Beneath the Surface
I had a really personified experience of this idea the other day. I was skimming the pool, which I do every day before I swim laps. We have a screened cover, but a lot of dog hair lands on the surface, as well as random debris. My daughter walked up and stood next to me, looked down into the pool, and pointed out a dead frog on the bottom. I had been at the pool’s edge for much longer than she had, and I hadn’t even noticed it. I was completely focused on the surface. She and I had entirely different perspectives.
I started thinking about how we do this in human interactions almost all of the time. We often define our opinions or beliefs based on a certain perspective, and typically this perspective is strongly influenced by the people that we choose to spend the majority of our time with. Often, we choose to align our opinions with people that we hold in high regard. I remember once being prepared to jump on the bandwagon and oppose abortion because a girl two years my senior gave a shocking and compelling speech on the subject at my school. It took two years, and the story of how my friend’s father had lost his fourteen-year-old patient, and her baby, because her mother refused to allow her to have an abortion, that I changed my mind.
Over time I have learned to abhor the method of mass manipulation through the use of the shock tactic. I always used to turn off the television when I saw the SPCA commercials with Sara Mclachlan singing in the background, and mutilated animals flashing across the screen. When my kids were little they didn’t even understand what the message was about, but the were horrified by the images. I don’t appreciate the fact that the propaganda was forced into my living room to hopefully terrify my family into action, nor do I like to watch the images of poor suffering children which seek to inspire the same guilt. I resent the fact that my children are constantly being informed by billboards and commercials that my limbs might spontaneously fall off because I happen to smoke three chemical free, organic cigarettes at the end of the day. From my perspective, all of this advertising is sensationalistic, and to me it feels like bullying. I know that there are a lot starving children out there who need help, as do I understand that there are abused animals out there in need of assistance. I also realize that there are many people who could strongly benefit from dropping their pack-a-day Marlboro habit. As for myself, I feel that I am intelligent enough to seek out information on my own, and I distrust any organization who attempts to force feed me any sort of agenda.
Yesterday, I had a fantastic experience that gave me a strong reminder of just how truly mislead popular opinion can be. As I constantly beg my own children, I would beg grown-us as well, to look a little more deeply at every situation in life, and to appreciate how narrowly focused our own perspectives might be. I always question my kids when they come to me with new information. I ask them who told them that, and where the other person got that information, and why they are so willing to believe it without question. I understand how easily my perspective can be skewed. Just like focusing on the surface of the pool instead of looking into its depths. As a general rule, my salvation in life has been to watch which direction the general population is headed in, and to take a road in the opposite direction. I am not saying that my method is right for everyone, but it has certainly worked for me. I continue to remind myself every day: Take a step back, let the pixels join together, take a deep breath, and look deeper. There is almost always something beneath the surface, and sometimes, there is a lot.