Synopsis: It’s ALL Perspective: learning to see how you see, and witness how you create your reality, is a key Zen concept
Last week, I concluded the article with this line: “Be water, and go with the flow. Everything else is an illusion anyway!” That last part is a dilemma for most.
Have a look at the above photo. Yes, it’s a photo, with a “paint” filter applied. I uploaded it to my Instagram account, with the caption, “Costa Rican traffic jam.”
OK, so I admit to taking the shot because of the bike rider, but I shoot a lot of stuff, and think about the shot later. I started fiddling with the photo, and did a crop, then a filter add. Once all of that was done, the caption just seemed appropriate.
Now, it would be easy to then come up with a story… about traffic jams, about bicyclists cutting in and out of traffic. Or, I could go off on distracting outfits, or on overcrowded conditions. Bad roads, any one?
What I’d like to suggest is that all of this would be a perspective… one seemingly taken from the reality of the photographic evidence right in front of you.
Couples in conflict do this all the time.
An event happens, (the photograph”) and if there is conflict, both people will likely come up with two different stories, each sub-consciously designed to “make my point.” And each will be adamant as to the truth of their perspective.
We decided to bring along the 3 seasons of “In Treatment,” a great show from a decade ago. It follows a psychotherapist as he works with his clients, and as he in turn goes to his supervisor. Last night, Paul (the therapist) was working with a couple. They were going to end their marriage.
Without trying to quote the episode, Paul attempts to say that he knows a couple who also decided to separate, and that they worked it through. The separation had been a catalyst for renewal.
The husband says, “What led to the split?”
Paul: “One of them had an affair, but that’s not the issue.”
Husband: “So, are you telling me that my wife had an affair?”
Paul: “No, of course not. I was talking about working through issues.”
Husband: “So, how do I work through my wife’s affair?”
You can see where this is going.
The guy took Paul’s small example, turned it into something it wasn’t, then converted it into truth, then into a hammer.
But back to the lead photo.
Here’s the original.
As you can see, the bike rider is entering the street between two parked cars. In fact, all of the cars plus the ambulance, are parked.
No cutting into traffic, no danger, no distractions.
The crop made an innocuous scene into something else. Just like we do, all the time, in real life.
Our perspectives, our stories, our judgements, are never “clean.” They are designed to make the point we are trying to make. In the “In Treatment” episode, the husband wants his wife to be wrong, guilty, to blame. So, he hears what he wants to hear, and then makes it “true.”
Which is a perfect strategy if you want someone to blame, but not so good if you are also saying you are working on the relationship.
The amazing part of this process is how quickly the stimulus (Paul’s story) flips into “truth.” And because the husband’s (unstated) goal is to make his wife the “bad guy,” there’s no insight happening at all.
No, “Wow. I just caught myself trying to blame you, and I just invented an entire story about you. I apologise. Paul. Tell me again what you were saying.”
Nope. All blame, all the time.
Traffic jam, when there isn’t one.
It is Zen to pay attention, both to the stimulus and the response. To see what you are doing, and to stop yourself when you notice yourself playing games.
You can make anything “true,” even when there’s a photo contradicting what you believe, because, perspective.
You stop doing this by paying attention to yourself. Making other choices. Admitting it when you’re inventing it as you go along.