It’s an interesting phenomena, the more focused you become on a single point the harder it is to see anything else clearly. (For a quick example; hold your thumb up arms-length from your body and focus on your nail. As you do this, take note of how everything in your visual field surrounding your thumb is blurred) This is not solely an optical effect either; in the same way our entire perspective of the world, the things we choose to focus on, can cause much else to be “blurred”.
The problems that arise from our constricted focus generally go unnoticed. This is the very nature of the problem; being so narrowly fixated that we can’t see beyond our point of fixation and, being so caught up in our own view, neither can we see clearly the potential negative impact of our own thinking. This is easily demonstrated in our religious and political adherences. I will use Christianity as an example, not because I see the greatest fault there, but because this is the group I have been most connected with over the years and can share insight based on personal knowledge and experience (all belonging groups, whether other religious systems or even local committees function, essentially, in the same way). If our perspective of Christianity causes us to see Christians as “saved” and everyone as “lost”, our view has become too narrow, hindered by our holding too tightly to our interpretation of established doctrine and overlooking the larger panoramic of humanity and her infinitude of potential happenings and circumstances that lead to each individual’s ideas of the world. Even within the walls of Christendom, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, there are separate denominations and sects who can’t agree or see beauty in one another because of ideological divisions; in these cases even those within our own belonging system aren’t likened to us quite enough to belong. In contrast, Jesus held a “whole world” perspective, whereby his affiliation with a specific religious group didn’t stop him from loving and being love to those he encountered; “Friend of Sinners” is one of the most wonderful titles he carries.
This problem of perspectival smallness extends to nearly every area of life. If we drive fast, slow drivers annoy us. We like the food we like. Americans watch “American Football” and the entire rest of the world doesn’t care. We hang out with people who look like us, think like us, talk and behave like us, not because these are the people we “happen” to meet in life but because on some level we have chosen to meet them; using our social group to solidify our already firmly established sense of self. Every preference we hold is a perspective to which we have ascribed value and, in many cases, are the unconscious slave of.
The good news is that we can break free of the bonds of preconceived notions and long-held biases. It’s as easy as relaxing!! When we loosen up our focus on the thumb from the previous exercise, the rest of our surroundings become correspondingly clearer. The same can happen for our mental space, opinions, and ideologies... even our food preferences! This doesn’t mean we don’t value those things we once did, but we permit our perspective the freedom of broadening to the end that we are able to appreciate (or at least not criticize) the opinions and perspectives of others. It is possible to exist in a place of divine tension, where we simultaneously hold to our truths but don’t consider others wrong for possessing different ideas of truth. Fast drivers can be okay with others wanting to drive slowly. Adventure is an excellent way of growing our “field of vision” as well. Try different foods, wines, and activities. Travel to different places, talk with people from different cultures, and read books that you would normally turn your nose up at. Variety they say is “the spice of life”, and a food (or life) that isn’t spiced sufficiently is…well… not that great.
It is inevitable that we will continue in some level of attachment to our own views and personal bents, but it is possible for us to continually grow by seeing the world in a larger, more inclusive way. We can stop seeing people who are different from us as “wrong” and even appreciate the beauty resulting from the vast variation that is inherent in the human race. We don’t have much of a choice as to where we are born, how we are raised, and the biases resulting from these circumstances, but we do have the option to view others as essentially good and worthy of love and to demonstrate that love through our lives.