Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thinking Outside the Box 5

Thinking Outside the Box 5 Perspective: Now that I’m on a roll I shall press ahead with these few thoughts of a philosophical nature. As you will see I shall try to make them as practical and as pragmatic and as related to life as I possibly can. This entry I have entitled “perspective” as I both think and feel that it is a wonderful word capturing an equally wonderful concept. The dictionary definition tells us that perspective derives from the Latin verb perspicere which means to “inspect” or “view” something, the past participle of which would be “perspectus” i.e., “viewed” or “inspected”. It crops up then in the science of optics dating way back to Middle English, because of its relationship to vision. Perspective then means a view or vista, a mental view or outlook. For example, take the following sentence: “It is useful occasionally to look at the past to gain a perspective on the present” (Fabian Linden). Enough then for the dictionary definition. Now let’s look briefly at its use in art. If you look along a straight road or a railway track, the parallel sides of the road appear to meet at a point in the distance. This point is called the vanishing point and has been used to add realism to art since the 1400's in Florence, Italy. Also distant figures appear smaller but have the same shape and proportions as they would close up. In geometry, we would say that these figures are similar. Leonardo da Vinci is a good example of the chief exponent of perspective in art in so far as he was able to create the illusion of space and distance on a flat surface such as a canvas or wall. He saw the painting as an “open window” through which the artist sees the painted world. Hence he achieved a more realistic representation of life. There are millions of problems in the world and every single person has his/her own share of them. However, on many occasions we magnify our own issues or problems out of proportion and loose perspective on them. We often need to stand back and view them from a further distance to gain some sense of “realism” or reality. A lecturer we had at college years ago used two images with respect of this. Sometimes we stick our noses so closely to the painting that we cannot see the actual picture. Another excellent image he used was that of the magnifying glass. Some of us get things so much out of proportion that we actually magnify our problem out of all proportion. So, my friend, we must get things in perspective, move back from “obsessing” over our particular issue and try and gain some sort of realistic perspective. This, of course, is more easily said than done. However, there are many people out there willing to help like friends and other professionals, perhaps recommended by friends. What we need is openness to life, an admission that we do not have all the answers, that we, too, are struggling with life. In short, we must have a healthy willingness to learn. John Henry, Cardinal Newman, the Victorian Catholic theologian used to say that oftentimes “we must mount upon an eminence” (not himself, if you’ll excuse the rude pun), that is a hill in modern English, to get a proper view of the countryside around us. The photograph I have posted centre top is one I took recently at Delphi from a little bridge. There is some lesson somewhere there on perspective if I only knew it

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