07 November, 2012

The Vast Picture Show

Isn't that the way it is? It's always a matter of perspective, a matter of point of view. It's just amazing how we can each sometimes see the world in such dramatically different ways. Our biases lead us to notice some details while ignoring others. There could be no better illustration of this than in our polarized political debate.

Thank goodness it's over for a while. The voting is complete, and the campaigns have stopped spending billions on media buys. Our job as citizens is not finished though, so don't let your  guard down. Now more than ever we need to pay attention.

Unfortunately, we are often prisoners of the details to which we do attend, and they block us from seeing the "big" picture. You know the old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees.

We need both abilities (seeing details versus seeing the big picture), I suppose, but it is rare that one has both. I don't know if it is a personal strength, but I seem to have a preference for looking for the big picture, and that, of course, reminds me of a story.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal, a bottle of wine, and a smoke around the campfire, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.

"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

"Sir," Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."

"And what does that tell you?" pursued Holmes.

Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meterologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why? What does it tell you?"

Silent for a moment, Holmes finally replied, "It tells me that someone has stolen our tent!"

Holmes was able to see the obvious by looking beyond the details. There are voices today whose goal is to continuing to blind us with details. All too often in the past they were successful so I expect they will continue to try. It's like waving a flag at the bull, and enraged, we are diminished. There are only a few who encourage us to see the larger picture, the whole picture. We should listen to them - if for no other reason than for the sake of our children, but there is ample reason to do it for ourselves too.

Listen carefully to what isn't being said.