’d have little more than a woefully sad, anarchist state.

Each of us knows what it means to be hurt, to have a portion of our hearts—or bodies—assaulted by the mean-spiritedness of another. Even if our most primal instinct is to retaliate (and sometimes justice is demanded of egregious acts of malice), we should have the patience to evaluate before we act. Emotions are very fluid and what you might feel in one moment is unlikely to be what you feel in ten minutes time or one week’s span. We cool off, we use this space to think about what happened or to play in our heads how it might have turned out had we done something differently.

This time shouldn’t be to beat yourself up or rerun over and over the less than kind deeds of another, but it is a great opportunity to look at it from another vantage. If we’re working to self-awareness we should find ourselves with a new perspective and possibly a better understanding of ourself and others.

We’re not alone in this world and as tritely obvious that sounds, I’m reminded as I walk on the vast plains of South Dakota for the first time. I think of the great Sioux Nation that at one time flourished with the abundance afforded by pristine lakes, plentiful game, medicinal mountains and spiritual pines. I weep to think of those who perished at the hands of prejudice, greed and deceit. I offer tobacco to the Creator and Mother Earth.

How did I end up in the middle of America and more importantly to a location I’d given little thought to expect for learning the state capitol in school? Well, it was prompted by a impulsive and fleeting statement by a friend to join their family reunion. What made me pause I do not know except that I pause a little more now. I pay attention to things, to experiences that are unfamiliar and what some might say are out of character.

One of my favorite quotes is by Fight Club author, Chuck Palahniuck: “The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” In other words, without a difference perspective, we never grow and we never develop the connectedness that benefits all of us. Even if you never set foot in an aircraft, I hope you’d do yourself a favor and cast your eyes on the world in a different way: a rooftop, hands and knees, piggybacking. I can’t tell you what you’ll discover but I can promise you if you have the patience, you will see the greater vision and gift.

Mitakuye oyasin.

Sharon Chayra is an award-winning writer and president of a medical marketing firm based in Las Vegas. A traveler of life, Chayra integrates her science background with spirituality resulting in common sense observations to others on their life’s journey. Given her heritage of Apache and Scottish, she is a born storyteller and documents experiences about personal growth, culture, laughter and health into the written and visual word.

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